Alexis Morris: LSU to punish Iowa's 'disrespectful' defense

DALLAS -- LSU guard Alexis Morris said Saturday she thought it was "disrespectful" the way the Iowa Hawkeyes dared the South Carolina guards to make their shots in Iowa's Final Four victory, saying the Hawkeyes would have to play the Tigers differently in the national championship game.

Iowa decided to shut down the paint in its 77-73 upset win over the No. 1 Gamecocks, and the plan worked. In particular, the Hawkeyes focused on letting point guard Raven Johnson try and beat them. In one clip that has made its way around social media, Iowa's Caitlin Clark is seen disregarding Johnson with a flick of her wrist and stepping back -- essentially leaving Johnson completely unguarded.

"I watched the game, and I'm watching them guard South Carolina. I don't think they can guard us that way," Morris said. "I don't think you can just leave me open on the perimeter or leave us open on the perimeter. Me personally, I find it very disrespectful, so I'm going to take that personally going into that game. You're going to have to guard us. That's just the competitor in me, and the will to win."

Clark said the specific game plan against South Carolina was a "pick your poison" choice.

"We're not going to guard LSU the same way we guarded South Carolina," Clark said. "Obviously, with South Carolina, you've got to pick your poison. If they were going to beat us, we were going to let it be by the 3-point line. You have to pick and choose your battles. We can't guard everything. That's the game of basketball. You have a scout. You know player personnel. What are you going to give up? That's what we were going to give up. We had all the respect in the world for South Carolina, and especially their post play."

LSU is a better perimeter shooting team than South Carolina, so Iowa coach Lisa Bluder conceded, "We'll have to change things up."

But that did not stop the LSU players from using Iowa's defense in the semifinal as another source of motivation. That goes especially for Morris, who has been on the longest journey of any player in the Final Four. Morris started her career at Baylor with current LSU coach Kim Mulkey in 2017 but was dismissed from the team before the start of the 2018-19 season for what the team called a violation of team rules.

Morris had been arrested shortly before her dismissal on misdemeanor charges of allegedly assaulting another woman. She was arrested a second time a few months later and charged with marijuana possession and possession of a dangerous substance. Rutgers signed Morris, but she medically withdrew after the 2020 season. She ended up at Texas A&M before deciding to leave and ask Mulkey for another chance at LSU.

Mulkey has praised Morris for taking responsibility for her actions, but that did not happen quickly for Morris.

"I definitely blamed people, but as you grow and go through experiences in the places life takes you, that's what happens," Morris said. "You start to live in your reality and you start to accept things and you try to change yourself. At first, it wasn't easy for me to accept the mistake I made. It was also a youthful mistake because if it was who I was, I wouldn't be where I am today.

"And Coach Mulkey being the type of person she is, she wouldn't have taken me back if I was that type of person. I was an immature kid not listening, didn't understand structure, didn't understand discipline. It caught up with me at a bad time and I'm just fortunate to be back where I started."

Morris, who ranks second on the team in scoring, has been on a tear in her past two games, leading LSU in scoring in the Elite Eight game against Miami with 21 points, and leading the Tigers again with 27 points in their semifinal win over Virginia Tech on Friday. Because she has been counted out over the course of her career, Morris has been open about playing with some extra motivation.

"Being an underdog, being underrated, not getting recognition -- it keeps me hungry, and I love that feeling to be hungry and to be relentless," Morris said.

But she's not the only LSU player who noticed the way Iowa played the Gamecocks.

"That was very disrespectful, and [South Carolina] didn't take advantage of that," said fellow LSU guard Kateri Poole. "If they do it to us, we're going to take advantage."

LSU forward LaDazhia Williams nodded in agreement when asked about the way Morris has perceived the disrespect.

"We don't really know their game plan and how they're going to guard us," Williams said. "Hopefully not like that or else Lex is definitely going to knock down some 3s, Flau'jae [Johnson], Kateri, they're all capable of hitting 3s, so I would hope they wouldn't guard us like that."