LSU rallies to reach Sweet 16 after Kim Mulkey’s tirade: ‘I’m not going to let one sleazy reporter distract us’

After trailing at halftime, LSU rallied to take an 83-56 win over Middle Tennessee State on Sunday afternoon

Despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, Kim Mulkey insists it’s business as usual for LSU.

The Tigers rallied late to beat Middle Tennessee State on Sunday afternoon at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, which officially clinched their spot in the Sweet 16 next weekend. The game, though, was largely secondary after Mulkey went off on a long four-minute tirade the day before and threatened to sue The Washington Post.

At least, it felt that way to just about everybody watching even if Mulkey won’t admit it.

“I’m not going to let one sleazy reporter distract us from this tournament,” Mulkey said after the win, via The Daily Advertiser's Cory Diaz. “I didn’t tell my kids what I said. They’re not involved in this.”

Mulkey may not have told her players what she said, but her comments were hard to avoid. And despite her belief, it certainly looked like the Tigers were a bit off early in their second-round NCAA tournament matchup on Sunday afternoon.

Middle Tennessee State, which upset No. 6 Louisville in the first round, entered the locker room with a four-point lead after holding the Tigers to just 12 points in the second quarter. They opened the third quarter on a quick 5-0 burst, too, and seemed poised to stun the Tigers at home — especially after LSU guard Hailey Van Lith was benched to start the third quarter.

But the Blue Raiders quickly stalled. They managed just 13 points in the third period, and then opened the fourth quarter on the wrong side of a 17-4 run. LSU quickly broke the game open and rolled to an 83-56 win.

Kim Mulkey went off and threatened to sue The Washington Post on Saturday over an apparent unpublished article about her.
Kim Mulkey went off and threatened to sue The Washington Post on Saturday over an apparent unpublished article about her. (AP/Gerald Herbert) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Savannah Wheeler led the Blue Raiders with 21 points and seven rebounds, and Ta'Mia Scott added 15 points in the loss. They were the only two players to hit double figures. Flau'jae Johnson led LSU with 21 points, and Angel Reese finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds. Van Lith finished with just four points and shot 1-of-5 from the field.

While LSU has now made it through its first two games with double-digit wins, the Tigers don’t seem anywhere near as dominant as they’ve been, or even as they should be on paper. They had to fend off Rice late on Friday in their opening-round game, and then Mulkey went off on her rant on Saturday.

Mulkey, who spent more than two decades at Baylor before landing at LSU, threatened to sue The Washington Post about a story that’s apparently in the works about her. Specifics about that article are not yet known, as it’s not been published yet, but Mulkey claimed that the Post had been talking with former disgruntled players of hers.

She also said that the reporter in question has been working on the story for two years and has tried to interview her repeatedly, but then claimed that the reporter didn't give her enough notice to comment after contacting her before their first NCAA tournament game on Friday.

“I’ve hired the best defamation law firm in the country and I will sue The Washington Post if they publish a false story about me,” Mulkey said on Saturday. “Not many people are in a position to hold these kind of journalists accountable, but I am, and I’ll do it.”

It’s unclear when that story will come out, or what it will say about Mulkey. Regardless, she’ll have to now turn her attention to the Sweet 16.

The Tigers will take on either Creighton or UCLA on Saturday. Caitlin Clark and top-ranked Iowa will take on West Virginia on Monday night to try and secure the final Sweet 16 spot in the Albany 2 region.

When focused and playing together, there’s no doubt the Tigers are capable of making it out of the region and back to a second straight Final Four. But with the distractions surrounding the program, and how agitated Mulkey clearly is with outside noise, it’s fair to question how far they can keep pushing forward.