NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)LSU coach Kim Mulkey did not enjoy her first trip to Memorial Gym even with Angel Reese posting her 26th double-double of the season as fifth-ranked LSU beat Vanderbilt 82-63 Thursday night for the Tigers’ third straight win.
Sure, Mulkey knew the Southeastern Conference’s oldest basketball gym features team benches on the end lines. With Nashville hitting a February record 85 degrees, she didn’t realize the gym lacks air conditioning.
”You see this hair,” Mulkey said. ”It’s wringing wet. I don’t know that I’ve ever coached in a college arena that didn’t have air conditioning.”
Reese scored 23 points and grabbed 18 rebounds as she moved a double-double away from matching Sylvia Fowles’ single-season school record of 27 set in 2006-07. The sophomore forward had her double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds by halftime.
LSU (25-1, 13-1) won its seventh straight against Vanderbilt sweeping the season series with this victory also tying up the all-time series at 26 apiece. The Tigers improved to just 5-15 all-time at a very humid Memorial Gym.
Alexis Morris added 21 points for LSU, and LaDazhia Williams had 13.
Vanderbilt (12-17, 3-11) hasn’t beaten LSU since the 2016-17 season at Memorial Gym. Ciaja Harbison came in second in the SEC in scoring trailing only Reese, and she set her career-high with five 3s – making all three she tried in the third. Harbison finished with 21 points. Jada Brown added 10.
LSU never trailed starting off with a 3-pointer by Morris as part of an 8-2 run to open the game. The Tigers led 18-11 after the first quarter and Sa’Myah Smith’s layup capped nine straight points as they built their lead to 38-19 and led 40-20 at halftime.
Commodores coach Shea Ralph wasn’t happy with Vanderbilt’s slow start, though she was much happier with how her Commodores fought back in the third quarter.
Vanderbilt outscored LSU 21-10 in the third to pull within 50-44 on Harbison’s fourth 3 and third of the quarter with 3:57 to go. They took advantage of the Tigers going nearly 4 minutes between made buckets after Reese’s layup with 5:40 left.
”Our performance in the second half was much more indicative of who I want us to be,” Ralph said. ”Again, I mean, it was a six-point game in the third quarter, and it just took a couple of minutes for it to kind of get away from us. We fatigued quickly, and we gave up some easy buckets.”
Morris knocked down three free throws, then a 3-pointer with 1:47 to go. Reese’s layup capped a 10-0 spurt as LSU pushed the lead to 60-45 at the end of the third. The Tigers opened the fourth with an 8-2 run to help put this latest win away.
LSU only outscored Vanderbilt only 42-40 over the final two quarters, and Mulkey was not happy with how her Tigers missed opportunities to extend their leads. She noted they put up a 3 that Vanderbilt got the rebound on the miss when up by only three.
”We got to learn to separate when we get a big lead,” Mulkey said.
With five Tigers 6-foot-2 or taller compared to Vandy’s tallest player Sacha Washington at 6-2, LSU used the decided size advantage to dominate on the boards (43-29) and had a decided scoring edge on second-chance points (23-6). Even with missing some close shots, they also easily outscored Vandy 46-16 in the paint.
Harbison, who also leads the SEC in steals per game with 2.5, needs more help on a Vanderbilt roster hit by a trio of season-ending injuries. Washington had back-to-back double-doubles last week for the sophomore forward’s best games yet. But Washington had only eight points and three rebounds in 24 minutes before fouling out.
LSU wraps up the regular season Sunday hosting Mississippi State.
Vanderbilt visits Auburn on Sunday.
AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25