Sloppy LSU Finishes off Kentucky, SEC Regular Season

Angel Reese
Senior Angel Reese scored 22 points and had 14 rebounds for 20th double-double of the season in LSU's win over to Kentucky to end the regular season. PHOTO by LSU Athletics

In a day filled with celebration, with Senior Day pomp and circumstance as LSU seniors Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith were honored at halftime, the No. 9 Tigers took care of business in between, albeit in a somewhat careless fashion.

No. 9 LSU (26-4, 13-3 SEC) defeated Kentucky (11-19, 4-12 SEC) on Sunday, 77-56. LSU starter freshman Mikayla Williams was in a walking boot and did not play. It was reported on the SEC Network that Williams could have played today, but it was just a precautionary measure for her to sit out the season finale.

Reese finished the day with 22 points and 14 rebounds for her 20th double-double of the season. Reese was 10-18 from the field and led LSU with a season high 5 blocks. Van Lith added 15 points as one of four starters to reach double figures.

Flau’Jae Johnson added 21 points on 8-12 from the field. Johnson added 4 steals and 4 assists. Aneesah Morrow recorded 15 points and hauled in 10 rebounds to earn another double-double.

Saniah Tyler, former LSU player Ajae Petty, and Amiya Jenkins all reached double figures for Kentucky, combining for 41 of the Wildcats’ 56 points.

Petty earned a double-double with 13 points and 15 rebounds. Tyler was 4-7 from 3, and Jenkins was 6-12 from the field.

A sold-out PMAC crowd of 13,215 showered Reese and Van Lith with praise and adoration at halftime.

Both players have the option to return for one more season, and both have said they will not decide until the season is over.

“I don’t go to them,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “I don’t think that’s the role of a head coach. I think when you close out the season, those young ladies made a commitment to me. Van Lith wanted to come for one year. Angel wanted to come for two, and that’s the only conversation I’ve had with him when we recruited them out of the transfer portal. Certainly, any coach in America would love to have them back.

“But I don’t think it’s my role as a head coach to influence them in any way because I’m not them. They have their goals they know what they want.

“But selfishly, you heard the fans, chanting ‘one more year!’ But I’m so grateful that I got to coach them – two years for Angel, one year for Van Lith. They’re pretty darn good basketball players and it’s been an honor for me to be their coach,” Mulkey said.

There’s still a lot of work to do this season, though.

The regular season may be over, but LSU’s season is really just beginning.

With its win at Georgia last Thursday LSU locked up the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament which means it will play in Greenville, South Carolina next Friday at 5 p.m. central. The win over Kentucky allowed LSU gave the Tigers sole possession of second place in the SEC.

LSU will play the winner of the 10vs 7 game on Friday. Auburn locked up the No. 7 seed in the SEC with its 77-74 win over Florida on Sunday in Gainesville.

“We’re not champions, and that’s what you want, South Carolina won it, so I guess the next best place to be, a second-place team, and we’ve done that again – three years in a row,” Mulkey said.

“I think you see we’re better defensively than we were a month ago or two months ago. (But) I thought we were sloppy today, honestly. We played like we didn’t think Kentucky could beat us, and I don’t like that. I think that we just slopped around and gave up. Instead of taking layups we were throwing it out for 3s. Do that in a closer game and see what happens,” Mulkey said.

LSU went on a 6-0 run to open the game after the Tigers went 4-4 from the foul line in the first minute. After the scoring reached 10-5, LSU, both teams went scoreless for over two minutes.

LSU broke the drought with six-straight points to take its first double figure lead of the night and force a Wildcat timeout. The Tigers finished the first quarter with an 11-point lead, 20-9.

Kentucky outscored LSU 5-3 to start the second quarter after the Tigers missed their first four field goal attempts. Reese led a 8-0 LSU run in response as she scored 6 unanswered on her own to start the run. Following the run, the Wildcats combined for a 13-2 of their own before halftime. Kentucky outscored LSU in the second quarter 18-13 to move within six of the Tigers.

LSU regained its double-digit lead two minutes into the third. Kentucky would not go away easy as Jenkins kept the Wildcats in it with buckets on back-to-back possessions. Johnson went coast-to-coast as her steal on defense led to her 9th point of the quarter on the other end. After the media timeout, both teams traded buckets as Kentucky looked to chip away at the LSU lead.

LSU ended the quarter with a 60-45 lead.

LSU and Kentucky traded buckets to start the fourth quarter as both teams scored four points in the first two minutes.

Following the stalemate both teams went without points for over two minutes before Tyler earned Kentucky’s fifth three-pointer of the day. Following the triple LSU went on a 13-0 run that saw the Tiger’s first three-pointer of the day.

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