No. 7 LSU saw the return of Angel Reese and reason to believe the Lady Tigers still have some juice as the reigning NCAA champions on Thursday.
The Tigers defeated No. 9 Virginia Tech 82-64 in a rematch from last season's Final Four, their biggest win of a season that hasn't started on the right foot despite an 8-1 record. It was also the 700th win of LSU head coach Kim Mulkey's career, making her the fastest coach to the mark in NCAA basketball history.
Reese had missed the previous four games for undisclosed reasons. After a mid-game benching against Kent State, Reese was conspicuously absent for wins over Southeastern Louisiana, Texas Southern, Niagara and Virginia. As reporters continued to request an explanation, all Mulkey would do was confirm it was disciplinary measure, comparing the situation to "disciplining your children."
In her return, Reese posted 19 points on 5-of-10 shooting with nine rebounds, two assists, one steal and four turnovers. She once again matched up well with Virginia Tech All-American Elizabeth Kitley, who shot 6-of-16 for 16 points and fouled out in the final minutes. Reese was responsible for four of Kitley's five fouls.
“My teammates have been holding it down, I'm just super happy to be back with the team,” Reese told ESPN after the game. “This atmosphere, I missed it so much. I’m just happy to move forward and be back.”
It was a good night for LSU. The question, however, is what could still be lingering under the surface, as Reese's time away from the team was clearly not nothing. Both players and parents aired out some laundry on social media in the days before her first missed game, while Reese simply requested people don't believe everything they read.
If there were any hard feelings from Reese's apparent suspension, they weren't on display Thursday when the player embraced Mulkey both during and after the game, when LSU celebrated Reese's 1,000th rebound and Mulkey's 700th win.