Angel Reese returns, scores 19 points as LSU defeats Virginia Tech in Final Four rematch

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Angel Reese, the defending national champion Tigers’ double-double All-American star, returned with a bang Thursday night, scoring 19 points and grabbing nine rebounds to help lead the Tigers to an 82-64 win over No. 9 Virginia Tech in the inaugural ACC/SEC challenge.The game was a rematch of the national semifinal game from 2023, which LSU also won, 79-72, on its way to the championship game. The victory was also significant for LSU coach Kim Mulkey, as it was her 700th of her career. She has 700 victories faster than anyone else in either the women’s or men’s game, needing only 813 games to do so. Reese and her coach shared a long embrace as the team celebrated Mulkey’s accomplishment.

Reese was fouled twice in the first half and played only 15 minutes, scoring six points and grabbing five rebounds. Mulkey said at halftime that she was relieved Reese was back and that the team could finally play together for the first time in two weeks, adding that “the team feeds off” Reese. Reese, the 2023 Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player, was playing in his first game in more than two weeks on Thursday. Reese missed the Tigers’ next four games after being benched for the second half of LSU’s 109-79 win over Kent State on Nov. 14. After the game, Reese told ESPN’s Andraya Carter that it felt “great” to be back. “My teammates have been holding it down, I’m just super happy to be back with the team,” Reese said in a statement. “I sorely missed this atmosphere.” I’m just glad to be moving forward and back.”

Angel Reese

Carter didn’t ask Reese why she’d been gone for nearly two weeks, and she didn’t volunteer any explanation. She was more excited to talk about her teammates, as five players scored in double figures in the victory. “It’s fun when we play like that,” said Reese. “When we play together, it’s unbelievable.” When she arrived at the postgame press conference, Reese exclaimed to the media, “Who’s happy to see me? I know you are!” No reporter inquired as to where Reese had been for the past two weeks or why she wasn’t with the team.Reese did not provide any specifics, but stated that “taking time to yourself is really important, resetting and refocusing… My mental health is the most important consideration… Taking a reset is acceptable; professionals do it all the time. You should not believe everything you read. “I’m back, I’m happy, I’m here, and I’m on my way.” “I’m going to help this team get as far as it can.”Reese also talked extensively about LSU legend Shaquille O’Neal, one of her mentors with whom she spoke every day for the last two weeks while she was away. “He checked on me, he called me every single day to make sure I was good,” Reese went on to say. “He told me when I was right, he told me when I was wrong, he told me what I needed to do to get back to where I am.”

Angel Reese

What did Kim Mulkey say about Angel Reese’s return?

Mulkey referred to Reese’s return on Thursday as “a shot in the arm.” It’s the most specific she’s been in weeks about Reese.As speculation swirled about Reese’s absence, Mulkey stood firm in her refusal to explain why the junior forward wasn’t on the court or the bench. Mulkey pushed back on some of the coverage surrounding Reese’s absence on Wednesday, after she announced Reese was back with the team, saying she felt many of the pieces written became personal attacks. Mulkey was asked about mental health and “the importance of athletes, when they need to take a moment for themselves” in the postgame on Thursday, after Reese had left. Mulkey began, “Mental health,” before clarifying, “I don’t want you to think Angel was trying to tell you that.” But everyone, including coaches, needs to take a deep breath.”

Angel Reese

Reese is one of college football’s biggest stars. She has a NIL deal with Reebok, appeared in Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue following the Tigers’ championship, and is dubbed “Bayou Barbie.” She has been open about her feelings about the media and society’s perception of her, and she has stated that she doesn’t care what others think or say about her.”I don’t fit the narrative,” she said after LSU’s championship win, after being chastised for her trash talk to Iowa’s Caitlin Clark. “I don’t fit into the box you all want me to be in.” I’m too hood, too ghetto for you. You’ve been telling me that all year. But when the people do it, you all remain silent. So this is for the first, unapologetically you, who look like me and will speak up for what they believe in.””Twitter is going to go on a rage every time, and I’m happy,” she was quoted as saying. “I feel like I’ve helped grow women’s basketball this year.”

 

 


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