BATON ROUGE — No. 3 LSU (21-0, 9-0 SEC) passed its toughest test of the season against Tennessee (16-8, 8-1 SEC) Monday night, 76-68, to remain undefeated in front of a record-setting crowd of 15,157 all dressed in white in the PMAC as Alexis Morris scored a career-high 31 points and Angel Reese kept her double-double streak alive.
“Well, first of all, compliment the fans, goodness gracious,” Coach Kim Mulkey said. “I don’t think I saw an empty seat, now I didn’t look long, but when I walked out, I was like ‘oh these people are standing,’ It was everything that young people need to experience in college. Thank you to all of the people who made that happen.
“I thought it was a game that was good for the SEC and women’s basketball. There are a lot of people who still have their question marks about us, and we’re good with that. We had those question marks, we still have them today. That just feeds our hunger. We just played a team that has played every good team out there this year.”
The crowd was the largest at the PMAC for any LSU sport since its seating was reconfigured ahead of the 2005-06 season.
“I’ve never been a part of this type of environment,” Reese said. “When I walked out, I felt like I’m at home. It was like a winter wonderland in there with all the white.”
Morris played 39 minutes as she added 6 rebounds and a season-high 6 steals to one of the best performances of her career. Morris went 11-23 from the field and shot an impressive 8-9 from the penalty stripe.
“I had to be the player to stay poised because I’m experienced, and I’ve been here before,” Morris said. “I wouldn’t have had a great game without my teammates and Coach (Kim) Mulkey and everyone around me. It was fun.”
Reese collected her 21st straight double-double to extend her LSU record. She only had 4 points and 4 rebounds in the first half, but a strong second-half showing allowed her to finish with 18 points and 17 rebounds.
“The first half they played me well and were really aggressive with me,” Reese stated. “That first foul – I don’t want to get that second and have to sit, so I just tried to play cool and do whatever I could not to get that second foul. I tried to grow up from that because last year I probably would have gotten that foul and had to sit. That’s growth for me. In the second half, I tried to go out there and do what I could, be aggressive. I know my teammates needed me, so I had to do whatever I could to get the win.”
The Volunteers were led by Jordan Walker, who had 19 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. She was followed by Rickea Jackson with 17 points, 8 boards, and 5 assists. The only other Lady Vol to break double figures was Jordan Hortson with 11.
The Tigers will be back at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Thursday when LSU hosts Georgia at 7 p.m. CT. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+ and can be heard on the LSU Sports Radio Network affiliates.
LSU started the game on a 6-2 run with buckets from Reese, Williams and Johnson. After a Tennessee triple, both teams had multiple empty possessions, but Reese scored her second basket of the game. The Lady Vols tied it up at 8 on the next possession with another triple. Williams scored her second basket to give LSU a 10-8 lead at the first media break. With the game knotted at 12, Morris notched her second basket to retake the lead. Following one made free throw by Sa’Myah Smith, LSU led 15-12 after the first quarter.
Morris scored the first points of the second quarter, hitting a pull-up in transition after grabbing a feisty rebound. Tennessee scored the next four to bring it within one as the Lady Vols began to dominate the glass, forcing a timeout by the Tigers. Tennessee took its first lead, 18-17, out of the timeout, but Morris ended the Lady Vols’ run with another pull-up jumper. After Tennessee took another lead, Morris once again pulled up to put the Tigers back in front, giving her 10. After Sa’Myah Smith gave LSU a three-point lead, Tennessee hit a triple to tie the game at 23. Smith responded with a driving layup, hitting a free throw to complete the three-point play. Lex drew a foul on a drive down the left baseline, giving LSU a six-point lead after another three-point play, bringing the record crowd to its feet with just over three minutes left in the half. Last-Tear Poa hit a three on LSU’s next possession after Reese found her to give LSU a 32-23 lead. Tennessee scored the next five points to end the LSU run. Poa ended the Lady Vols’ run by sinking two free throws. Neither team scored in the final minute of the half and the Tigers took a 34-29 lead into the break.
LSU held Tennessee to 30.4-percent shooting in the first half, but the Lady Vols hung around to make it an interesting second half.
The Lady Vols scored the first points of the second half, but Jasmine Carson knocked down her first shot of the game, a three from the right corner for LSU to go up, 37-32. Morris hit a stepback three moments later as she stayed hot to go up by eight. She drew a foul on another stepback three and hit two-of-three to retake an eight-point lead. The Tigers took a 10-point lead when Johnson scored a second chance look, going up 44-34 and forcing Tennessee to take a timeout.
Out of the timeout, LSU got a stop and Reese drew a foul on the other end, hitting a pair to give her 6 points and 9 rebounds. She got her 10th rebound and took it coast-to-coast on the next play to put LSU up 14 on an 8-0 run. Tennessee ended the run after forcing a turnover with a full-court press. Reese put LSU ahead 50-41 with just over two minutes left in the third quarter, hitting two free throws to secure her 21st consecutive double-double.
Tennessee brought the game within three with under a minute left in the quarter as LSU took a 50-47 lead into the fourth. Tennessee’s press allowed the Lady Vols to get back into the game.
Reese broke a two-minute-long scoring drought as she went 1-2 from the free throw line to open the fourth quarter. The Lady Vols responded with a putback layup to bring the game within two, 51-49. Morris picked up her fourth steal of the night and went across the court for a mid-range jumper to extend the LSU lead. Rickea put Tennesee behind by just one after going 1 for 2 at the line, 52-53. Morris took over once again with a three-point play as she was fouled on another tough finish at the rim off a fast break. The three-point play from Morris would spark an 11-0 LSU run and put the Tigers up 64-52 as Tennessee called timeout with 5:19 to play. The Tigers’ run was boosted by the defense as it forced four turnovers that led to two fast-break layups, one from Morris and another by Reese.
The Lady Vols came out of the timeout on a 7-2 run that was broken up by two free throws from Reese who made her total 16 and 16. Johnson hauled in another defensive rebound and found Reese who finished on the other end. Tennessee came right back down and Horston hit her first trey of the game to make it 62-68, LSU. After trading chances at the free throw line in the final 30 seconds of play Morris was fouled with three seconds left. Morris needed to make both free throws to break her current career-high record of 30 points. Morris went 2-2 and made 76-68 as she hit a new career high and topped off a 76-68 win for LSU.
(Recap via LSU Athletics)