BATON ROUGE (AP) — Almost a week removed from a stunning 14-point season-opening loss to No. 20. Colorado, defending national champion LSU will likely lose its No. 1 ranking when the new Associated Press poll is released Monday.
Veteran LSU coach Kim Mulkey doesn’t care where her team falls. She’s more concerned about continuing to piece together a new roster that provided the Tigers with a 109-47 non-conference win over Mississippi Valley State on Sunday afternoon.
“Put us No. 26, put us No. 27, none of that matters,” Mulkey said. “Polls bring a little relevancy and some attention to your program. But it doesn’t win any more games for you. It probably puts a target on you. I just want us to continue to get better.”
In the aftermath of LSU’s 92-78 loss to the Buffaloes in last Monday’s Hall of Fame Series game in Las Vegas, some new faces have stepped forward to help returning starters All-America first-team junior forward Angel Reese and 2023 SEC Freshman of the Year Flau’jae Johnson.
On Sunday, sophomore forward Sa’Myah Smith had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Tigers (2-1). Freshman guard Mikaylah Williams scored a career-high 20 including 5 of 6 3-pointers
“I do a lot of self-reflection of what I can do,” said Smith, who tied or established a career-high for a third straight game. “I feel like there’s so much more that I have in me that I haven’t pulled out.”
Reese had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Annesah Morrow contributed 14 points and Hailey Van Lith scored 11 for the Tigers, who won their second straight game after the loss to Colorado.
Guard Sh’Diamond McKnight led MVSU (0-2) with 21 points. No other MVSU player scored more than 4 points as LSU held the Devilettes to 24.3 percent from the field (17 of 70) while outrebounding them 59-33.
At halftime Sunday, South Louisiana native Mulkey presented national championship rings to every coach who worked with her as a point guard. She won four state championships for Hammond High School and two national titles in four Final Four appearances at Louisiana Tech. Her playing career ended in 1984 when she was part of the U.S. Olympic gold medal team.
“That group (Mulkey’s coaches) was basketball royalty on the women’s side in the state of Louisiana,” Mulkey said. “I think it’s pretty obvious what they mean to me personally.”
LSU: Mulkey used her third different starting five in the Tigers’ first three games. Johnson, who had started all 38 games of her career, was ill. She was replaced in the lineup by junior Last Tear-Poa.
Mississippi Valley State: The Devilettes have an extremely ambitious non-conference schedule. They’ve already lost at Utah and LSU. They will face two-time national champ South Carolina on Nov. 24 and 2023 Sweet 16 participant Mississippi on Dec. 12.
LSU: The Tigers host Kent State on Tuesday.
Mississippi Valley State: The Huskies play at McNeese State on Thursday.
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AP women’s college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-womens-college-basketball-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/womens-college-basketball