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Kim Mulkey Says No. 1 LSU Lacked Toughness In Opening Defeat

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The No. 1 seeded LSU Tigers, who were the reigning national champions, were defeated 92–78 by the No. 20 Colorado Buffaloes on Monday in their season opener. Head coach Kim Mulkey expressed her lack of surprise. But that was another story about the Tigers’ play.

“I’m disappointed and surprised in some individual players that I thought would just be tougher and have a little fight and leadership about them,” Mulkey said. “But I knew what we faced. When you have that many kids that played that many minutes together [as Colorado], we had our hands full. Colorado did exactly what I thought they would do.

“You live with poor shooting, you live with a tough night offensively. What I don’t live with is just guts and fight and physical play [not being there]. I just didn’t think we had that tonight. This is not going to devastate us. Chicken Little said the sun will come out tomorrow, didn’t he?”

Although Mulkey firmly disagrees, Chicken Little was more of the belief that the sky was falling.

“Those things I described are fixable,” Mulkey said. “But I don’t know how long it’s going to take to fix it.”

Last year, the Buffs advanced to the Sweet 16, where they were defeated by Iowa, the eventual national runner-up. The national championship game was then played, and LSU defeated the Hawkeyes. Preseason favorites to repeat were LSU because they had returning Final Four Most Outstanding Player Angel Reese, plus they had added the top two projected transfers, guard Hailey Van Lith and forward Aneesah Morrow, along with a strong recruiting class.

However, one of the things LSU felt on Monday was the loss of starting point guard Alexis Morris, who graduated with experience, as the Buffs took the lead in the second quarter and didn’t let up. Colorado was led by guards Frida Formann (27 points) and Jaylyn Sherrod (19 points, 6 assists), and center Aaronette Vonleh (24 points).

Mulkey stated that she believed Sherrod to be the initiator. Defensively, the Tigers were unable to keep up with her, and Mulkey said that their backup defense was “nonexistent.”

In fact, from 2005 until 2021, Colorado only made one appearance in the NCAA tournament. However, the Buffs have made it back to the Big Dance the last two years under head coach JR Payne, and they are off to a memorable start this year with a victory.

It’s a very early wake-up call for LSU, which was led by freshman Mikaylah Williams with 17 points and sophomore Sa’Myah Smith with 16 points. Van Lith had 14 points and 7 assists, while Reese finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Mulkey stated that the Tigers as a team did not match the Buffs’ intensity and hunger, but she did not name the specific players that she was disappointed with.

“I thought [Williams] and Sa’Myah Smith did all they could,” she said. “You’re talking about a true freshman and a true sophomore. We need more than just them to have a little bit of fight.

“We’re not the same team today we were when we won it all. I don’t know if anything that went on this summer [with new players transferring in] has anything whatsoever to do with [our] locker room. I think [our] locker room is affected by Colorado being a very good team.”

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