Angel Reese, Kateri Poole not with LSU at Cayman Islands Classic

GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands -- LSU was without Angel Reese and Kateri Poole for Friday's 99-65 win over Niagara at the Cayman Islands Classic and lost Sa'Myah Smith to a right knee injury in the first quarter.

Neither Reese nor Poole accompanied the team to the Cayman Islands.

"You will know when she comes back," coach Kim Mulkey said about Reese following the game. "Obviously she's not with us."

Mulkey said she will share more about Poole's absence when the team returns to Baton Rouge.

Smith was going for a layup with 5:17 to play in the first quarter when she was fouled and fell to the floor. She was helped off the court by two LSU staff members and later returned to the bench, first with ice and then with a brace on her right knee.

She did not return to the game, and Mulkey does not expect her to be available against Virginia on Saturday.

"We'll get back and do an MRI and see about swelling," Mulkey said. "It doesn't look too good."

Smith's play had been one of the bright spots for LSU this season. Coming into the game, she was averaging 13.7 points per game, shooting 66% from the field and pulling down 8.5 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-2 sophomore forward had started six of LSU's seven games, including Friday. As a freshman, she averaged 4.6 points and 4.0 rebounds per game.

The start of Friday's game was delayed by approximately 40 minutes after a fire alarm sounded during pregame warmups. John Gray Gymnasium was evacuated, but the cause of the alarm was unclear.

Reese hasn't played for the No. 7 Tigers (6-1) since she was benched at halftime of their fourth game of the season on Nov. 14. At the time, Mulkey said it was a "coach's decision." Reese was not on the bench for LSU's wins over Southeast Louisiana and Texas Southern over the past week.

Mulkey had said Nov. 17 that Reese was still part of the team and that "we hope to see her sooner than later." The Tigers coach did not elaborate on why Reese was not playing during a postgame news conference Monday.

"You always have to deal with locker room issues," Mulkey said. "Sometimes you don't know about it. Sometimes you want to know more than you're entitled to know. I'm going to protect my players, always. They are more important."

Following the Tigers' opening loss to then-No. 20 Colorado, Mulkey shared her disappointment in some of the players -- "I thought would be tougher, have a little fight and leadership about them," she said -- though she did not name any specifically.

Reese transferred to LSU from Maryland before the 2022-23 season. She helped lead the Tigers to the program's first national championship and was named Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament.

She is averaging 17.0 points and 10.3 rebounds in four games this season. In 2022-23, she averaged 23.0 points and 15.4 rebounds per game.

Poole has appeared in four games this season for LSU, averaging 12.8 minutes per game. Poole played just five minutes against Southeast Louisiana and sat out against Texas Southern. Last season, Poole appeared in 35 of 36 games for the Tigers, starting six of them and averaging 4.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 22.3 minutes per game.

The Tigers added multiple high-profile transfers in the offseason in Aneesah Morrow and Hailey Van Lith as well as the top-ranked recruiting class. Morrow led the Tigers on Friday with 28 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals and 2 blocks. Van Lith added 20 points and 7 assists.

LSU faces Virginia on Saturday before returning home and hosting No. 9 Virginia Tech on Thursday.