Reese’s 34 Points Powers LSU Past Hawai’i in Women’s NCAA March Madness First Round
BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED MAR 17, 2023
BATON ROUGE — The 2022-23 season came to a close for the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine Friday night as the ‘Bows fell in the round of 64 of the NCAA tournament to #3 seed LSU, 73-50.
Angel Reese, the Tigers’ sophomore All-American First-Team selection, was unstoppable for most of the night. The 6’3 forward finished the night with her 29th double-double of the year, recording 34 points and 15 rebounds in the win over the ‘Bows. She is the first SEC player in this century to record 30+ points and 15+ rebounds in a women’s NCAA tournament game.
Hawai’i was led by Kallin Spiller’s 13 points, as the graduate student drilled a pair of fourth-quarter 3-pointers to try to help spur a late comeback. Lily Wahinekapu also finished in double-figures, scoring 11 points to go along with six rebounds and three assists.
LSU moves on to the round of 32 to take on the sixth-seeded Michigan Wolverines, who dispatched UNLV earlier in the afternoon.
Turnovers Turn the ‘Bows Luck Over
Playing in front of over 8,600 fans, it was loud from the tip on Friday night. For the ‘Bows, it was the largest crowd by nearly three times as many fans that had been in attendance for a game featuring them.
Hawai’i opened the scoring with a Wahinekapu 3-pointer and held the Tigers off the scoreboard for the first few possessions. The ‘Bows matched the physicality of LSU early on, battling on the boards and forcing the higher-seeded Tigers to take difficult shots.
Turnovers changed things quickly, with LSU forcing eight Hawai’i throwaways in the opening quarter. While the Tigers couldn’t get on the board early with their halfcourt offense, turnovers allowed them to finally get on the scoreboard and led directly to four of their first six points.
Once LSU opened the scoring, the Tigers pounded the ball inside to Reese and the All-American went to work. Reese scored eight points in the opening quarter, outscoring Hawai’i by herself as LSU took an 18-7 lead into the second quarter.
The Rainbow Wahine started to settle in as the half went on, trading buckets in the second quarter with the talented Tigers. While looks still were not going down at the rate that Hawai’i would have liked, the defense remained strong against an LSU team that averages over 80 points a contest.
The ‘Bows cut it down to seven, 29-22, after a Meilani McBee 3-pointer with 3:06 left to play in the first half seemed to give Hawai’i some momentum.
LSU took that momentum right back, locking it down on the defensive end and holding Hawai’i scoreless for the rest of the half. The Tigers used the defensive mastery to grow the lead to 13 points heading into the locker rooms.
HALFTIME IN BATON ROUGE@LSUwbkb - 35@HawaiiWBB - 22— Paul Brecht (@12brecht) March 17, 2023
A rough 1Q for ‘Bows the main reason for deficit at the break. Hawai’i played LSU nearly even in 2Q, looked to settle in more.
LSU’s Reese went down late. Hope is she is good to go for 2H, looked like calf. #GoBows
Hawai’i knocked down back-to-back threes to start the second half, but Angel Reese took the game over for LSU. The All-American scored the first nine points of the second half for the Tigers, pushing the lead to 15.
“I think what it came down to it was when big shots had to be made, they made big shots,” Beeman said following the loss. “We missed shots when we had wide open looks and to beat a team the quality of LSU, you have to hit wide open shots and we just didn’t do that.”
Trading baskets back and forth, Hawai’i would not allow LSU to pull away without a fight. The ‘Bows kept it at 15, 48-33, as the teams entered the final 10 minutes.
A 10-2 run to start the final quarter of play for the Tigers essentially buried any chance at a Rainbow Wahine comeback, extending the lead to 23 points. Despite the killer blow, Hawai’i did not let up in any way.
Imani Perez, Daejah Phillips and Spiller all put up points as the Rainbow Wahine tried to fight back with time winding down, but the clock was an enemy of the ‘Bows. A Spiller steal that turned into a Wahinekapu layup with 47 seconds left would be the final score of the night for the ‘Bows, falling 73-50.
“I’m incredibly proud of these girls, tough environment to come play … but it was fun,” Beeman said with a smile. “This team has not quit all year long. They have just fought adversity head-on all year and our tournament was a reflection of that.”
One big #HawaiiWBB takeaway from tonight?— Paul Brecht (@12brecht) March 17, 2023
Imani Perez is a star in the making. She’s played well vs Reese all night, been excellent on glass and chipped in points from different levels of the floor.
She’s only a freshman. Wahinekapu is a sophomore, as is most of ‘Bows core.
The ‘Bows lost four different players from the rotation through the course of the year, all of whom should be able to return next season. In their absence, more freshmen and sophomores stepped up for the young Rainbow Wahine.
In a game against one of the premier programs in women’s college basketball, Hawai’i fought for 40 minutes and will get the benefit of returning most of the players who saw action. The young ‘Bows, like sophomores Daejah Phillips and Lily Wahinekapu and freshman Imani Perez, get another offseason to improve their strength and skills in preparation for a potential third straight Big West championship.
“I thought today they played outstanding. We’re going to advance in this [NCAA] tournament and games like this, situations like this only help us get there,” said Beeman in reference to the future. “Yeah, just incredibly proud of this group.”
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