DALLAS – LSU (32-2) will play in its sixth Final Four and first since 2008 on Friday against Virginia Tech (31-4) in American Airlines Arena at 6:10 p.m CT on ESPN as the Tigers will be in search of their first National Championship game appearance.
Coach Kim Mulkey was hired at LSU on April 25, 2021, and in her second season, less than two years since returning to her home state, the three-time National Championship-winning head coach has the Tigers as one of the final four teams remaining. From the day she was hired to last Sunday when she and the Tigers were cutting the nets as the Greenville 2 Regional Champions, it was just 700 days.
The game will air on ESPN with Ryan Rucco, Rebecca Lobo, Andraya Carter and Holly Rowe. It was also aired on ESPN2 with The Bird and Taurasi Show as well as a simulcast on ESPNU. Patrick Wright and Shaeeta Williams will call the game on the LSU Sports Radio Network, 100.7 FM in Baton Rouge. The game will also be available on the radio nationally with Westwood One.
Coach Mulkey’s second team at LSU has been pieced together. Alexis Morris is the only contributing player from last year’s team on this year’s. Nine new pieces (four freshmen and five transfers) showed up in Baton Rouge over the Summer and since then, the Tigers have pieced it together. Led by the SEC single-season double-double record holder and All-American Angel Reese, LSU’s tournament run has been fueled by defense and rebounding.
The top-rated transfer in the country last year, the Baltimore native Reese came to LSU after beginning her college career at Maryland. Teaming up with Coach Mulkey, she has taken her game to the next level and has put together a historic season filled with record-setting performances and multiple viral moments. Reese enters Friday’s game needing seven rebounds to set the LSU single-season rebounding record and 12 for the SEC record. Five points would also move her into the top five on LSU’s single-season scoring list.
“I think coming to LSU I’ve gotten in way better shape and I’ve gotten much stronger,” Reese said. “Just being able to — I think that’s helped me a lot. I haven’t been in foul trouble until these last few games all season. So just trying to stay together, and I think my teammates and coaches are putting me in a really good position where they give me the ball a lot. And whenever they miss a shot, I try to get the rebound as best I can.”
Other newcomers include Flau’jae Johnson, the SEC Freshman of the Year and rapping sensation, Kateri Poole, the transfer from Ohio State who has used her physical defensive play to move into the starting lineup throughout the tournament run and LaDazhia Williams, the soft-spoken glue piece starting in the opposite post from Reese. Last-Tear Poa has been a steady guard option coming off the bench and Sa’Myah Smith has been the third post in LSU’s rotation.
The freshman Smith is making her return to Dallas. As a star at nearby DeSoto High School, the location of LSU’s Wednesday practice, Smith led the Lady Eagle to back-to-back state championships as a junior and senior. Now in her first year at LSU, Smith’s championship pedigree is evident in her home state. Her six points in the Elite Eight were critical, helping LSU pull away from Miami to clinch a spot in the Final Four.
Smith (DeSoto) is one of four Tigers making a Texas homecoming. Alexis Morris (Beaumont), Amani Bartlett (Cleveland) and Alisa Williams (Denton) are the other three.
Morris, the senior whose journey from being dismissed by Coach Mulkey following a Big 12 All-Freshman season at Baylor to Rutgers to Texas A&M to teaming back up with Coach Mulkey at LSU has been well documented, has been stating since LSU’s senior night in the PMAC that her ultimate goal was for her real senior night to be in her home state in Dallas at the Final Four. She has led LSU’s offense efficiently and effectively this season.
“I’m super excited,” Morris said. “I’ve changed my goal now. I’m in Dallas. Now I want to have my senior night on Sunday. My focus has shifted. I know my team focus is the same as mine.”
Before this year, the LSU men’s and women’s programs had combined to reach nine Final Fours (4 by the men and 5 by the women). Now in the school’s 10th Final Four, this LSU Women’s Basketball team will look for the first Final Four win in school history – LSU is 0-9 combined in Final Four games – 0-11 when you include two men’s consolation games.
In order to reach the national championship, LSU will need to go through Virginia Tech which is the No. 1 seed from the Seattle 3 Region. The Hokies are led by a National Player of the Year finalist in the 6-6 center Elizabeth Kitley. She plays a two-man game with Georgia Amoore, one of the nation’s top point guards.
“(Amoore) gets her teammates involved,” Coach Mulkey said. “They use Kitley in such a way where she’s just not a back-to-the-basket big girl. She can face you up. She can put it on the floor. They push the ball extremely well in transition. You have to fan out and not get caught and sucked in into the paint.”
Virginia Tech is led by Kenny Brooks, who has steadily built the program into a contender since Coach Mulkey and Baylor knocked his Hokies out of the tournament in her last season at Baylor.
Three years ago, Tech was a seven seed, last year a five and now a one. This is a program that hadn’t made it to the Sweet 16 this century and now has the chance to play for a title.
The Hokies defeated Ohio State in the Elite Eight on Monday. They have not lost since Jan. 26 against Duke. That was part of a relatively rough stretch that saw Virginia Tech lose three games in the span of a month. Since then, VA Tech has been rock solid, riding a 15-game win streak and avenging that loss to Duke twice.
The Hokies shoot the three ball well, making just under eight per game and shooting the ball at a .348 clip from downtown. Kitley’s lengthy presence has allowed her to play well in the paint on defense with 77 blocks this season.
(Press release provided by LSU Athletics)