Homecoming at LSU is scheduled for Oct. 16-21. For Angel Reese, it’s Dec. 20.
That is when Reese, a Randallstown native, will return to Baltimore leading the defending NCAA women’s basketball champion Tigers into a nonconference game against Coppin State. Representatives from both schools confirmed the game that was included in LSU’s announcement Wednesday of its schedule.
“I am an Angel Reese fan, and it was an opportunity to bring her home as well as an opportunity for the community to support Coppin State women’s basketball,” Eagles coach Jermaine Woods said Thursday. “So to me, it was a no-brainer. We just had to work out some numbers with LSU, and we figured it out, and we got it done.”
Reese, a 6-foot-3 junior forward who graduated from St. Frances and returned to Randallstown in July to attend the dedication of a basketball court at the Scotts Branch Police Athletic League Recreation Center where she played, took to social media to express her enthusiasm for playing at Coppin State.
“WE GOING TO BALTIMOREEEE AHHHHHH,” she wrote via the platform X, formerly known as Twitter, before ending it with an emoji of a surprised and happy face.
Kaylin Rice, director of recruiting for LSU women’s basketball who coordinates much of the scheduling, said she reached out to several schools “within driving distance” of Baltimore to determine if one of them would host the Tigers. Although she declined to name the potential parties, representatives from Loyola Maryland and Towson said their programs were not formally contacted by LSU.
A spokesperson for UMBC coach Johnetta Hayes initially declined comment on Thursday. The next day, the spokesperson said Hayes sought to clarify that there was no offer of a game between LSU and the Retrievers.
Rice said the coaches have tried in the past to play games in the hometowns of their players as an unofficial thank you for their commitment to the program. She said the Tigers and Eagles agreed Feb. 16 to play this winter and that Woods remained steadfast even after LSU’s run to its first NCAA title in April.
“Shoutout to Coppin State for really sticking with this,” she said. “It would have been easy for a lot of schools to be like, ‘No, I’m not really interested in it anymore.’ But they’re in it for some amazing reasons, and I think it’s going to bring a lot of publicity to the university as well.”
Neither Woods nor Rice could recall the last time the previous season’s national champion played a game at the home venue of a Historically Black College and University. Woods pointed out that Coppin State has hosted opponents from Power Five conferences: Maryland in 2021 and Pittsburgh last fall.
“But this is a different kind of magnitude, right?” Woods said. “A national champion is coming to you. LSU is a perennial powerhouse ever since [ coach] Kim Mulkey has been there. So it is different. But they wanted to bring Angel home, and we accept that, and we respect her. Thanks to Kim for wanting to get it done, and to bring her player home. Kudos to her for doing that.”
Woods said the game will likely be played at night to give parents and children a chance to attend the game after work and school, respectively. Tickets are not yet available, but he is hopeful the school will be able to fill the 4,100-seat Physical Education Complex Arena.
Woods said he is fully aware that there could be more fans of Reese and LSU than the Eagles.
“But we’re not worried about that,” he said. “We just want women’s basketball fans. Whether they’re Angel Reese fans, LSU fans, Coppin State fans, we’re all good with that because it’s good for the game of women’s basketball. Wherever you play in the country and whenever you play, if you can sell out an arena anywhere, it doesn’t matter who the fans are for. That looks good for our game.”
Rice said the Tigers coaches and players are looking forward to playing in front of a group of potentially new supporters.
“Not many times do basketball fans in Maryland get to see an LSU in a gym near them,” she said. “So anytime we get a chance to get in front of new audiences and young, future, aspiring basketball players, you’re always growing the game. And especially with the opportunity to bring Angel back home, that’s just going to bring out more people that normally wouldn’t go to a women’s basketball game.”
On paper, Coppin State appears to be a significant underdog against the Tigers. Last season, the Eagles went 8-22, finished in a tie for sixth in the eight-team Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, and slogged through three slumps of at least four consecutive losses.
LSU, on the other hand, won 34 of 36 games and rebounded from a setback to Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference Tournament semifinals to win all six games in the NCAA Tournament. And the team added two of the sport’s top transfers in graduate student guard Hailey Van Lith (Louisville) and junior guard Aneesah Morrow.
“Once they got the top two transfers in the portal, [Coppin State players] were like, ‘Coach, they got Hailey and they got Morrow.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, they got tougher,’” Woods said. “It’s already really challenging, and obviously, that’s going to make it tougher. But we’ll be ready to play basketball. Hopefully, we’ll compete and get out there and play hard. But more importantly, this is good for women’s basketball, especially in this area. This area could become a women’s basketball hotbed, and having LSU here is a chance to showcase that.”
Rice described Reese as being “super excited” about returning to Baltimore for a game. She predicted Reese’s teammates would play well in her honor.
“They’re going to want to go up there and play well and have a memorable experience for Angel,” she said. “They’re so selfless and team-focused that they understand that night is about Angel, and they’re going to want to make it special for her.”
This story might be updated.