Angel Reese will return to the lineup for LSU basketball after a four-game absence, head coach Kim Mulkey announced Wednesday.

The star senior last appeared on the court on Nov. 14. She played 14 minutes in the first half of the Tigers’ 109-79 win over Kent State, but she did not play at all in the second half due to what Mulkey called a “coach’s decision.”

She missed LSU’s next four games. Mulkey provided few details on Reese’s absence, though she did allude to “locker room issues” on Nov. 20.

“You always have to deal with locker room issues,” Mulkey said. “That’s just part of coaching. In 40 years, I can never think of a time where I didn’t have to deal with issues. That’s what coaches do. Sometimes y’all know about it and sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you want to know more than you’re entitled to know.

“I’m going to protect my players, always. They are more important. It’s like a family. If you do some disciplining of your own children, do you think we’re entitled to know that? That’s a family in that locker room.”

Mulkey remained similarly tight-lipped even as she revealed Reese’s return. She declined to disclose how long she has been practicing with the team, only saying: “It doesn’t matter. Angel is back, and we are happy, happy, happy.”

Reese returns just in time for No. 7 LSU’s game against No. 9 Virginia Tech, which is set to tip off at 9 p.m. ET Thursday on ESPN. The Tigers beat the Hokies, 79-72, in the 2023 Final Four en route to their first title in program history.

Yet while LSU will have Reese, they will be without sophomore forward Sa’Myah Smith, who will miss the rest of the season with tears to the ACL, MCL and meniscus in her right knee. Junior guard Kateri Poole also remains out for the Tigers. Poole has missed three games in a row, though the reason for her absence has not been disclosed.

Senior guard Hailey Van Lith is available for the game, but she is dealing with a foot injury, Mulkey said. The injury is one Van Lith has had for several years, but she aggravated it in LSU’s win over Virginia on Nov. 25.

No. 3 Iowa’s basketball phenom Caitlin Clark stunned No. 8 Virginia Tech, dropping 44 points en route to a 80-76 win Thursday night for the Hawkeyes. 

Clark clocked her ninth career 40-point game, which moved her into a tie with former Missouri State star Jackie Stiles for the most in Division I basketball, women’s and men’s, over the last 25 seasons. 

Clark was borderline unguardable for the Hokies, sinking 3-pointers, hooking layups and drawing fouls to collect her 44 points.

“Sometimes you’re playing checkers and she’s playing chess,” Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks said. “She’s that good.”

Clark shot 13-31 from the field and 13-17 from the free-throw line. Clark also pulled down eight rebounds and assisted on six buckets.

Her play even garnered praise from a fellow guard, Virginia Tech’s Georgia Amoore. Clark and Amoore traded 3-pointers back and forth during the fourth quarter of the close game.

“She’s literally been gifted by every God you can imagine. She’s insane… She’s a generational talent,” Amoore told WUNC’s Mitchell Northam

Even at away games, Clark draws an unprecedented audience. According to the Associated Press, more than 15,000 people attended the matchup between the Hawkeyes and the Hokies, and other away teams have seen their attendance spike when Clark is in town. She’s already driving up ticket sales for Iowa games this season.

And on Thursday, the audience drawn in by Clark got the show they wanted to see.

“It seems like there are a lot of people that are just fans of our game, whether it is Iowa fans or Virginia Tech fans or just people that are here to support women’s basketball,” Clark told AP. “And that is why this game was put on is because they understand how great women’s basketball is and how much it is growing.”

Ashley Owusu has found a new home with Penn State women’s basketball, the Nittany Lions announced Thursday night.

This marks Owusu’s second transfer in two seasons. The 6-0 guard transferred to Virginia Tech from Maryland last offseason, but her season with the Hokies soured after she injured her pinkie finger in December. While she started the first seven games of the season, she played sparingly after she made her return from injury in January, and she did not play at all in the postseason.

After a social media spat with her Virginia Tech teammates during the Hokies’ Final Four loss, Owusu re-entered the transfer portal. She has one year of COVID-19 eligibility remaining.

Despite her winding road to Virginia Tech, she brings top-tier skills with her to Penn State. In three seasons at Maryland, Owusu was named All-Big Ten three times and was the recipient of the 2021 Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, recognizing the best shooting guard in women’s college basketball.

Across all four seasons of her career, she has averaged 13.1 points, 4.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game.

“We are thrilled to add Ashley to our Penn State family,” Penn State head coach Carolyn Kieger said in a statement. “She is a game-changing player who has excelled at the highest level, especially in the Big Ten Conference.”

When choosing her transfer destination, Owusu found herself impressed by the Nittany Lions’ team atmosphere.

“I chose Penn State because of how welcoming and genuine the coaches and girls were,” she said in a statement. “I wanted to be around people that have the same goals as me, and I know that my teammates and I are going to accomplish big things this season.”

Ashley Owusu is keeping her skills sharp, as she showed off in a social media video posted Saturday.

The highlight reel shows the high-profile transfer in a gym practicing her dribbling and shooting. Her slick ball-handling is grabbing attention — and fueling speculation about her next destination.

Owusu transferred to Virginia Tech from Maryland last offseason, but her season with the Hokies soured after she injured her pinkie finger in December. While she started the first seven games of the season before the injury, she played sparingly after she made her return in January, and she did not play at all in the postseason.

After a social media spat with her Virginia Tech teammates during the Hokies’ Final Four loss, Owusu re-entered the transfer portal. The 6-0 guard has one year of COVID-19 eligibility remaining.

Longtime NBA player Jamal Crawford complimented Owusu’s latest video, as did WNBA free agent Te’a Cooper, who said Owusu looked “so tough.”

Former Maryland teammate Angel Reese, who transferred to LSU last offseason and then led the Tigers to the national championship, also applauded Owusu’s video.

“This bout to be so scaryyyy,” Reese tweeted.

Could the pair be headed for a reunion at LSU? While it’s possible, Owusu is remaining mum on the subject.

The day before the video dropped, Owusu tweeted: “It feels so good to be back in the gym.” In the replies, someone asked her to drop details of her next stop, to which she replied with laughing emojis.

In three seasons at Maryland before transferring to Virginia Tech, Owusu was named All-Big Ten three times and was the recipient of the 2021 Ann Meyers Drysdale Award, recognizing the best shooting guard in women’s college basketball.

Ashley Owusu has entered the transfer portal, Virginia Tech confirmed to ESPN on Tuesday. 

The former Maryland standout spent the last season at Virginia Tech, but she found herself confined to the bench for the entire postseason.

When Owusu came to the Hokies as one of the top transfers last offseason, she was expected to feature heavily in the lineup. She won the Ann Meyers Drysdale award as the nation’s top shooting guard as a sophomore, and then she averaged 14.3 points per game as a junior.

But a broken pinkie sidelined the 6-0 senior guard in December, and while she returned to the court in January, her role was diminished. Owusu appeared in 17 games total, averaging 5.1 points in 15.1 minutes per game. 

“It’s been kind of up and down, especially with the injury and then coming back, and then not really being able to play,” she told The Next in early March. “Just staying confident within myself and just staying ready.”

But Owusu never appeared in the postseason, which included a Final Four run for Virginia Tech. 

Her relationships with her teammates appeared to be fraught with tension, which came to the surface after Virginia Tech’s Final Four loss to LSU. Owusu disappeared from the bench after halftime, and her teammates shaded her on social media following the loss.

While Owusu was a senior this season, she has one year of COVID-19 eligibility remaining.

Ashley Owusu came to the Virginia Tech women’s basketball team as a star transfer. But almost a year after she entered the portal, her season ended in infighting with her Hokies teammates and with Owusu reentering the transfer portal.

How did the once-promising partnership reach the breaking point? Just Women’s Sports presents a timeline of Owusu’s year with Virginia Tech, from her transfer announcement to the social media stir after Friday night’s Final Four loss to LSU.

April 5, 2022

The 6-0 guard announced via Twitter her decision to leave Maryland after three seasons.

“Unfortunately, events that have transpired on and off the court this year have led me to the very difficult but necessary decision to continue my education and basketball career elsewhere,” she wrote.

After her sophomore season with the Terrapins, she won the Ann Meyers Drysdale award as the top shooting guard in the country, which Iowa’s Caitlin Clark has won this season. In her junior season, she averaged 14.3 points and 3.7 assists per game. But she elected to spend her senior season elsewhere.

April 30, 2022

“Wassup Hokie Nation,” Owusu wrote in an Instagram post, revealing her destination for the 2022-23 season.

She joined Virginia Tech as one of the top transfers of the offseason. “I love it here,” she tweeted on July 3, and she echoed the same sentiment on Instagram with a video of herself practicing with her new team.

Nov. 7, 2022

In her first game for Virginia Tech, Owusu featured in the starting lineup, posted 9 points, 4 assists and 2 rebounds in 28 minutes in a 101-45 win against Mount St. Mary’s.

Nov. 27, 2022

The senior guard scored a season-high 21 points in 26 minutes in Virginia Tech’s 89-28 win against Longwood.

Dec. 1, 2022

Owusu broke her pinkie finger in the first quarter of the Hokies’ 85-54 win against Nebraska. She had started the first seven games of the year for her new squad, but the injury and subsequent surgery kept her out of the lineup for the next seven weeks.

“Very unselfish — she never really tried to go outside of what we were doing, just trying to figure it out,” Virginia Tech coach Kenny Brooks told ESPN in December following the injury. “She had some games where she was a little bit in a lull because she was trying to figure it out, and then you kind of see — unfortunately for us — right before she got hurt, she was starting to figure it out.

“I thought she was going to get on a roll and then she gets hurt.”

Jan. 19, 2023

In her first game back from her injury, Owusu played 21 minutes of the bench, scoring 5 points on 2-for-8 shooting. She did not play as many as 20 minutes again for the rest of the season.

Feb. 26, 2023

In Virginia Tech’s regular-season finale, a 65-52 win against Georgia Tech, Owusu played just five minutes and did not score. She would not play again for the Hokies, remaining on the bench for the entire postseason.

Two days before this game, she tweeted “freee meee” in response to a video of her playing for Maryland.

March 3, 2023

The Hokies played their first game of the ACC Tournament, but Owusu did not appear in the 68-42 win against Miami. When asked after the game what she needs to do to get back on the court, she redirected the question to Brooks.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “You’ll have to ask him.”

Virginia Tech went on to win the tournament title, but Owusu did not play in any of the three games.

Brooks told The Roanoke Times that his team found its identity while Owusu was working her way back from injury.

“Everybody can just look and see and tell that we’ve got things going in a tremendous direction,” Brooks said. “[The injury] was an unfair situation — not only for her but for us because it usually takes transfers a little while to get used to your system. And the time they’re usually getting used to it, she was out.

“During that time, we formed a different identity — one that probably would’ve been different if she were healthy and playing.”

March 31, 2023

No. 1 seed Virginia Tech made a historic run to the first Final Four in school history. During the semifinal contest, a fierce battle with No. 3 seed LSU, Owusu sat on the bench with her team in the first half but did not return to the bench after halftime in the eventual loss.

The team said Owusu “was not feeling well,” The Next’s Mitchell Northam reported. But in response to a tweet asking after Owusu’s whereabouts, teammate Kayana Traylor tweeted, “hmm idk check the lsu bench.” Traylor’s post was retweeted by several teammates, including Elizabeth Kitley and Taylor Soule.

Ashley’s father Emmanuel Owusu responded to Traylor’s tweet, writing: “Maybe you should the truth about how he hasn’t spoken to several kids in the team for months. How about the special group chat the coach has with 7 of the kids.”

Owusu’s former Maryland teammate Angel Reese, who now stars for LSU, tweeted after the game, “FREE MY DAWG @Ashleyyowusu15,” to which Virginia Tech guard Cayla King replied, “She’s been free.”

Brooks and his players were not asked about the apparent tension between Owusu and her teammates at the postgame press conference, though simmering tempers seemed to boil over on Twitter in the aftermath of the loss.

April 4, 2023

Owusu entered the transfer portal after the end of the season, Virginia Tech confirmed to ESPN. She has one year of COVID-19 eligibility remaining.

Her decision to enter the portal represents a reversal from her stance in early March, when she told The Next she planned to go pro rather than return for a fifth year.

As Virginia Tech has made its historic run to the Final Four, high-profile transfer Ashley Owusu has been nowhere to be found.

The former Maryland standout played in the team’s first eight games of the season before missing time with a broken pinkie finger. Yet even after her return, she has struggled to crack the lineup. While she is “staying ready,” Owusu has not played since Feb. 26.

Following the Hokies’ run to their first ACC tournament championship, during which Owusu did not see any minutes, coach Kenny Brooks told The Roanoke Times that his team found its identity while Owusu was working her way back from injury.

“Everybody can just look and see and tell that we’ve got things going in a tremendous direction,” Brooks said. “[The injury] was an unfair situation — not only for her but for us because it usually takes transfers a little while to get used to your system. And the time they’re usually getting used to it, she was out.

“During that time, we formed a different identity — one that probably would’ve been different if she were healthy and playing throughout the month of December and January because … she would have been incorporated into the system. But she’s a different type player and we had to form a different identity.”

By the time that Owusu was ready to return, Brooks said that the team was in “the middle of a heated race” in the ACC. There wasn’t room to try and “reinvent ourselves,” he said, and with others playing well it was difficult to try and find her a place.

“I know she’s frustrated, but my job is to make sure that we’re winning,” he said. “And we are. Our goal was to win the ACC championship. We accomplished that. Our next goal’s to advance as far as we can in the NCAA Tournament. Ultimately, we have to go with what we feel like is the best for our team. And ultimately, it worked.”

And as Virginia Tech has made the first Final Four run in school history, Brooks hasn’t messed with what’s worked for his team, which leaves Owusu riding the bench.

Ahead of the Final Four, Brooks talked with reporters about getting his players to buy into the program.

“I mean, it’s kind of like being a parent. You tell your kids if they act the right way, good things will happen to them. Same thing in recruiting,” he said. “Elizabeth Kitley took a blind leap of faith. Georgia Amoore took a blind leap of faith and trusted in me that if they did the things I told them to do, that everything would come to fruition. For me it’s exciting to watch them experience it.”

He knew the team “had the talent” to reach this point all they way back in the summer leading up to the season.

“They weren’t a cohesive unit during the summer, but we knew we had the makings of it just because we had so many mature kids,” he said. “And then really we hit our stride obviously with the winning streak, but when we lost to Duke, we learned a lot about ourselves. There was no yelling in the locker room after that game. I told the kids, let this sting. We’ll get another opportunity to play them, and I said, don’t let it bother us. Let it kick us forward.

“From that moment, the look in their eyes, they’ve been pure professionals. They’ve gone out, everyone understands their role and they’ve done them and they’ve starred in their roles.”

Reaching the first Final Four in school history required buy-in at Virginia Tech. With a coach like Kenny Brooks, that wasn’t a hard sell.

“It means everything. It’s exactly what I came for, honestly,” senior guard Kayana Traylor said after Monday’s Elite Eight win over Ohio State. “We just really bought into what Coach Brooks was already building here, to be honest, as far as culture and everything like that and just led us here.”

Senior forward D’Asia Gregg echoed those sentiments, saying that she “wanted to be a part of something that’s big.”

“I saw what he was building. I just bought into the program,” Gregg said, noting that while she didn’t play her first year, she didn’t let that deter her. “I just kept my head down, just kept working, didn’t let that discourage me. It just pushed me to go harder and to play for my teammates.”

Brooks came to Virginia Tech in 2016. In his seventh season, he has turned the program into a powerhouse.

“The places that he’s taken [the program] compared to where it was at when he inherited it is just insane,” star senior center Elizabeth Kitley said. “I’m just so happy to be a part of that and to be able to witness all the hard work that he puts into us and the coaching staff and everything.

“He just has crafted everything and stuck by his vision and what he wanted no matter what other people had to say or whatever and I think that’s so valuable in a leader and we wouldn’t be where we are without that mindset from him.”

The decision to leave James Madison, Brooks’ alma mater and the team he coached from 2003 to 2016, was difficult. But he knew he needed to see what he could do “against the best,” he said.

And in the seven seasons since he arrived in Blacksburg, Brooks has brought the Hokies to new heights.

The love that fans and players have for the coach is palpable, as evidenced by the cheers for Brooks as he cut down the net. He’s also received support from fellow coaches, including Dawn Staley, as one of the few Black men coaching in the women’s game.

“When Dawn said that, it was everything. It meant everything because there’s some rhetoric out there that men don’t belong,” Brooks said. “I think we fought so hard to get to this point where we’re not talking about race, we’re not talking about gender, and when people won’t give you an opportunity because of your race, I don’t think that we’ve gotten where we need to get to.

“So I did hear that and when I heard it, I mean, I wanted to stand up and applaud her because she is the face of women’s basketball right now. For her to be able to say that, it gives me credence, it gives me credibility that I can echo the same sentiment because I do think — and eventually what we want to get to in a women’s game is to get the best people.”

South Carolina is the clear choice for the top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. After that, the battle for the No. 1 seeds gets considerably murkier.

Stanford and Indiana exposed cracks in their cases during their conference tournaments, while other teams climbed their way into the conversation. Which teams could land on the No. 1 line come Selection Sunday this weekend?

Cases for six contenders are presented below in alphabetical order. Check out Just Women’s Sports writer Eden Laase’s projected bracket for her best guess at the No. 1 seeds.

Indiana (27-3)

Despite ending the regular season with a loss to Iowa and then falling to Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinals, the Hoosiers might have the best argument for a No. 1 seed of any team on this list.

Their consistency in one of the toughest conferences stands out from the pack. They have a No. 5 NET ranking, and a five-point loss to Michigan State in December is the only blemish on their résumé.

Iowa (26-6)

If the selection committee gives more weight to recent form than to overall body of work, then the Hawkeyes could find themselves with a No. 1 seed.

While Iowa lost to Kansas State early in the season, its other nonconference losses (UConn and NC State) are not major knocks against the Hawkeyes. The team has peaked in the last two weeks with a buzzer-beating win over Indiana to close out the regular season followed by a Big Ten Tournament title. And Caitlin Clark’s star power will shine brightly in the NCAA Tournament field.

Stanford (28-5)

The Cardinal rank fourth in the NET and third in strength of schedule. So, even though their loss to UCLA in the Pac-12 semifinals hurts, they still would look at home on the top line.

Stanford has wins against Utah, UCLA and Arizona, plus the team gave South Carolina its toughest battle all season in a 76-71 overtime loss back in November.

UConn (28-5)

Before the Big East tournament, even UConn coach Geno Auriemma had doubts about his team’s postseason chances. But the Huskies have found a new life in March, helped by the return of Azzi Fudd, which makes them as dangerous as ever heading into March Madness.

Utah (25-4)

After a win over Stanford late in the regular season, Utah could have locked up a No. 1 seed with a strong Pac-12 tournament. But even after losing to Washington State, which went on to take the title, the Utes still have an impressive résumé, including wins over Arizona and Oklahoma.

Virginia Tech (27-4)

Did the Hokies’ ACC tournament title run make believers out of the selection committee? We’ll find out Sunday, but their 10-2 record against Quad 1 teams should impress.

Virginia Tech has not lost since dropping a road game to Duke back on Jan. 26, though its strength of schedule (No. 31) and NET ranking (No. 9) could put a dent in the team’s chances.

Ashley Owusu made a splash when she transferred to Virginia Tech from Maryland in the offseason. Yet the star senior has barely made a ripple for the Hokies in the latter half of the season, and she did not play at all during their ACC Tournament title run.

When asked during the tournament what she needs to do to get back on the court for No. 4 Virginia Tech (27-4), she redirected the question to coach Kenny Brooks.

“I’m not sure,” she said. “You’ll have to ask [Brooks].”

While Owusu started the year as part of the starting lineup for the Hokies, she broke her pinkie finger in early December. Since her return on Jan. 19, she has been coming off the bench — and in four of the last five games, she has not played at all, including in the team’s three conference tournament wins.

“Trying to get back on the court, trying to get back in,” she said after Virginia Tech’s tournament-opening 68-42 win Friday against Miami.

The senior guard has not played more than eight minutes in a game since the start of February and has played just 28 minutes total.

Brooks spoke in mid-February of the difficulty of working Owusu into the rotation while also managing other players’ minutes, particularly against a tough stretch of opponents. But Owusu does not seem entirely happy with the situation; a week before the ACC Tournament, she tweeted “freee meee” in response to a video of her playing for Maryland.

Still, as she waits on the bench for the projected No. 1 seed, she is doing her best to prepare, she said Friday.

“Just staying confident, just staying ready,” she said.