Last year, LSU won it all, with Angel Reese shining as the Lady Tigers took down the Iowa Hawkeyes and Caitlin Clark in a historic NCAA title game. A little over seven months later, the then-No. 20 Colorado Buffaloes gave LSU the business, serving the then-No. 1 Lady Tigers their first loss in their first game of the season.
It was shocking and a cruel reminder of how fickle success truly is in sports. The defeat was a result of a plethora of factors—from a poor second quarter, a starting five that didn't mesh and Colorado’s Aaronette Vonleh catching fire, scoring 24 points on 11-for-15 shooting from the field.
Following the loss, head coach Kim Mulkey made adjustments to the rotation, placing Annesah Morrow on the bench. The move worked, as Morrow has scored in the teens in the three games since becoming the now-No. 7 Lady Tigers' super sub. Another positive after the negative start to the season has been the emergence of Mikaylah Williams. The freshman guard went off against Kent State, scoring 42 points as she missed just five shots in the dominant win. Thanks to her play—and a relatively gentle schedule—LSU is back to its winning ways, currently sitting at 3-1 on the season.
LSU freshman Mikaylah Williams scored 42 points vs Kent State on Tuesday.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 14, 2023
It was Williams' 4th career game with the Tigers and the most points scored by any LSU freshman in a game since the 1976-77 season. pic.twitter.com/0STe1G8mie
And what about Reese? How has she looked to start the year?
So far, it's been a mixed bag. She had a lackluster performance versus Colorado and was benched against Kent State. When Mulkey was asked why Reese didn't play in the second half, she stated it was a "coach's decision". It seems odd to make such a move with your star player. The potential tension building between the head coach and star athlete certainly is something to monitor as the season progresses.
Angel Reese did not come back in during the 2nd half and Kateri Poole did not enter the game today for LSU.— Tyler DeLuca (@TylerDeLuca) November 15, 2023
When asked postgame, Kim Mulkey deemed it a “coach’s decision” pic.twitter.com/hVVKJP80Tb
How good Reese will be for the Lady Tigers this season remains to be seen. But, LSU reached the promised land with her last season and, if they want the best chance of repeating, making sure Reese is the best version of herself will be crucial.
What's next for LSU?
The good news for LSU fans is the schedule should continue to allow the Lady Tigers to get their bearings. They don't play any ranked teams until the end of the month, when they host Virginia Tech. That means Mulkey and company will have plenty of time to figure out Hailey Van Lith's role, how to optimize Reese and how much responsibility to give their freshman sensation.
So while the opening loss was a shocker, it is not a dire warning just yet. The Lady Tigers should be able to cruise through the rest of November. Once the winter months kick into high gear, they should have enough data for Mulkey to develop the best strategy for competing in the SEC and with the best teams in the country.