DALLAS — Friday’s matchup between No. 1 Virginia Tech and No. 3 LSU in the national semifinals at the American Airlines Center will feature a clash between two of the game’s top post players.
LSU (32-2) — which is back in the Final Four for the first time since 2008 — is led by Angel Reese, a 6-foot-3 junior who leads the nation in offensive rebounding with 6.5 per game. Virginia Tech (31-4) — which is in the Final Four for the first time in program history — is powered by Elizabeth Kitley, a 6-foot-6 senior who is the two-time reigning ACC Player of the Year.
“She’s tremendously talented,” Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks said of Reese. “She has great stats.”
Indeed, Reese is fifth in the nation in scoring and second in rebounding with 23.2 points and 15.7 per game. She also leads the country in free throws made with 6.9 per game. Reese, who transferred into LSU last offseason from Maryland, tied the SEC record this year for most double-doubles in a single season with 32.
She and Kitley were both voted as Associated Press All-Americans, with Reese making the first team and Kitley landing on the second team.
Aiding Reese in the paint on an LSU team that is fifth in the nation in scoring at 81.8 points per game is Ladazhia Williams, who averages 9.4 points and 6.0 boards per game. On the perimeter, the Tigers are steadied by fifth-year veteran Alexis Morris, who averages 14.9 points and 4.1 assists per game.
“They’re really athletic. They can rebound a lot,” Kitley said of LSU. “We just know we’re going to have to be physical and strong down there and not let them get too many second-chance opportunities because they’ll definitely take advantage of that.”
Virginia Tech is riding a 15-game winning streak coming into this game. Kitley leads the Hokies in scoring and rebounding with 18.2 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, but the Hokies have other weapons too. Junior guard Georgia Amoore has scored at least 20 points in each of her last six games. Amoore, a native of Australia, was named MVP of the ACC Tournament, and the Most Outstanding Player of the Seattle 3 Regional.
“I don’t think Virginia Tech is the Kitley show,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “(Amoore’s) range is unlimited. You could put her in the category like (Iowa’s) Caitlin Clark. … She has an unbelievable step-back move which takes her even further away from the 3-point line. She gets her teammates involved. They use Kitley in such a way where she’s just not a back-to-the-basket big girl. She can face you up.”
Like LSU, Virginia Tech is armed with talent it acquired in the transfer portal. Starters Taylor Soule and Kayana Traylor came from Boston College and Purdue, respectively.
Virginia Tech has never won a national championship in any team sport. A win for the Hokies on Friday would put them one step closer to making that stat vanish.
“The No. 1 seed means we belong here. We’re not a No. 6 seed who’s made a run and it’s very surprising. We should expect to be here. A lot of people should expect us to be here,” Brooks said. “Because of the name on the front, because it hasn’t had a history like a Tennessee or a UConn had, people are really quick to doubt you.”
–By Mitchell Northam, Field Level Media