Reese played through pain, won’t use it as excuse

ALBANY, N.Y. — LSU forward Angel Reese reinjured her right ankle in a 94-87 loss to Iowa on Monday night but refused to use that as an excuse for her performance.

Reese fell into cameras along the baseline after blocking a shot at the 8:01 mark of the second quarter and immediately came up hobbled, hopping on one foot to the bench. After spending a few minutes on the bike, she reentered the game and played through the pain, gutting it out the rest of the way.

“I’m tough, so I tried to play through it, of course, and this is something that has been going on for a little while now,” Reese said. “But I played through it, and I’m not going to make that excuse for the rest of my play for the game.”

Reese initially sprained her ankle last month in the SEC tournament. When she reinjured it Monday, LSU led 34-30. She was 5-of-7 for 10 points at that point in the game. But after the injury, she went 2-of-14 for seven points and appeared to be limping up and down the court. Reese changed her shoes at halftime to a higher top for better ankle support.

“I saw her limping, but that goes to show the type of person she is,” LSU guard Flau’jae Johnson said. “She’s not going to make excuses. She’s just going to take that on the chin. I respect that. That shows how much she cares about the game and her integrity to the game.”

In tandem with the Reese injury, LSU lost its shooting touch after the first quarter. The game was tied at halftime, but the turning point came in the third quarter, when LSU shot 5-of-26 in its worst quarter of the game. Iowa took an 11-point advantage that it never relinquished.

The Tigers had no defensive answers for Caitlin Clark, who finished with 41 points and nine 3-pointers with Hailey Van Lith and Last-Tear Poa as her primary defenders before Johnson got an opportunity later in the game.

Johnson said she had hoped to have an opportunity to guard Clark more than she did. LSU coach Kim Mulkey said of the defensive strategy going into the game, “There’s not a lot of strategy. You’ve got to guard her. Nobody else seems to be able to guard her. We didn’t even guard her last year when we beat them.”

Reese finished with 17 points and 20 rebounds. When she fouled out with 1:45 remaining, she went to the bench and shared a warm embrace with Johnson — perhaps a realization that winning a second straight national championship was simply not meant to be for the two players who put the Tigers on their back.

Afterward, Reese would not say whether she had decided her future plans. “I’ll make a decision when I’m ready,” she said. Her teammates defended her leadership in their postgame comments.

“Everybody can have their opinion on Angel Reese, but y’all don’t know her,” Johnson said. “I know the real Angel Reese, and the person I see every day is a strong person, is a caring, loving person. But the crown she wears is heavy. She’s the type of teammate that’s going to make you believe in yourself.”

Reese took a moment to reflect on the increased media scrutiny since LSU won the national championship last year, and disclosed she had received death threats.

“I’ve been attacked so many times, death threats, I’ve been sexualized, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been so many things, and I’ve stood strong every single time,” Reese said. “I just try to stand strong for my teammates because I don’t want them to see me down and not be there for them. All this has happened since I won the national championship. It sucks, but I still wouldn’t change.

“The little girls that look up to me, hopefully I give them some type of inspiration — keep waking up every day, keep being motivated, staying who you are, stand 10 toes, don’t back down, and just be confident.”

Afterward, in the postgame locker room, Reese said, “I’m not going to let tonight take away from anything. I did a lot. We won a national championship with nine new players. I left an amazing impact on so many different people. I’ve won at the highest level and I’m happy about that.”

In the locker next to hers, Johnson said, “Right now, I want to go to the gym and I want to get better. I only perspective I have is that we’re not going to the Final Four and I have to be better for my team. I’ve got to be better. I understand what we’ve done, but as a competitor, you want to win.”

No matter what decision Reese makes, LSU has the opportunity to return the bulk of its team. Van Lith has one more year to play; Johnson is a sophomore; Aneesah Morrow is a junior; Mikaylah Williams is a freshman.

“Only one team finishes the season happy, and boy, we got to do that last year,” Mulkey said. “Somebody will get to do it this year. But everybody else is going to come up here and be sad. You know, there’s nothing wrong with being sad. If you’re not sad, that means you didn’t invest much. So those tears are tears of investment.”

This post was originally published on ESPN

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