COLUMN: This year’s LSU women’s basketball team wasn’t equipped to play at the top of the sport

LSU’s championship hopes came crashing down after it ran into the force that is Caitlin Clark.

Iowa got off to a hot start before LSU managed to sustain a run of its own. It was reminiscent of the early run LSU went on in last year’s game, overwhelming Iowa with active defense and physicality in the post.

But then, Angel Reese left the game with an ankle. She would return, but she wasn’t the same player that dominated the first quarter. Iowa took control in the second half and closed it out.

Reese’s ankle certainly played a factor and if she’s healthy, maybe LSU is advancing to the Final Four. But that’s not the reason LSU lost that game.

LSU’s going home because this team wasn’t capable of winning a title. That’s not an indictment of any individual, from Reese to Kim Mulkey, but this team, as a whole, lacked something.

Last year’s team had all the right pieces. Think back to that 102-85 victory over Iowa in the national title. It wasn’t just Reese and Flau'Jae Johnson. The difference was Jasmine Carson coming off the bench and hitting five threes. LaDazhia Williams scored 20 points in the post. In the backcourt, Alexis Morris scored 21 and Kateri Poole went two for two from behind the arch.

But this year, when Reese went cold with the ankle, the supporting cast didn’t immediately answer the call. Johnson did eventually, with a strong second half, but it was too late. Iowa already seized momentum.

LSU had three chances this year to secure a win against one of the top teams in the sport. Two against South Carolina and again on Monday against Iowa. LSU was competitive but went 0-3 in those games. At some point, we just have to admit this team wasn’t equipped to play at the top of the sport this year.

Coming off the national title, LSU was favored to do it again. Returning Reese and Johnson along with the transfer additions of Hailey Van Lith and Aneesah Morrow led many to believe this team would be even better.

But as the year went on, cracks started to emerge. Poole was dismissed from the team while Sa'Myah Smith tore her ACL. Van Lith struggled to transition to a true point guard role. Mulkey expressed frustration as LSU struggled to defend, play in transition and protect the ball.

LSU was upset by Colorado, Auburn and Mississippi State. Three solid teams, but all well below LSU’s talent level.

I said this team lacked something, but it’s hard to say what that exact something is. If LSU had a point guard like Morris out there, is that enough to push LSU over the edge?

That wouldn’t solve the inconsistency we saw from this team or the inability to keep up with Iowa’s three-point shooting.

This team had no glaring weakness, but it had enough. And put together, it was enough to end LSU’s year. The Iowa loss is disappointing, but there’s a reason LSU was an underdog to begin with.

The immediate future is unclear. Reese and Van Lith both face WNBA decisions while Mulkey is sure to look in the transfer portal for some help at guard and improved depth.

Still, it’s hard to not trust Mulkey after her first three years in Baton Rouge. LSU will be back.

Contact/Follow us @LSUTigersWire on Twitter, and like our page on Facebook to follow ongoing coverage of Louisiana State news, notes, and opinions.

Story originally appeared on LSU Tigers Wire