LSU survives tough battle with Utah to reach NCAA Women’s Elite Eight

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GREENVILLE, S.C.- The LSU Tigers (31-2) survive and advance to the Elite Eight in a Sweet Sixteen thriller with a 66-63 win over the Utah Utes (27-5).

The Tigers are headed to the Elite Eight for the first time in 15 years since the 2008 season when Sylvia Fowles led the Tigers to their fifth straight Final Four appearance. LSU will face No. 9 Miami on Sunday at 6:00 p.m. inside the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

Angel Reese tied the SEC record for most double-doubles in a season after securing her 31st in her first season with the Tigers. Reese ended the night with 17 points and 12 rebounds as she battled through double and triple teams all night long.

LaDazhia Williams had a season high 24 points ( one point shy of her career high) and hauled in 6 boards in 40 minutes of playing time. Williams stepped up and made shots in big moments with Reese on the bench for most of the first half.

Morris would be the only other Tiger to reach double figures as she added 15 points and 7 assists.

Utah was led by Gianna Kneepkens who scored 20 on 3-6 from beyond the arc. She was followed by Isabel Palmer with 15 and Alissa Pili added 14.

Utah went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 13 in the last two minutes of the opening quarter. Reese went 1-2 from the foul line to knot things up at 16 after the opening ten minutes of action. The Utes took a lead by as much as 7, before a 5-0 LSU run put the Tigers within three at the media timeout. LSU took its first lead of the half with 2:22 remaining. Utah responded with back-to-back three-pointers and gave the Utes a 33-29 lead at halftime.

At the half Utah’s Kneepkens led all players with 10 points on 2-4 from deep. LaDazhia Williams followed to lead the Tigers with 9 points and 3 rebounds. Alexis Morris scored 8 and Angel Reese was held to 5 and 4 in just 12 minutes of action. Utah was hot from deep connecting on 5 triples in the first two quarters.

Williams knotted things up at 37 with a spot-up jumper from just beyond the foul line to bring her total to 15. After a tough Reese put-back to regain the LSU lead, Utah’s Pili made a top of the key three just before the media timeout with 3:24 left in the third quarter. There were two ties and three lead changes in the remaining minutes and Utah ended the quarter on top, 47-46.

Williams scored 4 unanswered points to open the fourth and give LSU a 3-point lead. After a 5-0 Utes run the Tigers combined for a 5-0 run of their own to take a 55-52 lead at the media timeout. Reese went 2-2 from the charity stripe and Morris hit her first triple of the game to give LSU its largest lead of the game (8). Kneepkens tied the game (61) with 1:47 left in regulation after knocking down two free throws.

LSU ball down one (62-63) with 28.8 seconds remaining, Coach Mulkey called a timeout to draw up a play with ten seconds separating the game and shot clock. After not getting the look they wanted LSU called another timeout, this time with 5 on the shot clock. Morris was fouled with ten seconds to go and went on to go 2-2 from the charity stripe to give LSU a 1-point lead, 64-63. Reese was called for her fifth foul with 4.7 remaining. Utah’s Jenna Johnson missed both and LSU came down with the board. Morris went on to make two more free throws in the final two seconds to secure LSU’s trip to the Elite Eight.

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