FAYETTEVILLE — Jimmy Whitt Jr. helped Arkansas to a big 99-90 win over LSU on Wednesday night in Bud Walton Arena.
Whitt scored 26 points, pulled down 15 rebound and dished out five assists. While teammate Mason Jones scored 36 points it was Whitt who drew the most praise from LSU head coach Will Wade following the game.
“Well, that was something,” Wade said. “But Whitt, I know Mason Jones gets a lot of the credit and he did a great job tonight scoring 36, but Whitt just controlled the game with 26, 15, 5 assists. We just, for whatever reason, we can’t guard him. We couldn’t guard him at our place, we couldn’t guard him here. He seems like, I don’t know him at all, but just watching his press conference from Monday he seems like an unbelievable kid, an unbelievable person and he deserved to go out like that on Senior Night. I wish it wouldn’t have been on us, but he was tremendous.”
When relayed the message that Wade had about him Whitt was very pleased.
“That’s a big compliment, especially with the way Mason played tonight,” Whitt said. “It’s one of those things, where I just come out there and do what I can. Especially on a day like this. I wanted to win mostly for Adrio (Bailey), because he spent four years here. He gave all he could day in and day out to the program. I was here my freshmen year, left and came back. So for me I just really wanted Adrio to go out on a win.”
Eric Musselman also had praise for Whitt following the game.
“I thought the biggest thing with Jimmy was his defensive rebounding,” Musselman said. “To come in the game against an awesome defensive rebounding team with great length and athleticism and to think he’s going to have 14 defensive rebounds. Man, I don’t know if we had 14 defensive rebounds in the entire last game that we played LSU. I thought he was focused. That’s what we talked about. We did a million boxout drills. We had four guys blocking out eight people in a circle drill we do from a defensive rebounding standpoint and he took it to heart.”
Whitt was asked what exactly it meant having a game like that on Senior Night?
“It was a pretty special moment for me for sure,” Whitt said. “Just thinking about my whole journey and then coming back and just being able to play like that. A win against a real quality team. I couldn’t write it any better.”
Arkansas is now 19-11 overall and 7-10 in the SEC. While the Georgia loss no doubt hurt Arkansas’ chances to get into the NCAA Tournament, did this win maybe get you back at least on the bubble?
“We’ve got to take it one game at a time,” Whitt said. “And we can’t get that Georgia game back. Before this game, Coach talked to us about just trying to flush that game. It’s a new one, our last game at home. This is a big opportunity for us. I think LSU was second in the conference (tied for 2nd with Auburn). So it was a big game for us. Getting the win is huge for us going forward for sure.”
Arkansas lost to LSU 79-77 Jan. 8 in Baton Rouge. In that game, LSU dominated the boards. Tonight, LSU only outrebounded the Razorbacks by five, 40-35. Whitt was determined not to let the Hogs get dominated on the boards.
“It’s a mindset,” Whitt said. “Coming into the game that was our main focus. It wasn’t offense, it wasn’t really guarding. We felt like we guarded good the first game. Obviously, rebounding was the biggest key, so all week we’ve been practicing rebounding drills. Just drilling it into our heads.
“For me, I just wanted to come out as aggressive as I could on the rebounding end. That’s one of the reasons Coach Muss brought me here in the first place. So I wanted to come out my last game in Bud and do as I could on the rebounding side of it.”
Whitt, Jeantal Cylla, Jamario Bell and Adrio Bailey were honored following the game for the Senior Day.
“I personally think it is bigger motivation because if you lose, I personally don’t want to walk out there,” Whitt said. “I know it is Senior Night and everything, but you don’t want to walk out there after a loss. So that is extra motivation for the team to send everybody off the right way. It is huge we were able to do that tonight.
“That was a big moment for me and my family, especially with my mom and dad and girlfriend being able to be out there because they have been with me through this journey. They have seen it come full circle. It is a moment that I can share with them to end my career, especially in Bud Walton is huge.”