LSU women's basketball's superstar forward Angel Reese didn't play in the second half of her team's 109-79 win over Kent State on Tuesday. Reese's coach, Kim Mulkey, is refusing to say why.
When Mulkey was asked during a postgame press conference if she could explain why she benched her best player, she said, "I could, but I won't. It was just a coach's decision."
Angel Reese did not come back in during the 2nd half and Kateri Poole did not enter the game today for LSU.
When asked postgame, Kim Mulkey deemed it a ?coach?s decision? pic.twitter.com/hVVKJP80Tb
— Tyler DeLuca (@TylerDeLuca) November 15, 2023
Although Mulkey's response doesn't offer any clarity, her terseness, tense body language and somewhat confrontational response suggests that there's more to this story than Mulkey is willing to admit — which lends itself to speculation.
Here's what we know: Reese wasn't benched because she was playing poorly. Reese — who recently signed a major endorsement deal with Reebok — started for the Tigers against Kent State and had 11 points and five rebounds across 14 first-half minutes. She looked locked in on defense as well.
Despite what the final score of Tuesday's game suggests, we also know Reese wasn't benched because the game was a blowout. LSU was only winning by two points at halftime, having entered the locker room with a 39-37 lead. Plus, all of LSU's other starters saw their normal second-half minutes before the game was well in hand for LSU.
So, why could Reese have been benched? With those two theories debunked, there seems to be four other options:
- Reese missing the second half was predetermined before the game began, likely as the result of some unknown disciplinary action.
- Mulkey wasn't happy with what she saw from Reese in the first half (presumably about something statistics can't measure).
- Something happened in LSU's locker room at halftime that prompted Mulkey to bench Reese.
- Mulkey just wanted other players to get more playing time.
Options 2 and 4 seem like long shots, because Reese was playing well (according to her stats), and because Mulkey surely wants to win before she worries about dispersing playing time. That means that Reese's benching more than likely was a disciplinary measure due to some off-court action that took place either before the game began or during halftime.
Then again, while a player being suspended for a game's first half is pretty common, we've never heard of someone being suspended for a second half — which only leaves option 3 remaining.
Alas, we will never know why Reese didn't play in the second half unless Mulkey or someone else in LSU's locker room spills the tea — which seems unlikely. What we do know, however, is that Reese's second-half replacement, Aneesah Morrow, finished the game with 17 points and eight rebounds — and LSU played much better in the second half than it did prior to halftime.
LSU's next game is on the road Friday against Southeastern Louisiana University. All eyes will be on LSU's starting five to see whether Reese is back in her head coach's good graces.
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