With LSU star forward Angel Reese missing in action and little explanation from coach Kim Mulkey, the seventh-ranked Tigers are drawing unwanted scrutiny at the start of their national title defense.

“You always have to deal with locker room issues,” Mulkey said Monday night after LSU beat Texas Southern 106-47 in the second straight game Reese missed for undisclosed reasons.

“Sometimes you all know them. Sometimes you don’t. “Sometimes you want to know more than he has a right to know,” Mulkey continued. “I’m going to protect my players – always. “They are like a family.”

The recent drama involving not only Reese’s absence but also critical comments from some players’ parents on social media began shortly after a surprising season-opening loss for what on paper looks like a super LSU team.

On Monday night, Reese was seen alone during a pregame hype video produced before the season, which shows the player wearing a crown. Reese also missed LSU’s previous game. in southeast Louisiana and was benched for half against Kent State.

Mulkey’s reticence regarding Reese – one of the most popular and commercially successful athletes in all of women’s college sports – has presented a public relations challenge for LSU and opened up more room for speculation than LSU would have liked. . However, from what Mulkey has disclosed, it doesn’t appear to be a compliance issue.

“I’ve been doing this for 40 years,” Mulkey continued. “You’re going to deal with things. “Those kids are like my kids and I’m not going to tell them what they don’t need to know, and that’s how I approach things.”

During an exchange on Instagram, sophomore guard Flau’Jae Johnson’s mother, Kia Brooks, made a comment about Reese’s academic performance.

Reese’s mother, Angel Webb Reese, had criticized Brooks’ grammar in a previous post, to which Brooks responded: “You definitely know about grammatical errors when your daughter got a 2.0 GPA or lower… Leave of being mean and false. and hateful, and take responsibility for her actions and those of her daughter.”

Brooks’ specific reference to Reese’s GPA has not been corroborated. Universities do not release transcripts without the permission of the student in question, and Mulkey has declined to comment on the releases.

It would be highly unusual for a player to begin missing games for reasons related to academic eligibility after the basketball season began but before the end of the fall semester.

Reese, who has nearly 378,000 followers on

When Reese was absent for Friday night’s 73-50 win at Southeastern, Mulkey said, “Angel is a part of this basketball team and we hope to see her sooner rather than later.”

Mulkey echoed that sentiment Monday night, but declined to say whether Reese would go with the team to the Cayman Islands Classic this weekend. Reese’s agent, Jeanine Ogbonnaya, also did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press.

Coming off a national title, and with Reese joined by high-profile transfers Hailey Van Lith and Aneesah Morrow, along with coveted five-star recruit Mikaylah Williams, LSU is arguably women’s basketball’s first superteam since the NCAA relaxed the rules on transfers and allowed players to retain amateur status while earning money from their name, image and likeness.

“This is university. This is college athletics,” said Mulkey, who has won four national titles as a coach (three with Baylor) and two as a player with Louisiana Tech. “It doesn’t matter what the NIL is, it doesn’t matter what they do as professionals, this is college “.

LSU entered the season ranked No. 1. But a loss to then-number 20 Colorado – which since then shot up to number 3 – knocked LSU out of the top five. LSU hasn’t lost since, but it also hasn’t played another major conference team, and won’t until it faces Virginia this Saturday in the Cayman Islands.

Reese started LSU’s first four games, averaging 17 points and 10.3 rebounds as the Tigers finished 3-1.

Nicknamed the “Swamp Barbie,” Reese led LSU to its first national title in women’s basketball last season. She has also leveraged her popularity to endorse names, images and portraits valued at over $1 million, making her one of the highest-earning college athletes.

Reese led the Southeastern Conference in both scoring (23 points per game) and rebounding (15.4 per game) last season, becoming just the fourth player to lead the league in both categories. His 34 double-doubles that season set an NCAA record and his 23 consecutive double-doubles entering last season broke Sylvia Fowles’ previous LSU record of 19.

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