2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament: #6 Michigan Women’s Basketball (23-9) vs. #3 LSU Tigers (29-2)
Match: No. 6 Michigan (23-9, 11-7 Big Ten) vs. No. 3 LSU (29-2, 15-1 SEC), second round of NCAA Tournament Greenville 2 Region.
Tip: 7:30 p.m. Sunday; Pete Maravich Convention Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
On the game: The winner meets either 3-seeded Utah or 10-seeded Princeton in Greenville, South Carolina on Friday to earn a spot in the Elite Eight.
• Box score
The Wolverines’ win moved them to 11-10 all-time in 11 tournaments, with five consecutive second-round appearances under head coach Kim Barnes Arico. (Though they did make it into the Elite Eight last season.) In its second season under longtime Baylor coach Kim Mulkey, LSU appears to be getting the results it wants, starting with a 23-point win over Hawaii at 14 Seeds in the first round on Friday. After losing in the second round last season, the Tigers are 45-27 in the tournament for 28 seasons, with five trips to the Final Four (albeit without title game appearances). All five Final Four appearances took place during a five-year run from 2003 to 2008; The Tigers have only made the Sweet 16 twice since then (2013-14).
FRIDAY FIRST ROUND:Michigan women roll over Rebels, 71-59, to advance to 2nd round of NCAA tournament
TROPHY CABINET:Michigan women’s basketball has 3 players selected for Big Ten All-Conference teams
March 17, 2023; Baton Rouge, LA, USA; LSU Lady Tigers head coach Kim Mulkey reacts to a second-half foul against the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Exploring the tigers
It’s a simple formula for Mulkey’s Tigers: Shoot inside the arc often (LSU’s 50.2 2-pointers per game ranks sixth in the nation), do it well (50.6% on 2-pointers, good for 34th nationally), and if you miss, rebound the ball (47.2 boards per game, third national and 17.2 per game on offense, good for fourth) and start over. What about 3 pointers? We’re not saying LSU can’t beat them — their 35.9% success rate ranks 26th nationally — but they’re not really trying much either: Their 15 3s per game ranks only 307th out of 350 teams.
The story goes on
Spotting the Wolverines
The Wolverines’ plan isn’t that different, especially when it was executed against UNLV on Friday afternoon: UM attempted just 15 3s, hitting six of them (and four of those, out of six attempts, came from senior guard Maddie Nolan) and shooting 45.5% (20-for-44) on 2-point attempts. It really wasn’t a good shooting day for the Wolverines, who hit nine of 13 shots in the third quarter and only 17 of 46 (36.9%) in the other three frames. Fifth-year guard Leigha Brown appeared to penetrate the Rebels’ defenses in the color with few problems. Doing that against the Tigers is going to be another matter entirely, but we’ll get to that.
Four on the floor
There are plenty of talented players in both rosters, but here are four players – two Wolverines and two Tigers – who could make it big on Sunday:
Michigan Wolverines’ Laila Phelia drives during the second half of the women’s NCAA tournament at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana Friday, May 17.
U-Ms Star: G Laila Phelia
Despite being almost two weeks off from the Games, the sophomore may not be entirely healthy. In just her third game back after missing seven straight games in February and March, she logged 32 minutes and scored eight points with 11 rebounds while wearing a bulky knee brace. Phelia, who hails from Cincinnati, competed in the tournament averaging 16.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 steals per game. That scoring average is nearly double her freshman year (8.8) while only increasing from 22.9 minutes per game to 33 minutes. When Phelia’s scoring game is on, so is the Wolverines’; She has scored at least 20 points ten times this season, with UM winning 8-2 in those games.
Michigan Wolverines guard Elise Stuck, 30, aims for a shot during the second half of the women’s NCAA tournament at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Friday, May 17.
From the bank for UM: G/F Elise Stuck
Barnes Arico kept her bench short in Baton Rouge on Friday, keeping four of her starters on court for at least 32 minutes. The only exception was striker Cameron Williams, who played just under 16 minutes. Stuck replaced her with just over 22 minutes. It was a significant increase in minutes for the 6-foot-1 Charlevoix junior, who averaged 9.7 minutes per game while participating in NCAA tournaments. She only scored two points (a field goal attempt, a make) but otherwise filled the stats with seven rebounds, an assist, a steal and three blocks. The Wolverines won’t have the size advantage over LSU — the Tigers have five forwards listed at 6-2 or greater; The Wolverines have six such forwards but only two (Williams and Emily Kiser) are recording serious minutes – which they had against UNLV but they will need every capable minute they can get in the paint.
LSU forward Angel Reese (10) shoots at Hawaii forward Kallin Spiller (11) in the second half of a first round college basketball game at the women’s NCAA tournament in Baton Rouge, La., Friday, March 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
LSU’s star: F Angel Reese
The reason for that, of course, is Reese, who made the AP’s All-America team for the second straight season. The 6-3 sophomore averaged a double-double (17.8 points, 10.6 rebounds) in Maryland last season but didn’t do much damage in her first two seasons against the Wolverines, either averaged seven points and 7.3 rebounds in three games as a terp. She has had double-doubles in 29 of her 31 games this season, including the Tigers’ win over Hawaii on Friday (34 points, 15 rebounds). (The only opponents who stopped her from getting a double-double: No. 1 South Carolina, who held her on Feb. 12 at 16 points and four rebounds, and Georgia, who held her at 15 points and four rebounds on March 3 holding six rebounds.) This season, Reese has averaged 23.7 points and 15.5 rebounds while shooting 54.5% on 2 points.
(Maybe Michigan can convince Reese to try some 3s; she’s only 1-for-6 from across the arc this season.) So what drew her to the bayou? Apparently the seafood. (Remember she’s from Maryland.) As she told WSLAM magazine, her official visit to Baton Rouge came with an intense seafood selection: “We went to the Coach’s House and we had seafood laid out. … I’m talking crab legs, oysters, shrimp, crawfish,” Reese said. “I thought, ‘Oh, I could get used to this.’ “
From the bench for LSU: F Sa’Myah Smith
Mulkey has ridden her upper class hard, with Reese and three seniors averaging more than 23 minutes per game. Likewise, SEC Freshman of the Year Flau’jae Johnson averaged 26.7 minutes per game; there is not much time left for others. Only one other LSU player, junior Kateri Poole, averaged more than 16 minutes.
Smith managed to get an SEC All-Freshman nod despite averaging just 15.8 minutes in the tournament. Despite the limited time, the 6-2 Texan has averaged 5.1 points, 44 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game this season. Even if she doesn’t score, she can change the flow of the game: just ask Texas A&M and Kentucky, who they’ve held together to two points in back-to-back games, only to give up seven combined blocks. Or South Carolina, which saw their real-time color presence last month.
Ryan Ford’s prediction
The Wolverines have had success against smaller and less talented teams this season, but UM’s offense has often gone cold against the cream of the crop. Expect the same against the host Tigers, with Reese dominating inside. The selection: LSU 74, UM 52.
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This article originally appeared in Detroit Free Press: 2023 NCAA Tournament: Michigan Women’s Basketball vs. LSU: Time, TV