Michigan-LSU clash means Kim vs. Kim III in March Madness

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU coach Kim Mulkey’s admiration for the effort Michigan coach Kim Barnes Arico draws from his players was encapsulated in a video clip that Mulkey thought the Tigers needed to see.

Michigan guard Leigha Brown’s diving attempt to collect a loose ball on the hardwood in the Wolverines’ first-round women’s NCAA Tournament triumph over UNLV meant nothing on the stat sheet; Brown was unable to prevent the ball from rolling out of bounds.

But it meant a lot to Mulkey and Barnes Arico as they prepared for a second-round tilt between No. 3 seed LSU (29-2) and sixth-seeded Michigan (23-9) Sunday night — a matchup that could be billed as the “Kim vs. Kim III.”

“I’m glad they saw, and the rest of the world saw, that our team is willing to sell out and willing to sacrifice and make those kinds of plays, because we think they can make a difference,” Barnes Arico said after learned that Mulkey had highlighted Brown’s dive while LSU was reviewing video of the Michigan game. “LSU and Kim-coached teams, they’re going to play the same way. And our kids are going to know that. And they’re going to be aware of that.”

LSU guard Alexis Morris got the message when Mulkey played the Brown clip.

“We know we just have to have some toughness about ourselves on Sunday,” Morris said. “We’ve got to get those 50-50 balls — you know, do the dirty work that people don’t like to do.”

Barnes Arico knows what it’s like to face Mulkey because she’s done it twice before in the previous four NCAA tournaments — in 2018 and 2021, when Mulkey was at Baylor.

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Baylor won the first of those meetings, 80-58, in the second round. Their 2021 third-round meeting went to overtime before the Bears emerged with a 78-75 victory.

Several Michigan seniors — Brown, Emily Kiser and Maddie Nolan — played in that 2021 meeting, and Brown recalled Mulkey complimenting the Wolverines on how hard they played.

“It really meant a lot to us and I know it definitely means a lot to coach Arico,” Brown said. “I know there’s a mutual respect.”

Mulkey summed up his appreciation for Barnes Arico this way: “She’s one of the good ones. Good trainer. Good person. A good mother. Good wife. I hate that we have to play each other.”


Much of LSU’s success this season has hinged on the prolific play of 6-foot-3 All-America power forward Angel Reese, whose combination of height, speed and ball skills make her one of the nation’s most dynamic players.

Her 34 points — which tied Marie Ferdinand’s 2001 LSU record for scoring in an NCAA Tournament game — and 15 rebounds led LSU to a 73-50 first-round victory over Hawaii.

But Reese emphasized that her chemistry with 6-4 center LaDazhia Williams — whose calm demeanor contrasts with the outspoken and expressive Reese — is a key element to LSU’s regular dominance in the paint.

“People underestimate LaDazhia’s skills because the light kind of shines on me a lot,” Reese said. “But I mean, she’s very successful and does a lot of great things that people don’t see.”

Reese, a transfer from Maryland, and Williams, who transferred from Missouri, said they spent a lot of time last summer developing chemistry playing pick-up basketball.

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“We know how to throw the ball to each other,” Reese said. “We know how to get each other good shots.”


Barnes-Arico laughed when asked if she had planned an outfit for the match against Mulkey, who is known for wearing high heels and flashy outfits.

“My God,” Barnes Arico began. “I can’t keep up that pace. I don’t know how she does it.”

During Friday’s first round, Mulkey wore a white top with glitter-filled, multicolored trim. The front of the top read “Kiss me, I’m a Queen,” which Mulkey clarified was a reference not to her, but the name of the company (Queen of Sparkles) that made the outfit.

Barnes Arico wore a dark blue crew neck emblazoned with Michigan’s trademark “M” on the chest and corn pants, with comfortable (Jordan Brand) shoes.

Barnes Arico used to wear heels and dress more for games.

“And then COVID hit and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, my feet feel so good and my legs aren’t screaming at the end of the night. I don’t wake up with pain in my calves anymore,'” Barnes Arico recalled.

But she admitted she had “something special” planned for the second round.

“I’m not going to be Kim. Nobody is Kim. I am the other Kim,” she continued. “But no one is Mulkey. So she has her own look, and it works for her.”


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