Reese returns with 19, cites mental health focus

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU star Angel Reese had a smile on her face as she entered the postgame news conference Thursday night after her first game in more than two weeks.

“How happy are y’all to see me?” she said to reporters.

Playing for the first time since she was benched Nov. 14, Reese started and had 19 points and nine rebounds in No. 7 LSU’s 82-64 victory over No. 9 Virginia Tech. After the game, Reese and coach Kim Mulkey shared a long hug on the sideline.

Reese said it felt “great” to be back on the court. She did not directly explain her absence but said she spent the time away “resetting and refocusing.”

“My mental health is the most important thing before anything, and I’m going to make sure I’m OK before anything because I don’t want to cause anything, harm, or any cancer in the locker room,” Reese said. “… I’m back and I’m happy and I’m here and I’m moving forward and I’m going to help take this team as far as I can.”

Mulkey also had repeatedly declined to explain Reese’s absence, which stretched to four games before her return Thursday. Reese last played for the Tigers (8-1) in their fourth game of the season, a 109-79 victory over Kent State.

Reese got off to a slow start, shooting 1-of-4 from the field and 2-of-6 from the free throw line in the first quarter. But she was active on the glass, grabbing five rebounds, including four on the offensive end. She finished the game 5-of-10 from the field and 9-of-16 from the free throw line.

She was the second LSU player out of the locker room for pregame shootaround. She jogged out of the tunnel, stopping to bring stadium worker Doretha Bond into a long hug.

“I told her, ‘Walk by faith, not by sight,'” Bond said.

Before the game, Reese was honored for reaching 1,000 rebounds in her career, which she accomplished during LSU’s home opener against Queens University on Nov. 9. Reese walked out to center court to applause from fans at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mulkey threw the ball up for her to snatch out of the air.

It was a joyous and raucous atmosphere at LSU’s home court. Students waited in line for multiple hours in the rain to get the best seats in the student section. Some arrived as early as 1:45 p.m. for the 8 p.m. tipoff.

Thursday’s win gave Mulkey 700 for her career. She became the fastest to reach the milestone as a head coach, in men’s or women’s basketball.

Wearing purple “Kim Mulkey 700” shirts as they walked off the court, Reese slung her arm around junior Aneesah Morrow as they approached the student section. They paraded through, collecting high-fives as they went.

“Angel is one of the best players I’ve coached,” Mulkey said. “I’m just proud. I’m proud of how she handled herself. She’s back to the Angel everybody knows.”

Freshman Mikaylah Williams paced the Tigers with 20 points. Morrow added a double-double with 19 points and 15 rebounds. Virginia Tech (5-2) was led by Georgia Amoore with 25 points and Elizabeth Kitley with 16 points and 11 rebounds.

The game was a rematch of last year’s Final Four, which LSU won en route to the program’s first national title.

This post was originally published on ESPN

Share your love