By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
The state of Louisiana celebrated as Louisiana State University Tigers Women’s basketball team won its first NCAA Women’s Division I basketball championship April 2 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
LSU defeated the University of Iowa Hawkeyes Women’s basketball team 102-85.
The game itself was historic by becoming the highest scoring championship game in women’s NCAA history.
Tiger’s head coach Kim Mulkey also won her fourth national title, three as former Baylor Bears women’s basketball head coach and her fourth title with LSU’s win over Iowa.
Mulkey, known for her flashy clothing style and passionate coaching, would not let Iowa’s star player, guard Caitlin Clark, run her team out of the court.
Mulkey had her team prepared every step of the way to defeat the Hawkeyes and its star player, Clark, who served as the point guard of the team. Clark is known for her deep three-point shooting and has been compared to NBA players Stephen Curry, Damien Lillard and Trae Young.
She also made history by scoring 191 total points, which is more than any player in a single tournament in its history and had eight 3-point field goals in the championship game.
LSU players were not intimidated by Clark and her teammates as the game was competitive throughout all four quarters.
The Tigers were led by players Jasmine Carson with 22 points, Alexis Morris with 21 points and LaDazhia Williams with 20 points. LSU’s bench also outscored Iowa’s bench 30-8.
LSU’s Angel Reese was named the most outstanding player for the Women’s Final Four.
“I’m just super happy for the program first,” Reese said. “But this is bigger than me. I mean, I had so many goals coming into LSU, but I didn’t think I was going to win a national championship within my first year at LSU. I mean, I’m just happy for this team. Coach Mulkey, I appreciate you, I thank you enough for giving me this opportunity to play for you and get better.”
Despite great play by both teams, the most talked about thing near the end of the game was the sportsmanship conduct by certain players.
Clark first gave a “You can’t see me” hand motion to South Carolina players when Iowa defeated the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first game of the Final Four on March 31.
Then Reese was also known for her hand motions towards Clark during the championship game. The first which had Reese showing Clark a “You can’t see me” hand motion and near the end of the game, Reese pointed toward her ring finger basically saying her team is getting a ring while Clark and her team goes home defeated.
“I mean all year I was critiqued about who I was,” Reese said. I don’t fit the narrative. I don’t fit the box that y’all want me to be in. I’m too hood. I’m too ghetto. Y’all told me that all year. When other people do it, and y’all don’t say nothing. So this is for the girls that look like me. For those that want to speak up for what they believe in. It’s unapologetically you. It was bigger than me tonight. And Twitter is going to go into a rage every time, and I mean I’m happy. I feel like I’ve helped grow women’s basketball this year.”
The Tigers led throughout most of the game and even had Carson making a three pointer from way downtown right before halftime.
In the second half, LSU dominated, even leading the Hawkeyes by over 20 points at one point during the third quarter.
Despite the big lead by LSU, players knew Clark and her teammates could fire up and make a comeback anytime, which they did in the fourth quarter closing the scoring gap by seven points but it wasn’t enough as the Tigers continued to score and out rebound their opponents.
LSU had 36 rebounds compared to Iowa’s 26 and shot over 54% and forced turnovers through steals as well.
“I would definitely say this is the game of my life because I mean, I won a national championship on the biggest stage possible in college,” Carson said. “I just wanted to do anything that you know my team needed in this game. Whether it was defense, rebounding, just anything supporting them. I’ve been working hard my whole life. And I came to LSU to contribute and win a national title and to play with a Hall of Fame coach and play with great players. Hard work pays off and God is great. Everybody’s journey is different, and you should just embrace your journey.”
LSU point guard Alexis Morris explains how her team was able to prevent Iowa from coming back from behind and taking the lead after closing the scoring gap from over 20 to seven points.
“That’s the only thing I kept telling my teammates, whatever we do, will take twos but no threes,” Morris said. Iowa is a great team, and we know that everyone makes runs but as a leader on a team, I have to keep everybody calm in those moments. It is very important not to panic. And I think you know when I do go for those moments, it just settles my team down. It keeps everybody cool headed and level headed in those moments.”
Reese said she ignores Twitter’s harsh comments and said all the negative talk against her doesn’t bother her.
“The biggest goal is to be a national champion,” Reese said. And that’s what I did. And that’s what I can just brag on because at the end of the day it’s a team effort. And regardless, I’m going to be me, but I can’t do it without the girls here and I can’t do it as the rest of my teammates and my coaches. So Twitter can say what they want to say, and I love Twitter and I love reading those comments. I have all the screenshots of what everybody has said about me all season, and now what are you going to say now?”
Coach Mulkey is in her second year as head coach of LSU Women’s basketball. When she arrived on campus, she realized something was missing. There was no banner for a women’s NCAA college basketball title.
“With about 1:30 to go, I couldn’t hold it and got very emotional,” Mulkey said. “That’s really not like me until that final buzzer goes off, but I knew we will hold on and win this game and I don’t know if it’s the mere fact that we are doing this in my second year back home. I don’t know if it was the fact that I am home. I don’t know if it was looking across there. My daughter and my grandchildren. I don’t know what it was, but I lost it. So that should tell you what I think about it. Very, very emotional and tears of joy.”
Mulkey grew up in Louisiana and played college ball at Louisiana Tech University. She led her high school basketball team to four straight championships as well in Tickfaw, Louisiana at Hammond High School, where she was also the class valedictorian with a perfect 4.0 GPA.
Mulkey praised her team for playing hard and acknowledged point guard Alexis Morris and her efforts against guarding one of the most talked about female college basketball players of all time in Caitlin Clark.
“Alexis Morris guarded the finest women’s basketball players that our game has,” Mulkey said. “She didn’t keep them from scoring. They’re that good. But what she did is she made every shot they took a little bit more difficult instead of easy. We knew Caitlin was going to shoot the ball. We knew she was going to make her threes. But we couldn’t give her the 10 to 12 points she always gets off the layups. I don’t know if I’m right, but I think she may have only gotten one inside the arc tonight. She got free throws, and she had those threes. But I’d have to break this stat sheet down. She didn’t get many layups in the arc.”
Mulkey’s goal of winning a national title for LSU has come to fruition and she said she remembers the day when she was introduced as the head coach of the Tiger’s women’s basketball team.
“I think back to my press conference, when Scott Woodward (LSU’s athletic director) would introduce me as LSU’s head coach and the number of people that were in that room such as the governor, the politicians, the people who watched me grow up, and I made a statement and asked everybody to turn around and look at those final four banners. Nowhere on there did it say national champions, and that’s what I came home to do.”