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I I Can Never Be Down No matter What They Did Or Plan Towards Me Says Angel Reese

LSU coach Kim Mulkey announced Wednesday that star forward Angel Reese has returned to the team and will be available to play Thursday.

Reese has not been in uniform since she was benched for the second half of a win over Kent State on Nov. 14. The junior missed the Tigers’ next four games and did not travel with the team to a Thanksgiving weekend tournament in the Cayman Islands. Mulkey and LSU were cryptic about Reese’s absence during the two weeks she was away. When reporters asked Wednesday how to describe her return—whether it was accurate to say that she was coming back from a suspension or a personal matter or something else—Mulkey did not offer specifics.

“She’s coming back from not being with the team,” the coach replied.

Mulkey gave several other roster updates in her press conference Wednesday. Sophomore forward Sa’Myah Smith—a starter who was injured last week—will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL. Junior guard Kateri Poole, who has not played since Nov. 17 for unspecified reasons and also missed the trip to the Cayman Islands, is still not with the team. Mulkey did not give a timeline for Poole’s return.

No. 7 LSU will play No. 9 Virginia Tech on Thursday in a rematch of last year’s Final Four.

Reese was averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game before her absence. She was instrumental in leading LSU to the first title in program history last year and was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Her performance shot her to stardom and made her one of the most visible faces of women’s college basketball.

Mulkey said Reese has been practicing and “looks good” but would not say for how long or how much of that practice has been with the team.

“A coach is entitled to play who they want, whether they’ve practiced with the team or not,” Mulkey said.

The veteran coach had previously invoked the idea of “locker room issues” around the situation and did so again Wednesday.

In Reese’s absence, LSU moved junior transfer Aneesah Morrow into the starting five. Morrow was recently named AP Player of the Week, largely due to her 37-point, 16-rebound effort to help LSU beat Virginia at the Cayman Islands Classic, 76–73.

Thursday’s game against Virginia Tech will be LSU’s first against a ranked opponent since playing—and losing to—Colorado on Nov. 6.

Mulkey said the team will be ready and has put the circumstances of Reese’s absence behind it.

“We’ve moved on,” Mulkey told reporters. “You guys can hit Angel up tomorrow, and she’ll tell you the same thing. That happened—how many weeks ago? And we have moved on. That’s what athletes do, that’s what coaches do, that’s what programs do, and there’s nothing more to discuss about it.”

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