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Can LSU’s Angel Reese win NCAA Player of the Year?

(Photo courtesy LSU Athletics)

There are two undisputed truths when it comes to LSU women’s basketball.

1. The Tigers have played a weak schedule, void of any true tests so far this season.
2. Angel Reese is one of the best players in the country.

The combination of these truths makes it difficult for Reese to truly showcase her talent. Through 12 games (and 12 wins) for LSU, Reese is averaging a double-double and is one of two players to record one in all of her team’s contests. The second is Lauren Gustin of BYU, though the Cougars have played 11 games to LSU’s 12.

Reese is sixth in the country with 24.6 points per game, first with 14.6 rebounds per game and 12th with a 63.5 shooting percentage. She’s been LSU’s top scorer in eight of their 12 games, and the top rebounder in all but one.

Those are Player of the Year numbers.

But those performances have not come against Player-of-the-Year competition.

Up to LSU’s 87-55 win over Oregon State on Sunday, the Tigers’ opponents list was as follows: Bellarmine, Mississippi Valley State, Western Carolina, Howard, Northwestern State, George Mason, UAB, SE Louisiana, Tulane, Lamar and Montana State. The Tigers are winning their games by an average of 44 points per game, and while other top-25 teams are testing themselves, the No. 11 team in the country is not.

LSU has yet to play a ranked team, whereas every other top-25 team has taken on another top-25 squad at some point this season. The Tigers’ opponents are also low on the NET rankings, with only two teams they’ve played so far (Tulane and Oregon State) ranking in the top 100, three in the top 200 (Montana State, UAB and George Mason) and the rest sitting at 269 or below.

It’s hard to take LSU seriously with its slate of opponents, which unfortunately for Reese, makes it hard to take her seriously as a POY candidate.

Regardless of the circumstances, Reese is doing everything she can to get her name in the conversation. On Sunday, the sophomore forward put up her best numbers against the Beavers, the best team LSU has played so far at 64th in the NET rankings. Reese finished with 25 points and 20 rebounds to lead her team to victory.

Reese has played against elite competition before, just not as a Tiger. She played two seasons at Maryland, improving over her freshman and sophomore years before transferring to LSU in May. In her first season at Maryland, Reese averaged 10 points, six rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game in 15.1 minutes of playing time. She increased those numbers to 17.8 points and 10.6 rebounds as a sophomore, while also contributing 1.1 blocks in 25.9 minutes per contest.

As a Tiger, Reese has continued her double-double prowess while adding 2.9 assists, 2.3 steals and 1.4 blocks per game.

She played arguably her two best games at Maryland against the best competition the NCAA has to offer . She had 20 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to South Carolina last December, and then 25 points and nine rebounds in a loss to Stanford in the Sweet 16 of the 2022 NCAA Tournament. There’s no reason to think she won’t have similar success this year in an LSU uniform, but POY awards can’t be given based on assumptions, so she’ll have to prove it when the time comes.

Another positive for Reese is consistency. Even against low-level teams, players have bad games, but the forward has had a similar output in every game with the double-doubles to prove it. Reese is shooting an efficient 63.5 percent from the field, a mark that puts her at 12th in the country. She’s not forcing shots nor completely dominating the ball, though both would be easy to do in blowout games. Instead, she’s letting the game come to her and making the most of her opportunities.

Reese has a legitimate shot at the Player of the Year award despite her team’s cakewalk schedule. LSU is an AP top-25 team, meaning she gets plenty of eyes on her each week, and they have upcoming SEC games against No. 21 Arkansas and No. 1 South Carolina. If Reese has big performances against those teams — especially against the Gamecocks and reigning POY Aliyah Boston on Feb. 12 — her case for this year’s award becomes even more compelling.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

LPGA Star Lexi Thompson Announces Retirement From Professional Golf

pro golfer lexi thompson on the course
Thompson turned pro in 2010 and went on to win 11 LPGA tournaments, capturing her first title in 2011 at the Navistar LPGA Classic. (Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

Pro golfer Lexi Thompson is retiring, she announced on Tuesday. This will be her final season on the LPGA Tour.

The 29-year-old has been playing professionally for the past 15 years. The two-time Olympian and six-time Solheim Cup competitor said that she’d been contemplating retirement for a few months, coming to the conclusion that it was time to step away.

"While it is never easy to say goodbye, it is indeed time," Thompson posted to Instagram. "At the end of 2024, I will be stepping away from a full professional golf schedule. I'm excited to enjoy the remainder of the year as there are still goals I want to accomplish.

"I'm looking forward to the next chapter of my life. Time with family, friends, and my trusted companion Leo. I will always look for ways to contribute to the sport and inspire the next generation of golfers. And of course, I look forward to a little time for myself."

Thompson is set to play at the US Women’s Open in Pennsylvania starting Thursday. Speaking from Lancaster Country Club, Thompson told reporters that she’s currently taking it "day by day."

"I'm not going to say yes or no on how many events I'll play or if I do," she said. "I'm just going to take it day by day and see how I feel, especially going into next year, but I'm very content with this being my last full-time schedule year."

Thompson also cited mental health as a factor in her decision to retire.

"I think we all have our struggles, especially out here," she said. "Unfortunately in golf you lose more than you win, so it's an ongoing battle to continue to put yourself out there in front of the cameras and continuing to work hard and maybe not seeing the results you want and getting criticized for it. So it's hard.

"I will say, yes, I've struggled with it — I don't think there's somebody out here that hasn't. It's just a matter of how well you hide it, which is very sad."

This will be Thompson’s 18th-straight year participating in US Women’s Open. At just 12 years old, she was the youngest golfer to qualify for the 2007 tournament, later making her first cut at the major in 2009 at 14.

Thompson turned pro in 2010 and went on to win 11 LPGA tournaments, capturing her first title in 2011 at the Navistar LPGA Classic. 

The retirement came as a surprise to many, including decorated LPGA standout Nelly Korda

"She's had such an amazing career," Korda said Tuesday. "I've gotten to be on the team with her a couple times representing our country. I think she does an amazing job for the Tour. She spends so much time going to each pro-am party. She really dedicated her time to growing the game.

"It's sad to see that she's obviously leaving and not going to be out here with us anymore, but she's had an amazing career, and I wish her the best in this new chapter of her life."

Argentina Women’s National Team Stars Quit Over Pay, Conditions Dispute

Julieta Cruz of Argentina controls the ball during the FIFA Women's World Cup
The team qualified for the 2023 Women's World Cup, but failed to make it through the group stage. (Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Argentina women's national football team starting goalkeeper Laurina Oliveros, defender Julieta Cruz, and midfielder Lorena Benítez have officially left the team after a dispute over a lack of pay and conditions.

The news comes while the team is away at training camp during the FIFA international window. Argentina is scheduled to play two international friendlies at home against Costa Rica on May 31st and June 3rd — matches that Argentina's soccer association is refusing to pay its players for, according to Cruz and Benítez.

"We reached a point in which we are tired of the injustices, of not being valued, not being heard and, even worse, being humiliated," Cruz, a defender, wrote in an Instagram post published early this week. "We need improvements for Argentina's women's soccer national team, and I am not only talking about finances. I speak about training, having lunch, breakfast."

Argentina qualified for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, but failed to make it out of the group stage after losing to Italy and Sweden and drawing with South Africa. That stands in stark contrast to the men’s team, which won the 2022 FIFA World Cup behind star forward Lionel Messi. 

In her own Instagram post, Benítez alleged that players were provided only a ham and cheese sandwich and a banana as food during training camp, and that their families were being charged 5,000 pesos per ticket to see them compete against Costa Rica.

"And so millions of things we've been through, being FOOLED over and over again," Benítez added.

Goalkeeper Oliveros’s message was more concise than her teammates: "My wish for this year and the following? That generations to come may enjoy and be happy running behind the round, as perhaps at some point we were." 

Clark, Martin Square Off in First Pro WNBA Matchup

Kate Martin #20 of the Las Vegas Aces and Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever look on during the game
Things looked a little different Saturday night as the former Iowa teammates went head-to-head in Las Vegas. (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa teammates Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin shared the court once again on Saturday, this time as professionals.

It was Martin’s Aces that got the 99-80 win over Clark’s Fever in Las Vegas. The pair's former coaches Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald, and Raina Harmon were all in attendance to watch their Hawkeyes — Clark, Martin, and former national player of the year Megan Gustafson — take the court.

"It’s super special. It’s cool for our program, cool for Lisa, for Coach Jan, for all of them," Clark said in a pregame press conference. "They’ve known me since I’ve been 13 years old and now I’m 22 getting to live out my dream and they’ve been a huge part of that and helping me get here and helping Megan and Kate to get here too. It’s a great moment for them and I’m sure they’re not complaining about a trip to Vegas."

As for her college teammate, Clark had nothing but good things to say ahead of the showdown. 

"I’m just really happy for her and everything Coach [Becky] Hammon says about her is so true," she said. "Every person that played at Iowa and was around her knows that to be true. She’s the ultimate teammate, ultimate person, ultimate leader."

In the end, Martin stole the show with 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, while Clark amassed eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds over 29 minutes of playing time. 

"It was weird," Martin admitted after the game. "I'm not going to lie — just looking out on the court and seeing her in a different jersey than me, it was obviously different. But it's really fun. We're both living out our dreams right now."

The Aces next meet the fever on July 2nd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

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