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No. 3 LSU storms past No. 1 Virginia Tech, into national title game

no-3-lsu-storms-past-no.-1-virginia-tech,-into-national-title-game

DALLAS -- For the first time ever, LSU will play in women's college basketball's national championship game.

Angel Reese tallied 24 points and 12 rebounds as the No. 3 Tigers topped No. 1 Virginia Tech 79-72 in the Final Four on Friday night.

It was Reese's 33rd double-double of the year, which is a single-season record for a player in the Southeastern Conference. Alexis Morris scored 27 points for LSU, and LaDazhia Williams had 16 points and seven rebounds.

LSU (33-2) will face No. 2 Iowa (31-6) for the championship after the Hawkeyes upset top-seeded defending national champion South Carolina 77-73 in the second semifinal.

"It's crazy we're getting ready to play for a national championship," LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. "I keep wanting to call somebody, to tell me how we did this in two years. I don't know. ... I thought we turned it up a notch. I thought defensively we really, really got very aggressive."

Virginia Tech (31-5) was playing in its first-ever national semifinal. The Hokies were led by Elizabeth Kitley's double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds. Georgia Amoore scored 17 points and went 4-for-15 from behind the arc, which gave her the record for most 3-pointers made in a single women's NCAA Tournament with 24.

Kitley played all 40 minutes.

"That woman cops a beating every single night, elbows thrown, all of that," Amoore said of Kitley. "She means a lot to this program."

Kayana Traylor had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Hokies, while Cayla King added 14 points.

LSU led by nine points in the second quarter, but saw that advantage vanish as Virginia Tech embarked on a 28-7 run over waning moments of the second quarter and the beginning stages of the third quarter. Traylor scored all of her points in those two quarters and the Hokies shot 6-of-15 from behind the arc over that stretch.

By halftime, Virginia Tech led 34-32 and had 11 more rebounds than LSU. Reese had just two boards in the game's first 20 minutes.

Virginia Tech led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter, but then LSU came roaring back in the fourth. The Tigers started the final period on a 22-3 run to take a 72-62 lead with 3:04 to play. Reese and Morris each scored 10 points in the fourth.

The Hokies made just one of their final eight field-goal attempts in the game.

"I think we did a really good job, for the most part, in the first two quarters of limiting them to one shot," Kitley said. "And I think we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds when they were coming back in the fourth, and that definitely hurt us."

While LSU allowed the Hokies to knock down nine 3-pointers, the Tigers dominated inside, outscoring Virginia Tech 54-14 in the paint. LSU also grabbed 15 offensive rebounds and turned those into 24 second-chance points.

"The game was going to come down to our defense. They have great players on their team," Reese said. "Amoore, she's a great player, but we have Alexis Morris as well that hit a lot of big shots coming down."

The victory for LSU puts coach Mulkey back in the national title game for the first time since 2019, when her Baylor Bears beat Notre Dame. Mulkey has never lost in the national championship game once reaching it.

LSU reached the Final Four five seasons in a row from 2004 through 2008 but never advanced to the title game.

--Mitchell Northam, Field Level Media

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