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HOUSTON – Poof, there it is!
LSU’s first national championship in basketball – men or women.
The Tigers made Iowa and women’s basketball’s answer to Pete Maravich vanish as if in a homeland cornfield on Sunday with a 102-85 shucking in front of 19,482 at American Airlines Arena in Dallas.
Kim Mulkey Just Got To LSU In 2021
And less than two years ago, Kim Mulkey strutted onto Dale Brown Court amid theatrical smoke in the Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge as LSU’s new women’s basketball coach.
It was April 26, 2021. And she caught fire immediately.
The first thing Mulkey did upon arriving at the podium was rip off her purple and gold COVID mask with a vengeance. That probably didn’t please LSU athletic director Scott Woodward, whose first job was in politics with Democratic strategist James Carville in the Baton Rouge mayor’s office in the early 1980s.
But everything else she has done has. Woodward hired Mulkey away from Baylor after winning three national championships there to return home. No coach in LSU history in any sport was more accomplished on arrival.
Kim Mulkey Ain’t Nothin’ But A Winner
Mulkey, 60, grew up in Tickfaw – 47 miles from LSU. She was one of the first girls in the country to play on a boys team in youth baseball in the early 1970s. She led Hammond High to four state championships in girls basketball as the point guard from 1977-80 and graduated as valedictorian. Mulkey helped take Louisiana Tech to the 1982 national championship at point guard and was an assistant when Tech won it all in 1988. Mulkey won national championships as Baylor’s head coach in 2005, ’12 and ’19.
She is the first coach in women’s basketball history to win national championships at two schools. And she did it in two years after inheriting a team that won nine games.
“Final Four … Final Four … Final Four … Final Four … Final Four,” Mulkey said to open her acceptance speech two years ago in three weeks and two days.
She was counting the LSU women’s basketball banners hanging from the rafters – five from 2004-08. But the Tigers lost in the first round each time. She didn’t count the four men’s Final Four banners (1953, ’81, ’87, 2006) with two under Dale Brown. But no wins there either, including two consolation game losses. That’s 0-for-11, for those scoring at home.
Bayou Barbie Delivers Title Quicker Than Anticipated
“Nowhere on there does it say national champion,” Mulkey said at the time. “That’s what I came here to do!”
And the crowd roared.
“Be patient,” she added. “It’s not going to happen overnight. Be patient.”
Well, you missed that one Kim twice. Patience? Please. It practically happened overnight. And Mulkey was still surprised when the team arrived in Dallas for the Final Four.
“It’s ridiculous that we got here in our second year,” she said.
After a 26-6 opening season and second-round exit from the 2022 NCAA Tournament, Mulkey brought in transfers from the portal quicker than feathery tops from Amazon to fill her roster closet.
Mulkey has not even emptied her game night armoire yet, and the Bayou Barbie has already brought home a national championship.
“I think back to my press conference when Scott Woodward introduced me as LSU’s coach,” Mulkey said after the game. “The number of people in that PMAC, the Governor, politicians, people who watched me grow up. I asked everybody to turn around and look at those banners. Nowhere did it say, ‘National Champions.’ And that’s what I came home to do. So, I’m relieved because I don’t have to think about that anymore.”
LSU, South Carolina Of SEC Have Last 2 National Crowns
No, she’ll only have to think about coach Dawn Staley and South Carolina, which won the 2022 national championship and one in 2017 while reaching five Final Fours. And maybe a rematch in the next NCAA Tournament with Iowa, which will still have Maravich-like guard Caitlin Clark.
But don’t be confused by this woman’s cover. Beneath all the technicolor sport coats, dresses and boas is a brainiac coach and strategist akin to Mike Krzyzewski.
Mulkey and LSU guard Alexis Morris neutralized Clark a bit, holding her to 30 points and eight assists. She had scored 41 in each of her last two games and scored more than 30 in seven of her previous 17 games. Clark also came in averaging 11.5 assists over her last six games.
“We knew Caitlin was going to shoot the ball,” Mulkey said. “We knew she was going to make her threes. But we couldn’t give her the 10 to 12 points she always gets off layups.”
In the end, Caitlin made one field goal that was not a 3-pointer. That’s neutralization. Morris did what her coach told her.
“Alexis made every shot she took a little bit maybe more difficult instead of easy,” Mulkey said.
“Kim Mulkey coached them so well,” Clark said. “She’s one of the best basketball coaches of all time, and it shows.”
Mulkey said several things to Clark during the postgame handshake. Hopefully, she said, “Thanks for beating South Carolina on Friday.”
South Carolina toyed with Mulkey’s team in an 88-64 win on Super Bowl Sunday.
LSU’s Angel Reese Was Out Of Line With Iowa’s Caitlin Clark
And Mulkey should have apologized to Clark for LSU guard Angel Reese’s behavior as the game ended. Reese repeatedly taunted Clark with “can’t see me” hand motions and by pointing to her finger where the national championship ring will go.
Clark trash talks during games a lot, too, particularly recently. During Iowa’s 97-83 Elite Eight win over Louisville last week, Clark told Louisville’s Hailey Van Lith, “You’re down 15 points. Shut up.”
Comparing Caitlin Clark’s and Angel Reese’s Taunts
Clark also waived off a South Carolina player when she chose to not defend her and was gesturing to the Gamecocks’ bench. She did the “can’t see me” gesture during the LSU game, too, but it was a general gesture. And Clark’s antics were during games. Reese was clearly out of line because what she did was in the final seconds of the game and afterwards. No technical fouls can be called then, and fights tend to start after games as much as during.
Clark’s taunts were quick and general. Reese’s last one was aimed at Clark specifically and lasted about 20 seconds. There’s a difference. Reese’s was worse.
That was the only stain on an otherwise perfect night for the Tigers. The game was over. LSU had long been comfortably ahead, and Clark was clearly submissive and beaten. Reese’s taunts were excessive, and she deserved a technical foul.
Clark had received a technical in the third quarter for a lot less when she tossed the ball away. Mulkey deserved a technical, too, for physically confronting an official. It was a tap, but coaches get T’d up for that.
The officials had a bad night throughout and over-officiated. LSU would have won anyway, though.
But Reese looked immature pointing to her finger, and it took away from the team’s accomplishment briefly. It had a junior high, na-na-na-na-na ring to it. You’re better than that, Angel.
Caitlin Clark Was Just Trying To Shake Hands
Clark, meanwhile, looked like the professional in defeat by the end. And she took the high road after the game, unlike Reese.
“I was just trying to get to the handshake line and be grateful that my team was in that position,” Clark said. “That’s all you can do is hold your head high, be proud of what you did. I was just trying to spend the last few moments on the court with the five people who I’ve started 93 games with and relishing every second of that.”
Reese, on the other hand, went on an over-the-top diatribe after learning she was getting ripped on Twitter and deservedly so.
Angel Reese Goes On Immature Diatribe
“I don’t care about anybody else and what they have to say about me,” she said. “The biggest goal for me is the national championship. I don’t care to be All-American. I don’t care to be defensive player of the year (Vanderbilt’s Liam Robbins) or player of the year (Clark by the Associated Press, Naismith and the United States Basketball Writers Association).”
Sounds like you do care about that, Angel. You listed two of the awards you didn’t get. And you sound jealous of Clark, who is better than you right now. Not by much, but she is. But you may be better than her next year at this time.
So act like a national champion because you are. And I’m betting Mulkey tells you something like that.
“Now, if she does something or we’re doing something that embarrasses the program, my coaches and my administrators usually help me address that,” Mulkey said.
“Coach Mulkey only said really kind things to me in the handshake line,” Clark said. “So I’m very grateful to that, too.”
Proof That Women’s Game Is Arriving – Controversy
A taunting controversy and a poorly officiated game that drew national criticism. Wow, this women’s game really is arriving. See if you can match that, men, in the UConn-San Diego State championship game tonight.
“I love the fact that our tickets were more expensive than the men’s tickets,” Mulkey said. “There you go. I like that. You know what else, Taylor Swift’s in town. And we still sold this place out.”
Until next year, ladies.
Can’t wait to see Kim, Dawn, Caitlin and Angel in action again.
2 CommentsLeave a Reply
Angel wanted a little attention but did not know how to do it so she acted like a little bitch. Nothing more nor less.
I’d expect nothing less from this generation of females.