Pictured: Elizabeth Kitley takes a shot in Friday’s Final Four loss.
Alexis Morris scored 27 points and had two of her misses in the fourth quarter turned into putback baskets by Angel Reese in a big run as LSU rallied to beat top-seeded Virginia Tech 79-72 in a national semifinal game Friday night.
Reese finished with 24 points and 12 rebounds for LSU (33-2), which is going to the national championship game for the first time.
The win came in the second season since feisty and flamboyantly dressed coach Kim Mulkey – in a carnation pink top this time – returned to her home state to take over a Tigers program that lost five consecutive national semifinal games from 2004-08 the only other times they made it this far.
LSU will play Sunday against the winner of the South Carolina-Iowa semifinal.
Mulkey, who won three national titles in four Final Four appearances over her 21 seasons at Baylor, is only the second coach to take two different teams to the national championship game. The other was C. Vivian Stringer, with Cheyney in the inaugural 1982 women’s tournament and Rutgers in 2007.
Trailing 59-50 after three quarters, LSU went ahead with a 15-0 run over a five-minute span in the fourth period. They led for the first time since late in the first half when Falu’jae Johnson had a steal and drove for a layup to make it 64-62.
Reese had six points in that game-turning spurt, including a basket after Morris’ attempted 3-pointer clanked off the front rim. Reese had a second-effort follow of her own miss after rebounding another miss by Morris.
LaDazhia Williams added 16 points for LSU.
Elizabeth Kitley had 18 points and 12 rebounds for Virginia Tech (31-5), the ACC champion that was in the Final Four for the first time. Georgia Amoore and Kayana Traylor each had 17 points, while Cayla King had 14.
Amoore set an record for the most 3-pointers in a single NCAA Tournament with 24, though she had a tough night shooting – 4 of 17 overall, including 4 of 15 from beyond the arc. She passed Kia Nurse’s record 22 set in the 2017 tourney for UConn, which lost in the national semifinals on the same court. Arizona’s Aari McDonald had 22 in six NCAA tourney games two years ago.
The big run for LSU came right after Amoore made her last 3-pointer with 7:52 left for a 62-57 lead. The Hokies didn’t make another basket until King’s 3 with 1:19 left.
Morris had opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer for LSU, then had a driving layup in a quick 7-0 run that prompted a timeout by Hokies coach Kenny Brooks.
The Hokies ended the first half with an 11-0 run to lead for the first time, at 34-32 on Traylor’s driving layup with 53 seconds left.
LSU went scoreless over the last 4:48 while missing its last six shots after Virginia Tech switched to a zone defense. That included three misses by Reese, who had a late shot blocked by Kitley.
Virginia Tech had trailed for only 9 1/2 minutes combined in its first four NCAA Tournament games, easily the best mark by the four teams that made it to Dallas.
But the Tigers led for 17:55 of the first half with the Hokies getting off to such a slow start shooting – they missed eight of their first nine shots – that an LSU cheerleader had an assist even before they officially had a shot.
King was charged with a turnover on a ball that hit the rim and bounced over the top of the backboard and got stuck there. With encouragement from officials and others at that end, a male cheerleader lifted up a female cheerleader, who knocked the ball down.