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The unlikely star behind LSU’s unlikely NCAA championship run

LSU’s Jasmine Carson celebrates after hitting one of her five 3-pointers in the first half. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

DALLAS — It was a celebration dripping in sequins.

The party started when Flau’jae Johnson ran over to the sidelines and sent a message to coach Kim Mulkey.

“You’re the GOAT!” she yelled. Then again: “You’re the GOAT!” And again. As her freshman guard shouted, Mulkey’s face wrinkled as she tried to fight back the tears pooling into her eyes.

The seconds ticked down, and Johnson couldn’t contain her excitement any longer. She ran over to Mulkey and lifted the coach off the ground, spinning her in a bear hug. Her purple uniform melded with Mulkey’s sequined, tiger-striped suit to create one blur of joy.

A season that started with criticism about a weak schedule ended in celebration on the ultimate stage. With their 102-85 win over superstar Caitlin Clark and Iowa on Sunday, the LSU Tigers were crowned national champions for the first time in program history.

Achieving that feat seemed unlikely at first, and unlikely still when the Tigers were blown out by South Carolina in the regular season, and when they lost to Tennessee in the SEC tournament.

Unlikely to outsiders, but predetermined to those within the program. Angel Reese has been talking about this since she transferred to LSU last spring. So has Kateri Poole, the friend who convinced Reese to make the campus visit when LSU wasn’t even on her radar.

“This is why I came to LSU,” Poole said after the game, with confetti swirling at her feet and her mother looking on with pure adoration in her eyes. An onlooker told Poole’s mom that she had confetti stuck in her hair; “I don’t care,” she replied with a grin.

In the background, Reese took photos with her brother, Julian. She took phones from spectators and recorded videos for them. And of course, she posed with her tiara, something that has become a staple for LSU celebrations this season.

Since the beginning of the season, the Tigers have pretended to crown Reese when she makes an exciting play or has a big game. At one point, they traded out the gesture for a real tiara. Reese, the queen of the tournament and the Final Four Most Outstanding Player, finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and five assists. Alexis Morris finished with 21 points, 19 of which came in the second half, and LaDazhia Williams had 20.

None of them, however, was LSU’s leading scorer. That came from an unlikely source — but like the title itself, only unlikely to those outside the program. Inside the Tigers’ locker room, graduate transfer Jasmine Carson is a known scorer.

“Jasmine may be the second best pure shooter that I’ve ever coached in my career,” Mulkey said. “She can just light it up.”

Carson finished with 22 points, and the Tigers needed every single one of them.

The first half was laden with whistles, and Reese spent significant time on the bench in early foul trouble. Morris also picked up two quick fouls and went into halftime with just two points. Mulkey went to her bench, and suddenly it was Carson’s moment, one the Tigers knew was coming.

Emily Ward, a senior walk-on, noticed that Carson was hot in warm-ups.

“I went up to her and I was like, ‘OK Jas, you’re going to have a big game,’” Ward said. “None of us were shocked that she was doing that. She hits them all the time in practice.”

Carson scored 21 of her 22 points in the first half, going a perfect 7-for-7 from the field and 5-for-5 from the 3-point line during the stretch. Everyone on the LSU bench celebrated. And in a concert hall in Atlanta, so did Carson’s high school coach.

Phyllis Arthur’s boyfriend surprised her with tickets to a jazz concert a few days ago, not realizing the national championship game was the same day. But she wasn’t going to miss Carson’s biggest game at LSU, so as they waited for the opening act to go on, Arthur watched the Tigers on her phone.

Every time Carson hit a shot, Arthur jumped out of her seat.

Arthur has coached girls basketball at McEachern High School for 17 years. There, she coached Carson and coached against Flau’jae Johnson, so Arthur was thrilled for both players on Sunday.

Thrilled, but not surprised.

“That’s the Jasmine I know,” she said on a phone call during intermission of the concert. “I love her shot. And when she’s on, she’s on. And she was on tonight. Thank god.”

Carson is one of several LSU transfer portal success stories. She started her career at Georgia Tech before transferring to West Virginia for two seasons and closing out her fifth year with the Tigers, averaging 8.4 points per game this season.

Carson started throughout the regular season, but when the NCAA Tournament began, Mulkey opted to bring her off the bench in favor of having bigger bodies on the court.

Still, Carson stayed ready.

So ready that she didn’t need her usual pregame routine. Morris and Carson typically get up extra shots together in warm-ups, but today, when Morris asked her if she wanted to, Carson said no.

“I’m good,” she said.

And she was. She was really, really good. She was 22 points good. She was five made 3-pointers good. She was national champion good.

Carson came off the bench to go a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in the first half. (Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

After the game, when Mulkey shuffled through the confetti barefoot, and Reese climbed a ladder to cut her piece of the net, and Johnson danced with her championship hat on her head, and Arthur cheered among a crowd of jazz fans, they all had Carson to thank.

“I didn’t have nothing to lose,” Carson said. “This was my last game of my college career, and I ended it the right way.”

She ended it as a national champion.

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

Two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas Re-Signs with Barcelona on Two-Year Deal

Alexia Putellas on the field for barcelona
The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years. (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Alexia Putellas has re-signed with FC Barcelona on a new two-year deal that will run through 2026. The agreement includes an option for a one-year extension. 

The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years, and her previous contract was set to expire next month. However, she’s spent the better part of the last two seasons battling injuries, starting with an ACL tear that kept her out of the 2022 UEFA European Women's Football Championship and limited her participation in Spain’s FIFA Women's World Cup win last summer. 

Putellas returned in March from her latest injury setback, making 25 appearances across all competitions for Barcelona this season and scoring 10 goals. 

In total, the midfielder has made 400 appearances for Barcelona. Among her 20 major trophies with the club include eight Liga F titles and two UEFA Champions League titles — including helping the team to its first European trophy in 2021. 

She then won the Ballon d’Or in back-to-back seasons in 2021 and 2022. 

Putellas could add a third Champions League trophy next weekend, when Barcelona faces familiar foe Lyon, a team they’ve lost to in two previous Champions League finals. Should they secure the UWCL, they would win the quadruple for the first time, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

WNBA on Pace for Record-Breaking Season

onquel Jones #35 of the New York Liberty rebounds during the game against the Indiana Fever on May 18, 2024 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn
Indiana's game against New York on Saturday was the most-watched WNBA game to ever air on ABC. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA continues its historic trajectory one week into the season, with attendance and viewership skyrocketing across the board. 

Indiana’s Saturday game against the New York Liberty was the most-watched WNBA game ever on ABC, drawing 1.71 million viewers. The Sparks vs. Aces matchup that followed became the third most-watched WNBA game broadcast on ABC with 1.34 million viewers.

On Monday, the tense finish between Indiana and Connecticut drew 1.56 million viewers to ESPN, the second most-watched WNBA game to ever air on cable.

Outside of the league’s viewership, both in-person attendance and merchandise sales have also been on a meteoric rise. On Saturday, the game between New York and Indiana shattered the single-game ticket revenue record in the WNBA, with the Liberty pulling in $2 million in sales. 

New York and Indiana played their home openers in front of more than 17,000 fans, with attendance up 14% year-over-year, according to the league. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Aces, the Liberty, the Wings, the Dream, and others have already sold out of their 2024 season ticket allotments.

Since April’s WNBA Draft, revenue from the WNBA’s official online store is up 2,260%, already blowing past total sales for the entire 2023 season.

While the numbers may cool somewhat as teams settle into their seasons, the pop in demand has already overwhelmingly delivered for the WNBA in 2024.

Angel Reese Adds USL Team Owner to Growing Résumé

chicago sky rookie angel reese speaking at an event
Star rookie Angel Reese is all in on the USL Super League. (JC Olivera/Variety via Getty Images)

Chicago Sky rookie Angel Reese continues to add to her résumé, becoming the newest member of the DC Power Football Club’s ownership group

The No. 7 pick in the WNBA draft joins an group that includes the MLS team DC United as well as other DC-area community members and business owners. One of the USL Super League’s inaugural clubs, DC Power FC is set to begin play in August. 

"I want to help grow women's sports and elevate female athletes across the board," Reese, who's from Maryland, said in a statement. "We're taking over, and I'm honored to be able to support Power FC and invest in women's soccer in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) community."

The USL is a sanctioned Division I league, meaning that it is on par with the NWSL and MLS in the United States. The league's eight current clubs are Brooklyn FC, Carolina Ascent FC, Dallas Trinity FC, DC Power FC, Fort Lauderdale United FC, Lexington SC, Spokane Zephyr FC, and Tampa Bay Sun FC.

DC Power FC will also be playing their home games in a familiar location: Matches will be hosted at DC’s Audi Field in partnership with MLS side DC United. Audi Field also home to the NWSL’s Washington Spirit.

"Angel's decision to be a founding investor alongside us in Power FC is groundbreaking," Jason Levien, DC United's CEO and co-chair, said in a statement. "As a Maryland native, Angel is so passionate about being a catalyst for positive change in women's sports in the DMV as well as globally while inspiring the next generation of female athletes. We're looking forward to her partnership in the boardroom as an equity partner."

It's been speculated that the Super League ultimately intends to compete outright with the NWSL. But in its first year, the league will focus on featuring the depth of women's soccer talent in the US.

Former NWSL players like Taylor Aylmer (Spokane), Jordyn Listro (Tampa Bay), Erika Tymrak (Tampa Bay), and Domi Richardson (Tampa Bay) have already announced a return to professional soccer via the USL.

The league is aiming to provide counter-programming to summer women's sports in the States, with a season running from fall to spring like the European calendar.

In a social media post, Reese said that she’s "grateful & blessed" to be part of the new ownership group. It’s the latest move in what has been a whirlwind spring for Reese, which included getting drafted, attending the Met Gala, signing a new partnership with Good American, and debuting with the Chicago Sky, among other achievements.

"Looking forward to creating new opportunities for women in professional soccer," she tweeted. "I’ve always had to desire to invest in a local team as a Maryland native!"

Reese is the latest female athlete to buy into a women’s sports team, joining the likes of Naomi Osaka, who owns a stake in the North Carolina Courage, and Serena Williams, who's part-owner of Angel City FC. 

Other pro athletes involved in women's sports team ownership include Patrick Mahomes, who shares ownership responsibilities of the Kansas City Current with his wife Brittany. Kevin Durant and Eli Manning are part-owners of Gotham FC, while NFL superstar Tom Brady is part-owner of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

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