Greenville, S.C.- The LSU Tigers (31-2) survived and advanced to the Elite Eight in a Sweet Sixteen thriller with a 66-63 win over the Utah Utes (27-5).
Utah came into the game with a No. 2 seed. The highest seed earned by a Utah women’s basketball team in NCAA tournament history.
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 chipped in 15 points and 7 assists.
Utah was led by Gianna Kneepkens who scored 20 points on 3-6 from beyond the arc. She was followed by Isabel Palmer with 15 and Alissa Pili added 14. Sophomore guard Isabel (Issy) Palmer contributed with some jaw dropping handles and 15 points of her own going 4-4 from the field and 1-1 from downtown.
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 and got up by 7, a 5-0 LSU run put the Tigers within three. LSU took its first lead of the second half with 2:22 remaining. Utah responded with back-to-back three-pointers and gave the Utes a 33-29 lead at the break.
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 three rebounds. Alexis Morris scored 8 points and Reese was held to 5 and 4 in just 12 minutes of action.
Utah was hot from deep connecting on five triples in the first two quarters. Williams tied 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 drain 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 three point lead.
After a 5-0 Utes run, the Tigers got 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 from the charity stripe.
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 rebound. Morris went on to make two more free throws in the final two seconds to secure LSU’s trip to the Elite Eight.