On Wednesday at 10:24 a.m., LSU superstar Angel Reese tweeted out “0-0,” referring to her mindset after her team, really 12-0, dominated non-conference play and was about to face its first SEC opponent on Thursday.
Not only were the No. 24 Arkansas Razorbacks going to be the No. 9 LSU Tigers’ first SEC opponent, but they were going to be their first opponent that is currently ranked or receiving votes. In anticipation of this challenge, Reese readily put away the fantastic team and individual success she had accumulated over the first 12 games of the season.
This mindset yielded an excellent result, as Reese went for 19 points and 16 rebounds in a 69-45 win for her Tigers on Thursday night at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas. LSU outrebounded the Razorbacks 62-30, with Reese’s seven offensive boards contributing to a 23-6 advantage on the offensive glass. In the 24-point win, the Tigers held a 15-point edge in second-chance points (22-7).
Reese is averaging 24.2 points and 14.8 rebounds on the season. Entering Thursday, she was sixth in the nation in scoring and first in rebounding. LSU was first in the country with an average scoring margin of 44.
Reese’s success, and LSU’s success, did not waver in the face of a road game at an Arkansas team that is very good and is more battle-tested than the Tigers.
Reese was on her way to another one of the monster stat lines she has grown accustomed to recording this season when she dropped in a transition layup early in the fourth that made it 58-38 LSU. Not long after, Flau’jae Johnson passed it to Alexis Morris for another transition layup that made it 61-38. Johnson chose not to feed Reese who was also running ahead. It would have been risky because there was a defender drifting in Reese’s direction to the right. Johnson wisely waited a beat and then dished it to Morris on her left for the easy lay-in.
The game wrapped up with an 8-7 stretch in favor of LSU.
Morris’ numbers were nearly as phenomenal as Reese’s; she finished with 19 points, five boards and six assists. Johnson added 10 points and 11 rebounds, while LaDazhia Williams hauled in 15 boards.
A Kateri Poole transition layup off of a steal made it a 15-point lead for the Tigers with 6:42 left in the third. Later in the frame, a Morris steal and pass to Poole for a layup pushed the LSU advantage to 16. The Tigers again inched their lead up, this time to 17 on a Williams free throw with 1:08 to go before the fourth. As the buzzer sounded on the third, the atmosphere had changed; LSU was in full control after what had been a difficult battle to pull away.
The beginning of the third quarter was similar to the rest of the game up to that point: Arkansas (13-3, 0-1 SEC) could never make it really tense, but was hanging around. Samara Spencer hit two threes in the first 1:28 of the frame, but both were answered by two points from Reese. Reese combatted the first with two free throws and the second with some nice dribble moves that led to a toss-in from the middle of the paint, which put LSU up 42-31. Reese was highly touted as a perimeter player coming out of high school, but we didn’t see that type of stellar ball-handling from her during her time at Maryland over the past two seasons.
Up five after one, LSU opened the second quarter with a 7-0 run. Morris made a three, Jasmine Carson made two free throws and Johnson made a layup in transition to put the Tigers up 21-9. Soon after, Spencer went on an individual 5-0 run to cut it to 23-16.
At the 4:33 mark of the frame and with the score at 26-16 LSU, Spencer earned Arkansas’ first trip to the free throw line. The Razorbacks are one of the best teams in the nation at getting to the stripe so that was unusual. Spencer missed both attempts and missed two more later in the frame to finish 0-of-4 on the night.
In part because of these struggles, Arkansas was unable to get very close to LSU in the second. A Maryam Dauda three cut it to nine with 55 seconds remaining before halftime, but Sa’Myah Smith helped LSU gain better breathing room going into the break. She scored off her own offensive rebound and then blocked a Dauda shot on the ensuing possession before Amani Bartlett hit from mid-range with one second left in the first half, putting the Tigers up 38-25.
Arkansas opened with a 7-6 lead, but then LSU went on a 7-0 run. Reese collected her own miss and put back a layup as she so often does, Johnson scored four straight points and then Williams made a free throw to make it 13-7 Tigers. Makayla Daniels, who earlier made a three that made it 5-4 Arkansas, took a steal coast-to-coast for a layup that cut the Razorbacks’ deficit to 14-9 after one.
Daniels put forth a solid effort in defeat with 10 points, six rebounds, three helpers and three steals. Spencer’s 17 points paced the Razorbacks.
As mentioned, Arkansas lost second chance points by 15; it also missed seven of its 12 free throws. That accounts for 22 points in a 24-point loss. The Razorbacks are shooting just 62.7 percent from the stripe on the season. LSU went 20-of-29 from the line on Thursday.