LSU revels in thrill of first national championship

Published 9:20 am Tuesday, April 4, 2023

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU’s national championship women’s basketball team returned to campus on Monday where thousands of fans gathered to welcome them back.

“Timing is everything in our lives,” LSU coach and Louisiana native Kim Mulkey told the cheering crowd. “It was time for me to come home.”

Mulkey and and her players, including star forward Angel Reese and standout guard Alexis Morris, climbed onto a metal stage inside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, holding aloft the NCAA national championship trophy they captured with a 102-85 triumph over Iowa in Dallas on Sunday.

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The team will continue the celebration Wednesday evening, with an on-campus parade that will culminate with a celebration inside the Maravich Center.

The championship was LSU’s first in either women’s or men’s basketball. It was Mulkey’s fourth national championship as a coach. She won three at Baylor University before agreeing two years ago to move to LSU. Mulkey, 60, also won a national title as a player at Louisiana Tech.

Mulkey gestured upward toward hanging banners from LSU’s appearances in five straight women’s Final Fours from 2004 through 2008.

“Do you understand how hard it is to do that?” Mulkey said. “And I was bold enough and confident enough to say that’s not what I came home to do. I came home to put a championship banner up there.”
“I am blessed that I had the opportunity to come back home,” Mulkey added. “I am blessed that these young ladies chose to come play for us.”

After brief remarks, players mingled with fans in the arena and posed for photos.

Those in attendance included LSU president William F Tate IV, who commented on criticism Reese received for a late-game gesture directed at Iowa star Caitlyn Clark.

While looking at Clark, Reese mockingly waved her hand in front of her face, the way Clark had done in celebration earlier in the NCAA tournament. Reese also pointed at the finger where her forthcoming championship would go.

The moment sparked debate on social media among those defending Reese’s right to engage in a type of mental gamesmanship and trash talk that is common in basketball, and those who found her conduct unsportsmanlike.

“A lot of people commenting never played sports,” Tate asserted. “You create slights. You create people dissing you so that you can go out there and be motivated to come after them.

“And by the way, this is LSU,” he continued. “This is swag country. This is what we do here.”
Reese was named the Most Outstanding Player at the Final Four after setting an NCAA single-season record with her 34th double-double against the Hawkeyes.

The bubbly junior from Baltimore, who transferred from Maryland, was unapologetic in the postgame news conference on Sunday.

“All year, I was critiqued about who I was,” Reese said. “I don’t fit in a box that y’all want me to be in. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto. But when other people do it, y’all say nothing. So this was for the girls that look like me, that’s going to speak up on what they believe in. It’s unapologetically you.”

On Monday, first lady Jill Biden said that she wants the Iowa team to be invited to the White House in addition to LSU. She was in attendance for Sunday’s game.

Biden, speaking at the Colorado state capital in Denver, praised Iowa’s sportsmanship and congratulated both teams on their performance.

“I know we’ll have the champions come to the White House, we always do. So, we hope LSU will come,” she said. “But, you know, I’m going to tell Joe I think Iowa should come, too, because they played such a good game.”

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about whether President Joe Biden would also extend a White House invite to Iowa — and whether it would be a joint visit with LSU or a separate engagement.

Following LSU’s victory, Mulkey said she would go to the White House if the team was invited.

Reese tweeted a link to a story on Jill Biden’s remarks on Monday. “ A JOKE,” she wrote, along with three rolling-on-floor-laughing emojis.