LSU forward Angel Reese’s homecoming a rare opportunity for HBCU Coppin State

For a typical Coppin State women’s basketball game, the $15 cost of admission would guarantee plenty of space.

Maybe even your own row.

But Coppin’s Wednesday home game against LSU (6 p.m. ET, ESPN+) is anything but typical: It’s a homecoming for All-American Angel Reese, a game against the defending national champions, and an opportunity to go up against a Hall of Fame coach, Kim Mulkey. No women’s basketball team from a historically Black college or university has hosted an NCAA Division I defending national championship team, so one can expect a rare sight on the Coppin campus.

“The demand for tickets has been endless,” said Derek Carter, Coppin’s athletic director. “The last couple of weeks I’ve been reminded of a lot of friends that I, honestly, had forgotten about.”

LSU, currently ranked seventh in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, is quite the draw following the incredible 2022-23 season that culminated with players hoisting the first basketball national championship trophy in school history.

So why are the Lady Tigers, winners of 11 straight following an opening-game loss to Colorado, playing a game at a tiny HBCU in the heart of West Baltimore?

It’s all because of the All-American Reese, who was named the Sporting News Athlete of the Year (with Iowa guard Caitlin Clark) on Tuesday, and LSU’s determination to schedule a game in the city where she developed her basketball talents, Baltimore.

“It’s going to be a homecoming, a surreal moment,” Reese said during a postgame news conference over the weekend. “I’ve done a lot for Baltimore … I’m just excited to go back home. I appreciate my coaches for being able to schedule a game back home for me.”

The call that led to the game came in February.

“Someone on the LSU staff called me and she told me LSU wanted to bring Angel home, and would we be interested,” Coppin women’s basketball coach Jermaine Woods said. “It’s not every day you get a chance to get an All-American [Reese], a national championship team and a Hall of Fame coach [Kim Mulkey] to come to your building.

We hit the trifecta.”

LSU won’t be the highest-ranked women’s basketball team Coppin has hosted: Maryland was ranked No. 6 when it visited Coppin during the 2021-22 season.

Reese was the star on that Maryland team before transferring last season to LSU. That Maryland game that was sparsely attended, affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

The LSU game, played when fears of a pandemic have diminished, will be standing room only.

“Not only are we sold out, we’ll have both end zones filled with photographers, about 15 writers and a television crew,” said Steven Kramer, Coppin’s director of athletic communications. “It’s going to be the biggest crowd we’ve had here — men’s game included — since moving to the new arena in 2009.”

Coppin plans to pull out all the stops: a band, cheerleaders, and full concessions for the much-anticipated event.

This will be, in reality, a reverse money game for Coppin. Instead of chasing a check by traveling to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to play LSU, the school gets the rare chance to raise funds at home.

“I won’t get into the numbers, but the numbers for this game are good, real good,” Woods said. “We’ll get the money from tickets, we’ll make money from concessions and that will go a long way to help our recruiting budget and other things that we need.”

The matchup is also a Play4Kay game, a yearly fundraising series of games that raises money and awareness for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund (Yow, a Hall of Fame coach at North Carolina State, died from breast cancer in 2009).

Both teams, as is tradition with the game, will wear uniforms and shoes dominated by the color pink.

“I’ve been told we’re the first HBCU team to play in a Play4Kay game, and we’re honored to be involved,” Woods said. “We look forward to playing in the game helping in the raising of funds and awareness for women facing breast cancer, and other cancers.”

While it will be special to host the defending national champs and Reese on Wednesday, the task will be daunting. The Lady Tigers, following their opening game loss, have won 11 straight including a 89-point win over McNeese State 133-44, the largest margin of victory in school history.

“We don’t know any better, right?” said Woods, whose team was down to seven healthy players during Monday’s practice. “Hopefully, we can compete with them.”

Regardless of the outcome, Reese and LSU are expected to put on a show which is why the game is sold out and the after-market ticket prices on Monday were as high as $303.

“My list has 45 names, and people are still calling me because everybody wants to see LSU and Angel Reese,” Woods said. “LSU could have taken this game to anywhere in the area — Towson, Loyola, Morgan, UMBC. But they chose Coppin, in the heart of West Baltimore.

“It’s an amazing opportunity, and it’s great that we’re bringing this big spotlight to Coppin State University.”