No. 5 LSU rolls into SEC Tournament with win over Mississippi State

Published 9:28 am Monday, February 27, 2023

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Alexis Morris was unfazed — if not motivated — by seeing her more than half-court basket disallowed as the third quarter expired.

Morris scored 13 of her 23 points in the fourth quarter, Angel Reese had 23 points and 26 rebounds to tie Sylvia Fowles’ LSU record of 27 double-doubles in a season, and the fifth-ranked Tigers topped Mississippi State, 74-59 in a women’s basketball game on Sunday.

“The shot being waved off probably did give me a little more ammunition, but I’m one of the go-to players,” Morris said. “It’s something I definitely embrace.”

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LaDazhia Williams added 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting for the Tigers (27-1, 15-1 Southeastern Conference), whose regular-season record matched the program’s best, set in the 2004-05 season by a squad starring Seimone Augustus.

Morris and Williams were both seniors playing in their final regular-season home game at LSU, but both took comfort in knowing LSU is virtually guaranteed to be a host site for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

“I want my senior night to be in Dallas,” Morris, a Beaumont, Texas, native said referring to the site of this season’s NCAA Women’s Final Four.

But Morris did note that she nearly gave up playing basketball before transferring to LSU in 2021 for a second stint with coach Kim Mulkey after having left Mulkey’s Baylor program for Texas A&M early in her career.

“I’m just happy I didn’t give up on myself,” Morris said. “Thank you, coach Mulkey, for giving me an opportunity to see this day.”

JerKaila Jordan, a New Orleans native who’s been among the SEC’s most productive players this month, scored 16 points for Mississippi State (20-9, 9-7), which had won five of its previous six before visiting an LSU team whose only loss this season came at unbeaten and top-ranked South Carolina.

Mississippi State coach Sam Purcell said he changed his lineup to put more size in the paint in an effort to prevent Reese from dominating. But Reese still ended up with 10 rebounds on the offensive end and 16 on the defensive end. Reese also hit foul-line and baseline jumpers to go with an array of layups and put-backs.

“No offense to our scout team, but they’re not Angel Reese — and those are some pretty athletic male practice players,” Purcell said. “Angel Reese is special.”

LSU missed all 14 of its shots from 3-point range, but got away with it because of Reese’s and Williams’ productivity in the paint. The Tigers pulled down 21 offensive rebounds and finished with a 24-2 advantage in second-chance points.

“Offensive boards,” Mulkey began. “That’s a big stat, guys.”

Morris and Williams each scored 10 points in the first half and were instrumental in helping the Tigers take a 12-point lead in the second quarter.

Williams’ layup ignited a 10-3 run during which the center added another layup, as well as an offensive rebound that set up Morris’ jumper.

Morris hit two more jump shots during the spurt to make it 36-24.

The Bulldogs scored the final six points of the period, highlighted by Ramani Parker’s 3, and cut it to 36-30 at halftime. But LSU never saw its lead drop below five in the second half and was not threatened down the stretch.

Mississippi State did not lead by more than two points and trailed for all of the final three periods in falling to 5-24 all time in Baton Rouge. The Bulldogs have lost the past three meetings, and could see LSU again later this week in the SEC Tournament in Greenville, South Carolina.

Mississippi State plays either Vanderbilt or Texas A&M in the second round Thursday at 1:30 p.m. The winner of that game advances to face LSU in the quarterfinals Friday at 5 p.m.

“There were 15,000 fans on senior night, this place was electric. Like I’ve said to my team, there are so many great things that we can take from this game because we are going to be in this situation come the NCAA tournament, where we are on somebody’s home court, where it is loud. You couldn’t hear. You have to bottle that and learn from that if you want to steal one on somebody’s home court,” Purcell said. “We are going to close this one. We are going to get home, we will get rest, take off tomorrow and then obviously, we’ll talk about our two possible future opponents in that first game at the SEC tournament.”

Wednesday, March 1
10 a.m. SEC Network – Vanderbilt vs. Texas A&M
1:30 p.m. SEC Network – Florida vs. Kentucky
Thursday, March 2
11 a.m. SEC Network – Arkansas vs. Missouri
1:30 p.m. SEC Network – Mississippi State vs. Vanderbilt or Texas A&M
5 p.m. SEC Network – Georgia vs. Auburn
7:30 p.m. SEC Network – Alabama vs. Florida or Kentucky
Friday, March 3
11 a.m. SEC Network – South Carolina vs. Arkansas or Missouri
1:30 p.m. SEC Network – Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State-Vanderbilt-Texas A&M winner
5 p.m. SEC Network – LSU vs. Georgia or Auburn
7:30 p.m. SEC Network – Tennessee vs. Alabama-Florida-Kentucky winner
Saturday, March 4
3:30 p.m. ESPNU – Semifinal, Teams TBA
6 p.m. ESPNU – Semifinal, Teams TBA
Sunday, March 5
2 p.m. ESPN – Championship game