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Kim Mulkey on defending Utah, new expectations for LSU WBB

6 min read
Kim Mulkey on defending Utah, new expectations for LSU WBB

LSU head coach Kim Mulkey took center stage on Thursday afternoon, taking questions from the media on a variety of topics about her players, her team, and her next opponent. The Tigers take on Utah at 4 p.m. on Friday, looking to advance to the Elite 8.

Here’s what Mulkey said in her press conference.

On what makes Utah and Alissa Pili dangerous…

“Obviously, they spread the floor and the three ball makes her really good. She’s a threat in there because you have to guard everybody else. She has great footwork. She’s not a tall post player, she just has unbelievable knowledge when she gets the ball.”

On Angel Reese’s season…

Well, we all knew of Angel Reese coming out of high school. She was the second ranked player in her class, and I knew very quickly after one call when I was at Baylor, she was staying home, so I didn’t waste much time on her.

She stayed hurt a little bit at Maryland. She was like a lot of players, your freshman year is your most difficult, so she lived through that freshman year and had her ups and downs.

To say I expected this or that from Angel when we got her out of the portal, I don’t think I was knowledgeable enough to know what I expected out of Angel Reese. I knew the talent was there from high school and from the few games I watched her when she was playing at Maryland. But to think that she scored — has been a double-double 30 of our 32 games, absolutely not.

But we need her to be. But we’ve also had great games where she might have that double-double, but we’ve got three or four other people scoring the basketball.

We’re not just an Angel Reese one-man show. If you watch us play, everybody has a role to play. We’re a mixture of transfers, one returning starter, freshmen, go eight deep, and everybody just does what they do.

We can shoot the three ball. Leave us open; we’ll shoot it. We’re not afraid to shoot it and miss it. We’ll shoot it again.

I don’t know if I really knew what kind of expectation to put on her, but she’s had a tremendous year.

On getting Reese to LSU…

Kateri Poole was on the Ohio State team that beat us last year and when she entered the transfer portal I knew there were things about her game that I liked and would help us continue to build this program. In talking to one of my assistants, they said she asked if we’d be interested in Angel Reese. [Poole] said Reese was entering the portal as well. They came on a visit together with their families and the seafood [did it]. We didn’t sell her on crawfish. We sold her on those crabs. Y’all think y’all have good crabs but we have better crabs.”

Reese’s motivation this postseason

I think the Tennessee loss here — actually in the SEC tournament — she left there realizing that she could have done before. Maybe not scoring, maybe not rebounding, set a pick when a play is called, do your job.

I think it’s kind of what a lot of older players that are competitors do. It eats on you. I think Angel has the mindset, I’ve been in college now three years. I’ve been to two Sweet 16s. We lost that 17-point lead in the SEC tournament. We’d already played Tennessee earlier in the year. I’ve got to do better.

I think from that moment on, I think she realizes that it’s now playoff time, and I think she is really, really focused.

Is South Carolina still in a class by itself?

“The first part of your question, it’s South Carolina and everybody else. They’re that good. They have that much depth. They have that much size. Yeah, they had, what, one close game this year? Ole Miss? I mean, Ole Miss had a chance to win it at the end.

I haven’t changed my feeling on that. Now, I wasn’t talking about them maybe getting beat or whatever. I’m just talking about winning the National Championship. They have everything they need: Great coaching staff, experience, size.”

You said we might be feeding the monster too quickly. What did you mean by that?

“People start expecting things. So we won one game last year. We have exceeded last year’s. What are they going to expect next year? How are they going to feel if we don’t beat Utah? Come on now, keep perspective.

So basically you’re trying to tamper down expectations that may not be fair or real until you really, really have that kind of team that can talk about Final Fours and talk about longevity every year.

What we have done in two years, where is the playbook for me to follow? I don’t have one. I can think about my years at Baylor where we won the National Championship in five years. To me that was unheard of.

All you do is work. You just work. Whatever happens, you deal with it. You get excited about it. But you keep perspective.

I wanted this year for our team to show progress, and we have. We’ve shown progress. I don’t think there’s any area that we went backwards. That’s what you want to keep doing. If along the way of showing that progress, you do something unexpected, it’s fun. It’s fun.”

On what has changed over the course of her career…

There’s many things throughout my career that have — that’s changed women’s basketball. Let’s go back to the smaller ball. Let’s go back to the three-point line. Let’s go back now to the portal. Let’s go back now to the NIL world. Everything changes. Nothing ever stays the same except for discipline. You can always be a disciplined coach, and you can always teach defense. Those things will never change. It’s just who you are as a coach.

What you have to do if you’re going to stay in the game as long as I have is surround yourself with a staff that keeps you young and abreast of how to handle those areas that you really don’t want to learn a lot about but you know you’ve got to embrace them.

I don’t want to learn about NIL, so I have someone — we were one of the first programs to assign an assistant coach the title that she was going to work with LSU’s department in the NIL. Can you imagine me sitting down — I had no idea the NIL deals that my players had until somebody showed me an article. And I went, don’t want to know that stuff. That’s not locker room stuff I care to talk about.

Happy for them, knock your socks off, it’s here to stay. All I want to do is coach basketball. Really, in my career, all I’ve ever wanted was for my players and our fans is to experience the high you get from cutting down a net. The greatest joy I have now in my career is sitting back and watching young people with these tears in their eyes of joy, watching people in the stands just — that’s why I do it now. For them. And there’s no greater feeling.”

On defending Utah…

“Well, they’re big on the perimeter. Michigan was big on the perimeter. We understand that they’re going to be big. We understand they’re going to spread the floor possibly a little bit more than Michigan.

We respect their threes. Look, you shoot as many threes as they shoot, they’re going to make threes, so we’re not going to pitch a shutout here, going back to my baseball stuff.

But that’s not all they do. They have a big-time post player. They get to the foul line. They get to the lane. So you’ve got to pick your poison with them and go, okay, which one can we truly try to — not eliminate but try to contain a little bit.

But I think everybody that’s played them has tried to do that. And I do believe this, that you’re going to have to play defense at this level to continue on. No matter how good you are offensively, I always believe your better defensive teams prevail.”

The post Kim Mulkey on defending Utah, new expectations for LSU WBB appeared first on On3.

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