March 25, 2023 

‘Put the team on your back’: How Alexis Morris lifted LSU to the Elite Eight

Nearing the end of a tumultuous career, Morris is now the leader in LSU's locker room

GREENVILLE, S.C. — This is LSU guard Alexis Morris‘ fifth year, fourth school and second Kim Mulkey program of her college basketball career. And when her team blew a 17-point lead against Tennessee at the SEC Tournament, Morris immediately drew on her veteran wisdom.

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“[My teammates] probably won’t like me for the next week,” Morris told reporters. “That’s because I have the experience, I am proven, and I feel like I am one of the players who can make my team a better team.”

On Friday, Morris proved who she is to the Tigers. Down 63-62 to Utah with just 15 seconds left and a trip to the Elite Eight on the line, Morris grabbed the offensive rebound after a missed layup by forward Angel Reese.

“Man, probably the first one all year,” Morris joked about her offensive board. “I looked at it for a little bit and I was like, ‘Oh, snap out of it! Get the ball!’”

Immediately fouled, Morris stepped up to the line and made both free throws. She said that being clutch is all about “having no fear.”

“I had no doubts she was going to make them,” freshman Sa’Myah Smith said, a sentiment that her teammates echoed.

Seconds later, after Utah failed to make its own pair of free throws, Morris’ trip to the stripe won LSU the game. It will be LSU’s first Elite Eight since 2008 and Morris’ first in her career.

After the LSU coaching staff started to pump up the crowd in the final seconds, Tigers fans’ screams and cheers filled the building; Mulkey’s grandchildren greeted her on the floor; and a program that has overachieved after a drought of success, influx of transfers and weak non-conference schedule celebrated.

Morris was largely in position to get that crucial offensive rebound because of LSU’s foul trouble. By the end of the game, LSU starters Reese, Flau’jae Johnson and Kateri Poole had all fouled out. Alongside Morris, fifth-year senior LaDazhia Williams stepped up with a season-high 24 points in one of the most dominant and vocal performances her teammates have ever seen from her.

And beyond being flexible for her team, Morris’ had to make her game flexible. Morris shot only 4-for-14 from the field but contributed a crucial offensive board, seven assists and solid defense.

“We lost to Tennessee; we gave up the 17-point game. We felt that embarrassment, that shame. We kind of just laid down … How can we be considered one of the best teams performing, giving those type of games away?” Morris said. “We’ve given a lot of credit to our defense. In the games we pretty much haven’t shot the ball well, but our defense has carried us along the way. I can’t wait until we wake up and play a complete game. It’s gonna be scary.”

After going through ups and downs in her career, including being released from Mulkey’s Baylor program in her freshman year, Morris is now a formidable veteran in the Tigers’ locker room. Over the past few weeks, she’s constantly emphasized the little things to her teammates, making sure they are playing meticulously.

“I don’t know if they don’t like me or they like me or they love me. But I know they love winning,” Morris said.

Morris also has a silly side to her; her teammates even say “strange.” After the team’s win over Utah, she and Reese joked in the locker room about honey mustard.

Based on the chorus of opinions in the locker room, Morris’ leadership lifts all tides.

“She pushes us really hard. She gets on us all the time. She sees the game. As a point guard, you see the game differently … I’m super proud of her,” Reese said postgame. “I mean, we don’t have her next year … I don’t want to let her down.”

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After the game, the team beamed with joy and relief that its ride was not over. And for Morris, each March Madness game means even more because she knows it’s not her time to go home. Morris has been outspoken that she doesn’t want her Senior Night to be the one in Baton Rouge; she wants it to be in Dallas, the site of the Final Four, her home state, and where started her college career.

“I complimented them in the locker room afterwards. … Seniors. I can’t describe it to you,” Mulkey said to reporters. “They don’t want to take that jersey off for the last time. It’s the worst feeling in the world. That includes those that get to play pro ball.”

During her Morris’ first year of college basketball, when she played for Mulkey at Baylor, the Bears made the Sweet 16. And now, in her final year, the Tigers advance beyond that, to the Elite Eight.

As the Tigers try to dance to Dallas, Morris’ Texas roots were on display. Morris’ mother, Sharonne Wilson-Morris, who also played college ball, called to her daughter from the stands throughout the game. And although it was clear someone in the crowd had Morris’ attention, the two communicated in back-and-forths only a mother and daughter can understand. At the end of the game, Morris immediately came to the sidelines to show her mother her appreciation.

“She was telling me, ‘Come on, put them on your back. Wake up, put the team on your back. Let’s go. Get to running,’” Morris said. “She’s happy now. I told her I loved after the game. She’s probably not happy with all those missed shots, but I know she’s happy with the win.”

Written by Gabriella Lewis

Gabriella is The Next's Atlanta Dream and SEC beat reporter. She is a Bay Area native currently studying at Emory University.

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