LSU-Michigan a battle of different styles in second round of NCAA tournament

LSU-Michigan a battle of different styles in second round of NCAA tournament

The beauty of the NCAA tournament is there are no bottom-dwelling teams. The deeper you go, the tougher the competition gets.

That’s where LSU is in Sunday’s second-round game against No. 6 seed Michigan. The matchup of contrasting styles has LSU’s speed and athleticism against the Wolverine’s size and experience when the teams collide at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

LSU has a chance to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2014, the second of back-to-back trips under Nikki Fargas. It’s also a chance to hit 30 wins for the first time since 2008 under Van Chancellor, the last LSU team to make the Final Four.

A victory would pit LSU against the winner of No. 2 seed Utah and No. 10 Princeton on Friday in the Greenville 2 Regional.

Tigers coach Kim Mulkey knows Sunday won’t be easy, even on the Tigers’ home floor where the attendance could double from Friday’s 8,608 with students returning from spring break.

“We got to be tougher (Sunday); got to be tougher at all positions,” Mulkey said, adding she feels Michigan is underseeded at No. 6.

That’s because Michigan (23-9) is a team that has played through a difficult schedule in which seven of its nine losses have come to ranked teams. The Wolverines finished tied for fifth in the Big 10 behind four teams that earned top-four seeds and host sites for the first two rounds.

The size factor — only one player under 6-feet in the Wolverines’ nine-player rotation — is overshadowed by the experience of having several players who have played together for two or more years, including three seniors in the starting lineup. It’s an advantage against an LSU team that had nine new faces at the beginning of the season.

“They have been together a while, and they play like it,” Mulkey said. “They know every move each of them makes, and you can just tell as a coach they just run a little bit more smooth. And when things don’t go too good they figure out a way to get out of it, whether it’s a turnover or a trap or something that catches them off guard. And that’s just confidence from having played a lot of games together.”

LSU likely won’t be able to get away with depending on All-American forward Angel Reese as heavily as it did in Friday’s win over Hawaii. Reese’s 34 points and 15 rebounds was 47% of the Tigers’ scoring and 37.5% of their rebounding. Mulkey attributed the lack of scoring support in part to rust from not having played for two weeks.

Reese is familiar with the Michigan style, having played the Wolverines three times during her days at Maryland.

“I just know just playing against them they are always going to play hard,” Reese said. “We have to make sure we are really mentally tough (Sunday) because they are really physical team.

“They are going to throw a lot of different things at us for sure. I’m sure double teams, some zone. They have depth for sure. They have experience for sure. But it’s not something that we haven’t seen this year.”

The Tigers will certainly need more from senior guard Alexis Morris, who scored six points — nine below her average — never got into the flow of the game against Hawaii. Morris said she’s put Friday’s performance behind her and is expecting to be pushed hard by the Wolverines.

“They do everything hard,” Morris said. “We have to match their physicality and play our game. Push the ball in transition and turn it up another notch.”

Michigan is the only team in the country with three players averaging 16 points or more per game, led by fifth-year forward Emily Kiser. She had 18 points, 10 rebounds and six assists Friday. Senior guard Maddie Nolan had 18 points on 4-of-6 3-point shooting, 7-of-10 overall, and fifth-year 6-1 point guard Leigh Brown had 17 points and seven assists.

Mulkey is also conscious that while the Wolverines have size, they can push the ball in transition deceptively well. She’s tinkering with the idea of tweaking her lineup between big and small.

“Our transition defense is going to have to be extremely good,” Mulkey said. “If I have my big lineup, are they going to match up in transition? They push the ball. If you just watch every possession, they are looking to go. It’s not blazing speed, but it’s at a good pace.”


About Marc Lemoine 3297 Articles
Marc is an Economist and a well experienced weightlifter who has won many championships. He intends to build a bright career in the media industry as well. He is a sports freak who loves to cover the latest news on sports, finance and economy.

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