As many may know, the 2023 NCAA Women's Basketball Championship occurred Sunday night. While the LSU Tigers dismantled the Iowa Hawkeyes 102-85 to conclude the women's March Madness, the talk surrounding the game isn't so much focusing on the outcome, comparing the play, or examining what went right or wrong.
Instead, it's focused on the "trash talk" and "taunting" displayed by Most Outstanding Player and LSU forward Angel Reese toward Iowa's Caitlin Clark. It's trending on Twitter, and athletes worldwide are chiming in, including NBA star LeBron James retweeting several tweets supporting Reese, such as one from former NFL player Emmanuel Acho.
If it wasn?t ?classless? when Caitlin Clark did it, don?t call it classless when Angel Reese does it. Let the women compete, it?s sports!! pic.twitter.com/lJpS1NId68
— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) April 2, 2023
For many, this ESPN clip between the two is the only one that fans and Twitter scrollers will see, but there's more context than a single clip at the end of the game.
ANGEL REESE TO CAITLIN CLARK ? pic.twitter.com/2NY0CEzwJ3
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 2, 2023
Examining the Context Behind Angel Reese & Caitlin Clark
The "waving the hand straight up across the face" is a gesture used by WWE superstar John Cena for his "five-knuckle shuffle" finishing move, partnered with his phrase "you can't see me." Before that, Reese, now a national champion, looked to Clark and pointed to her ring finger. This act of taunting Clark is rather evident, as Reese is stating that she and the Tigers have won the national championship game.
— FADE (@FadeAwayMedia) April 2, 2023
OK, now that we have the history of it out of the way, let's look at it more closely.
For those who see that clip above and immediately dub LSU's Angel Reese classless, this is the same taunt Clark used in Iowa's Elite Eight game against Louisville. In comparing the use of the taunt, Clark did it against Louisville in a manner that doesn't appear to be looking at someone, getting their attention, and doing it.
So, why would Reese do that to Clark if she did it in a game multiple rounds ago?
Well, in Iowa's Final Four matchup against South Carolina in Dallas, Gamecocks guard Raven Johnson was at the top of the arch in a position to shoot a three. Clark waved her off, basically not respecting her shooting range. (However, she would go on to drain an uncontested three later in the game.)
Additionally, according to Reese, Clark disrespected LSU guard Alexis Morris and her fellow "SEC girls." In the clip below, Reese said she "doesn't take disrespect lightly."
Morris said before the game that she would take Iowa leaving her teammates open on the perimeter as "disrespectful," however. LSU drained 11 of 17 three-point attempts in the championship game.
"You're going to have to guard us. That's just the competitor in me, and the will to win."
Alexis Morris wasn't feeling how Caitlin Clark defended South Carolina, saying the Hawkeyes can't leave LSU open on the perimeter ??
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) April 2, 2023
For us on the outside looking in, there doesn't appear to be anything that was obviously "disrespectful" toward Morris during the game, but who knows? Words are said that we can't see all the time.
This is a situation in which casual fans and miscellaneous Twitter users who probably haven't watched any or very few games immediately take the time to sound off and call this "classless" or something equivalent without understanding the full context. According to Reese, Clark did something disrespectful toward Morris and, if so, she's sticking up for her teammate. If that's overblown, then yes, the argument that Reese was a bit over the top has some merit. After the game, LSU players did mention Clark a lot. You'd think they'd instead reserve that time to praise themselves and their teammates instead of being focused on another player.
"Caitlin ... you a great player. But, you gotta put some respect on LSU."
Alexis Morris wants her flowers ?
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 2, 2023
Reese Defended Her Actions in Her Postgame Press Conference
"I'm too hood, I'm too ghetto. Y'all told me that all year. But when other people do it, y'all don't say nothing. So this is for the girls that look like me."
— The Sporting News (@sportingnews) April 2, 2023
In the postgame press conference, Reese added some very pointed words about what she views as hypocrisy, because she's been criticized for taunting while Clark hasn't.
"I'm too hood, I'm too ghetto. Y'all told me that all year. But when other people do it, y'all don't say nothing. So this is for the girls that look like me," she said.
As for Clark, when asked about the situation, she quickly pivoted to remarks about her team and getting to the handshake line.
"Honestly, I have no idea. I was just trying to get to the handshake line."
"We're all different people and we all have different ways to show our emotions."
— Nick Rothschild (@nick_rothschild) April 2, 2023
Appearing on the "Today" show, LSU head coach Kim Mulkey said that Reese "was upset because they attack her, but they didn't attack Caitlin .... Listen, that child is a beast on the boards rebounding. That child just won a national championship. She's not afraid of social media, that is who Angel is. She trash-talks on the court, but she doesn't cross really the line of vulgarity. She's not going to apologize for it. Now, if I ever have to get involved, she knows that. Don't misrepresent our university, don't make us look bad."
Hawkeyes head coach Lisa Bluder said in the postgame press conference: "I'm sure she was really proud of her accomplishment. And I would be really proud of my accomplishment if I made it, won the national championship, too. We're all different people, and we all have different ways to show our emotion. Again, I've got to focus on what I can control."
Who Was Right, Who Was Wrong
Considering the full context, what Reese did is not that big of a deal. Clark and Reese are two phenomenal players. In a losing effort, Clark dropped 30, while Reese stuffed the stat sheet with a double-double, adding 15 points, five assists and 10 rebounds. In the Final Four, Clark had 41 points, six rebounds and eight assists against South Carolina, while Reese had 24 points and 12 rebounds against Virginia Tech.
In the end, this was one player (Reese) using someone's taunt previously used (Clark's) against her in response to her "disrespecting" (in Reese's words) an LSU teammate. Again, the validity of that can certainly be up for debate.
If Clark can dish it out, she has to be ready to take it back, whether within the scope of one game or in general. Still, if you compare the use of the "you can't see me" taunt side by side, yeah, Reese went a lot further with it than Clark did. To be fair, though, she hasn't said anything publicly about being upset about it. Instead, people on Twitter seem to be more upset about it.
Now we look to next season. Will these teams meet up again in the national title game?
As for the men's NCAA Tournament national championship game, it certainly has much to follow up on. UConn takes on San Diego State on Monday at 9:20 p.m. Eastern.
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