BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)Angel Reese was knocked backward as she came down with an offensive rebound, tossed the ball in off the glass as she fell and pounded both hands triumphantly on the floor as roaring fans rose from their seats.
Even as much of her team was stifled by defensive-minded Mississippi, Reese simply would not be denied. She had a season-high 36 points and 20 rebounds, carrying No. 5 LSU to a gritty 69-60 victory over Mississippi on Thursday night.
”I don’t know if I look tired,” said Reese, who played all 40 minutes. ”I was doing everything I could do to win.”
Reese said she was driven in large part by her desire to see LSU (24-1, 12-1 SEC) bounce back from its lone loss this season on Sunday at No. 1 South Carolina.
”Last game, I didn’t help my team win and mentally it was tough on me for the past two days,” Reese said. ”I knew coming out tonight my team needed me. And it was just about how I was going to respond tonight and I feel like I responded well and did what I could.”
Reese, who reached double-digit points and rebounds for the 24th time this season, was the only player for LSU to score with any regularity against Ole Miss (20-6, 9-4), which came in ranked 18th nationally in scoring defense.
LSU shot just 32.8% (22 of 67), including just 1 of 8 from 3-point range.
But when the Tigers missed, the 6-foot-3 Reese was in the paint fighting for eight offensive rebounds and often converted those into put-backs off the glass. LSU had 22 second-chance points, 16 scored by Reese. She also hit 12 of 14 foul shots to help LSU outscore Ole Miss 24-4 at the foul line.
”Angel responded. The thing I was most pleased with is she responded on the boards,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. ”We got to the foul line, which is good, and we made our free throws.”
Angel Baker scored 21 and Madison Scott added 13 for Ole Miss, which only briefly led by one point in the first quarter, but which tied the game at 34 on Baker’s jumper in the third quarter and never trailed by more than 11.
Noting that the final margin could have been even tighter if Ole Miss hadn’t been forced to foul in the final minute, Ole Miss coach Yolett McPhee-McCiun asserted, ”If they’re No. 5, in my mind, we’re like around No. 10 to 15 in the nation. … We’re pretty good, too.”
Alexis Morris scored 15 for LSU, but had an off night shooting, hitting just three of 18 shots. Still, her clutch jumper gave LSU a 63-56 lead with 1:50 left. She made nine of 10 free throws, including four in the final 33 seconds to seal the victory.
”She always hits the big shots,” Mulkey noted.
Morris, who normally shoots close to 46% from the field and averages nearly 16 points, missed nine of her first 10 shots. But Reese scored half of LSU’s 30 first-half points to keep the Tigers in front most of the way.
The Tigers never led by more than eight in the opening two quarters and Mississippi scored the final six points of the second period, capped by Baker’s layup, to pull to 30-28 at halftime.
Mississippi: Ole Miss has been one of the top defensive teams in the SEC, allowing 54.7 point per game coming in. It showed against LSU, which finished well below its scoring average of 85.8 points.
”We hold everybody below their average, that’s our defensive system. I’d be shocked if we don’t,” Mississippi coach Yolett McPhee-McCuin said. ”We take pride in it.”
The Rebels have to win all three of their remaining regular-season games to reach 23 regular-season victories for the first time in program history. And that means beating No. 1 and undefeated South Carolina.
LSU: The Tigers won their 10th straight against Ole Miss, which hasn’t beaten the Tigers since 2015 in Oxford. LSU improved to 41-22 all-time against the Rebels. LSU is now 50-7 since Kim Mulkey took over as coach for the 2021-22 season. Meanwhile, Reese needs just three more double-doubles to tie Sylvia Fowles’ program record of 27, set in the 2006-07 season.
Mississippi: Hosts South Carolina on Sunday.
LSU: At Florida on Sunday.
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25