LSU beats Ole Miss to advance to SEC Women’s Tournament championship game

Published 10:43 pm Saturday, March 9, 2024

GREENVILLE, S.C. (AP) — Angel Reese said she and defending national champion LSU will be ready for No. 1 South Carolina, no matter what adversity they must overcome.

The latest came Saturday when guard Last-Tear Poa was taken off the court on a stretcher after hitting her head hard against the court behind the basket in the fourth quarter of the eighth-ranked Tigers’ 75-67 win over Ole Miss to reach the SEC Tournament finals.

Poa was brought to St. Francis Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina. LSU coach Kim Mulkey said she was told Poa’s scan came back clean and she had movement in her limbs.

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“Poa suffered a concussion, but has movement and feeling throughout her body. She is expected to be released from the hospital tonight,” LSU’s athletics department said in a statement late Saturday night.

Poa, hurt in the fourth quarter, had gotten up with help and was slowly being assisted to the team’s bench. But she stopped and was placed flat on the floor while paramedics came out with the stretcher. Mulkey said Poa seemed a little bit “unresponsive” on the court.

“She could squeeze your hand, lightly,” Mulkey said. “She’d tell you she could feel her legs, but she really couldn’t articulate good enough for you not to be afraid.”

Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said LSU’s Poa got hurt because of college basketball rules regarding the call of a block or a charge that allow defenders to move in front of those on offense to draw a charge. The rule lets players take chances that can lead to injuries like Poa’s.

“There needs to be a rule and then people won’t slide under people,” McPhee-McCuin said. “And if we’re trying to protect players, then why don’t we make a rule? Because that was dangerous and she was trying to make a play.”

Reese, who finished with 21 points and 17 rebounds, helped LSU (28-4) break away after the Rebels (22-8) had cut an 11-point deficit to 52-51 late in the third quarter. Reese scored her team’s next six points.

“It’s not all about me, but I’ll do whatever it takes to win,” Reese said.

That includes playing on a sore ankle — “My ankle is as big as a tennis ball right now,” Reese said — that she twisted in the quarterfinal win over Auburn. But it didn’t stop her from competing against Ole Miss and won’t keep her out of a rematch with the undefeated Gamecocks.

“But I’m going to do whatever it takes and go out there and fight and fight and fight,” Reese said. “And tonight I’m going to rest up and then I’m going to do it again.”

South Carolina trailed by 11 at LSU earlier this season before winning 76-70 in overtime. It was the team’s closest call before Saturday, when Kamilla Cardoso’s first-ever 3-pointer at the buzzer rescued the Gamecocks with a 74-73 victory over Tennessee in the other semifinal.

Mulkey said reaching the SEC finals was a goal, something LSU last accomplished in 2012. The Tigers, the defending national champion, have not won the SEC crown since 2003.

“I think you’re going to see two teams that are tired,” Mulkey said. “They had to play hard to win today. We had to play hard. It may not be a pretty game, who knows? But it is two of the most recognizable teams int he country.”

Flau’jae Johnson scored 21 points for LSU and Aneesah Morrow had 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Madison Scott led Ole Miss with 22 points while Davis finished with 21.

Rebels coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said when the game was on the line, LSU’s players rose up and made the winning plays.

“When it really came down to coming down, the reigning national champions reared their heads,” she said.