Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said “We were able to steal one here,” to describe his Razorback squad fighting off a late LSU rally to escape Baton Rouge with win.
LSU’s 18-point comeback fell short as the Tigers fell to Arkansas 90-89.
It was a packed house and a sellout crowd in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center Saturday night when the Razorbacks (12-8, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) came to town looking to avenge their previous loss at home to the Tigers, who were undefeated in conference play and at home this season.
In a game that went back forth at the end, it did not look that way during some stretches.
The inability to hit shots from three has been a common theme for LSU as of late. It almost got them in Missouri if not for an improbable miracle 14-point comeback that forced overtime in a game the Tigers eventually pulled out, but it finally caught back up to them tonight as they shot 20.8 percent as a team from behind the arc.
LSU picked the wrong night to go cold from three as Arkansas shot an impressive 54.2 percent from three.
“Arkansas, give them credit,” said LSU coach Will Wade. “They played tremendously. They played harder than we did — I thought — for a majority of the game.”
Arkansas sophomore forward Daniel Gafford controlled the first half by scoring at will down in the low-post. He ended the half with 15 points that led all scorers, shot 7-of-8 from the field, and played nearly 18 minutes. He played a huge role into giving the Razorbacks a 45-41 lead at halftime.
The second half was a different story from the jump. After dominating the first half, Gafford got into foul trouble early and accumulated his third personal foul before the 16 minute mark and had to sit.
What appeared to finally be a break for LSU quickly turned sour as Arkansas freshman guard Isaiah Joe took over most of the scoring load. The freshman helped the Razorbacks build an 18-point lead over LSU by the 13:45 mark left in the half.
LSU freshman guard Ja’Vonte Smart, sensing how desperate things were becoming for the Tigers began to pump up the crowd with his relentless play and tenacity, and was the catalyst for a run that actually pulled LSU ahead 89-88 with 2:01 left in the game.
His free-throw make that put the Tigers ahead was the last basket LSU would get in what unfolded as a hectic last two-minute frenzy. The next minute and a half saw turnovers by both teams trying to will their teams to victory but to no avail.
Finally with 22 seconds left in the game, Arkansas sophomore guard Mason Jones made a midrange jumper that put the Razorbacks back ahead 90-89.
LSU inbounded the ball without burning a timeout for their last possession with a last chance to win it.
“I probably should have called a timeout”, Wade said.
The final possession would see a missed layup by freshman forward Naz Reid and a span of LSU rebounds where just about every Tiger on the floor would get a chance to hit the game-winner. The shots never fell and it came down to a last second miracle fade-away from Reid that hit back iron as the buzzer sounded.
LSU has no time to sulk as they must correct their mistakes and hit the road again in the Southeastern Conference grind as they go to Starkville this Wednesday to face a ranked Mississippi State team at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.