College Basketball

LSU’s Flau’jae Johnson defends teary Angel Reese after emotional March Madness loss: ‘Y’all don’t know her’

LSU sophomore guard Flau’jae Johnson fiercely defended her teammate Angel Reese, who became emotional while explaining being attacked by critics after the Tigers’ 94-87 loss to Iowa in the Elite Eight on Monday night, ending their hopes of a March Madness repeat.

Johnson, who led No. 3 seed LSU with 23 points, told reporters that Reese is misunderstood and villainized on a national level with the attention she gets.

“Everybody can have their opinion on Angel Reese, but y’all don’t know her,” the 20-year-old Johnson said during a postgame press conference in Albany. “Y’all don’t know Angel Reese. I know Angel Reese. I know the real Angel Reese and the person I see every day is a strong person, is a caring, loving person.”

Angel Reese, right, and Flau’jae Johnson of the LSU Tigers speak with the media after losing to the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on April 1, 2024. Getty Images

Reese, 21, wiped away tears at the podium while Johnson praised her as a leader.

“The crown she wears is heavy. She’s the type of teammate that’s going to make you believe in yourself,” the “Big 4” rapper continued. “The leap that I took from my freshman to my sophomore year, Angel gave me that confidence to go be a dog. Playing next to a dog every day. And just to see how the media ridicules her, we went through our problems but this is my sister right here and I’m so proud of her … How they like to twist it and call her the villain, y’all don’t know Angel. I’m just happy that I get to play with her, I get to be around her, her presence, her energy is different. She just makes me a better player … and that’s what great players do.”

Angel Reese right, and Flau’jae Johnson of the LSU Tigers speak with the media after losing to the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on April 1, 2024. Getty Images

LSU senior guard Hailey Van Lith went on to echo Johnson’s comments and commend Reese for her toughness while dealing with so much hate from critics.

“Y’all do not get to her. Let me say it again: Y’all do not get to Angel Reese, so you might want to give it up. Throw the towel in. Because you’re wasting your energy. Angel is one of the toughest people I’ve been around,” Van Lith said.

“Angel’s one of the toughest people I’ve been around. People speak hate into her life, I’ve never seen people wish bad things on someone as much as her. And it does not affect her. She comes to practice every day, she lives her life every day, she lives how she wants to live. And she don’t let nobody change that. And that’s the key to life right there.”

Angel Reese and Hailey Van Lith of the LSU Tigers speak with the media after losing to the Iowa Hawkeyes 94-87 in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on April 1, 2024 Getty Images

Swin Cash, a three-time WNBA champion who is currently vice president of basketball operations and team development for the New Orleans Pelicans, also shared support for Reese.

“This world can be cruel at times @Reese10Angel but you are loved & supported by many you’ve never met!” Cash wrote in a post on X early Tuesday. “You’ve got prayer warriors standing in the gap for you love. Chin up, Crown Straighten and know this too shall pass! Greater is he that is me.”

Reese recorded 17 points and 20 rebounds in 36 minutes before she fouled out with just under two minutes in the fourth quarter.

The All-American forward watched from the bench as Iowa guard Caitlin Clark scored 41 points to help the No. 1 Hawkeyes take down the reigning champion Tigers.

LSU forward Angel Reese (10) drives around Iowa forward Addison O’Grady (44) during the fourth quarter of an Elite Eight round college basketball game during the NCAA Tournament, Monday, April 1, 2024, in Albany, N.Y. AP

After the game, she became emotional while explaining how she’s dealt with national scrutiny since she led LSU to its first-ever women’s national title over Iowa last year.

“I don’t really get to stand up for myself,” Reese said while wiping away tears. “I don’t really get to speak out on things because I just ignore (them). I just try to stand strong. … I’ve been through so much. I’ve seen so much. I’ve been attacked so many times, death threats, I’ve been sexualized, I’ve been threatened, I’ve been so many things, and I’ve stood strong every single time.

“I just want them to always know, I’m still a human. All this has happened since I won the national championship, and I said the other day I haven’t (been) happy since then. And it sucks, but I still wouldn’t change. I wouldn’t change anything, and I would still sit here and say I’m unapologetically me.”

Reese rose to fame after last year’s title game and became one of the top NIL earners with a current evaluation of $1.8 million, according to On3.

Some of her NIL deals include: Raising Cane’s, Coach, McDonald’s, Wingstop, Outback Steakhouse, Campus Ink, Caktus AI, Mercedes Benz of Baton Rouge, SI Swimsuit, Mielle, Starry, Final Fantasy XVI, Amazon, Goldman Sachs, and ZOA energy.

The Baltimore native appeared in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2023 issue, which released last May.

Reese has the option to return to LSU for one more year or she can declare for the 2024 WNBA Draft, where she’s a projected first-round pick.

Per WNBA rules, players whose teams advance to the Elite Eight have after up to 48 hours after their last game to opt-in.

The WNBA draft will take place in Brooklyn on April 15.