March 30, 2024 

How LSU and UCLA are preparing for a battle of dominant centers

Angel Reese and Lauren Betts will match up in the Sweet 16 on Saturday

ALBANY, N.Y. — Lauren Betts of UCLA and Angel Reese of LSU are both unstoppable rebounding forces, prolific scorers and centerpoints of their team’s offenses. But the two centers’ major differences may be the deciding factors when their teams meet in the Sweet 16 on Saturday. 

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Betts shoots an extraordinary 65% from the floor, with a shot chart that barely extends to the 3-point line. She’s scoring predominantly on back-to-the-basket post-ups, putbacks from teammates’ misses and lobs to an arm stretched above her 6’7 frame.

Reese shoots almost 20 percentage points lower than Betts but often gets her own board before putting it back in — to the tune of 13.2 rebounds per game. She’s scoring 18.7 points per game and getting to the line 8.1 times per game. Betts is only there 3.5 times per game.

Through the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, LSU has gotten to the line 51 more times total than its opponents.  

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When asked about LSU’s preparation to take on Betts, head coach Kim Mulkey told reporters on Friday, “Angel has guarded [South Carolina center Kamilla] Cardoso numerous times in the SEC. That will help. They’re two different kinds of players in a lot of ways, but the height [is] obviously a big common deal.” 

She added, “[Betts is] pretty young, and she’s got good guard play around her to where when she gets double-teamed or gets in trouble down there, she’s got outlets and people to throw it to. She’s very skilled. I could give you a million great things about that young lady. I recruited her out of high school and she’s just good. She’s just really good.” 

Reese mentioned her time and familiarity with Betts on Team USA as an asset in her favor. The two played on the AmeriCup team together last summer (along with UCLA guard Charisma Osborne). Reese told reporters, “She’s a really skilled post player. … Being able to bring them out of the paint and just use any speed and quickness around them I think is going to be my advantage.”

And, perhaps unsurprisingly, Reese said that matching up against larger posts tends to fire her up. The key for her? Staying out of foul trouble. 

When asked about going against Reese, Betts shared similar sentiments. “Not falling into foul trouble I think is super important in this game, obviously, because Angel is going to try to obviously go through me this game, and I think just making sure that I stay disciplined in my defense,” she told reporters. “… Not letting her get [offensive] boards I think is super important.” 

Notably, Betts has the challenge of going up against not only Reese, but also forward Aneesah Morrow, who has hurt teams all season long with her versatility, motor and scoring. 

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Both teams mentioned LSU’s games against South Carolina as preparation for this matchup. For UCLA head coach Cori Close, watching how South Carolina was able to get Cardoso touches in the post has been a good learning opportunity. Close pointed out that UCLA shoots the ball 13 percentage points better on possessions where Betts gets a touch.

Both Betts and Reese are surrounded by extremely skilled guards, which Mulkey and Close were sure to mention during their press conferences. Mulkey said, “We’re not just focusing on Lauren Betts and their post play. … They’re good at all positions. They have depth coming off the bench, and probably even more productive depth than we have had of late.” 

Aggression and the response to physicality will likely be the key in this game. Close explained, “The best team, I think, the most connected team, the most purposeful team, the most aggressive team, they’re going to win. I don’t care what the letters are across the front of your chest. It’s just going to be a matter of who does it together.”

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Written by Cameron Ruby

Cameron Ruby has been a contributing writer for The Next since April 2023. She is a Bay Area native currently living in Los Angeles.

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