‘Baltimore Barbie’: LSU’s Reese enjoys her homecoming — in a game that was a win for both teams

BALTIMORE (AP) — Luckily for Angel Reese, her hometown can easily be substituted into her alliterative nickname.

“I’m the Baltimore Barbie before I’m the Bayou Barbie,” the LSU star said.

Reese is a fan favorite in both areas, and she showed why Wednesday, bringing her seventh-ranked LSU team to Baltimore to face Coppin State in a rare marquee home game for the MEAC school. The Tigers won 80-48, with Reese scoring 26 points, and afterward everyone agreed this night was about much more than basketball.

“A lot of people came out tonight,” Reese said. “I know they were supporting Coppin, but being able to come into a historically Black college. My aunt went here, my cousin went here — so coming back here and doing a lot for this community, and them being able to see opportunity where they can be, a lot of little girls knowing they can have this opportunity, was something that was important to me.”

Reese was a high school star at Baltimore’s St. Frances Academy and played two seasons at Maryland before transferring to LSU and winning a national title last season. The Terrapins played at Coppin State a couple years ago at this time of year, but Reese has become a much bigger star since then.

“My sophomore year, I remember the first time I came here, and there weren’t that many fans here,” she said. “But then coming in tonight, just being able to see my impact and being able to see how so much has changed, and understanding my impact in this world. Baltimore has meant everything to me. I love the University of Maryland, everything that I was able to do there, and then coming to LSU, being able to continue my journey.”

Reese said before the game she wasn’t sure if fans would be rooting for LSU or Coppin State. There were plenty of fans in LSU gear, but it was absolutely a pro-Coppin State crowd. Reese did receive a cheer when she was introduced before the game and a round of applause when she was taken out toward the end. She waved to the crowd with both hands as she exited the arena afterward.

The crowd of 4,100 was the first sellout at PEC Arena for a Coppin State sporting event since the venue opened in 2009. The night began with a national anthem that included an electric guitar player.

“They did it up right tonight,” LSU coach Kim Mulkey said. “Everything was just wonderful.”

For Coppin State, it was a chance for the players to test themselves against the defending champions — as well as a financial opportunity for the school.

“This game was huge, not just for HBCU culture but for what we needed budgetary-wise,” coach Jermaine Woods said. “We did well off this game, and this is going to help us supplement our budget.”

On two different occasions early on, Reese stole the ball and went in for a layup. LSU led 15-3 and she had nine points already. But Coppin State was within eight at one point in the second quarter.

LSU was without injured guard Hailey Van Lith, but the Tigers are still a draw wherever they go.

“When they travel, it’s a show,” Woods said. “And rightfully so. They have young women that have NIL deals, that are making money.”

And a coach in Mulkey who grabs attention in her own way. On Wednesday, she wore a holiday-themed outfit with red and green Tigers on it.

This was an impressive night for LSU after an up-and-down start to the season. The Tigers lost their opener to Colorado. They’ve won all 12 games since, but Reese missed four of them because of issues Mulkey wouldn’t elaborate on. Reese made some references to her mental health when she returned.

The Tigers didn’t seem distracted by the hoopla surrounding Reese’s homecoming Wednesday. Mulkey said LSU tries to play in the home areas of her players. She said the Tigers will play at Grambling next season for guard Mikaylah Williams.

Mulkey has another possible matchup against an HBCU in mind as well, although she admits the weather and some of the logistics might stand in the way.

“I’ve always wanted to go play on our football field at LSU, and invite Southern to play us and give them the proceeds from the sellout and let them use that for NIL money,” she said. “Sometimes people don’t understand why you play who you do, and I don’t really owe any of them an explanation. I do what I do, and it’s worked.”


AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball

Copyright © 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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