Answering the question, “How is LSU doing?” is not easy. It’s a complex question about player-coach dynamics, power structures and transparency, more so than about a win-loss record or which players are performing well for the No. 7 Lady Tigers.
It all started on Nov. 14 when Mulkey benched star player Angel Reese in the second half of a 109-79 victory over Kent State. The benching did raise eyebrows, but most just speculated about the reason and expected any issues to be resolved by the next game.
That wasn't the case.
In the following matchup versus Southeastern Louisiana, Reese didn't play and wasn't even on the bench. In response to a question about her absent star, Mulkey said postgame, "Angel is a part of this basketball team, and we hope she's back with the team soon. I'm not going to answer any more than that."
Reese missed the Texas matchup on Nov. 20, as well as the Cayman Islands Classic. Throughout the ordeal, Mukley continued to give vague answers, refusing to disclose anything or provide a better understanding of what was going on. Was this a health issue for Reese? Something related to academics? An argument with a coach that went south?
The lack of transparency created confusion, causing fans imagine scenario after scenario that didn't put LSU in a good light. We still don't know what happened—and maybe it was best to keep these issues in-house—but some indication of what the issue was would have been helpful.
On Nov. 30, Reese made her return to help LSU defeat the No. 9 Virginia Tech Hokies in the ACC/SEC Challenge. Reese had 19 points in her 29 minutes of play. And if there was any bad blood, Reese and Mulkey did an excellent job of hiding it. On the court, the Lady Tigers are doing well. After their shocking loss in the season opener, they've bounced back and have won eight straight, even with Reese absent for many of the matchups.
Will this be the end of the drama for LSU? Or, is this just the beginning of an ugly breakup between Reese and Mulkey? Hopefully, it is all water under the bridge. Still, what's being said during press conferences, body language during games and who says what on social media will be scrutinized to the nth degree the rest of the season. It will be up to the LSU to focus on the basketball so they give themselves the best chance to repeat as champions.
For now, LSU will take some much-needed time off as their next game isn't until Dec. 10 against the 2-2 Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns.