The Arkansas Razorbacks were demolished on the glass — minus-29 overall, including minus-20 in offensive rebounding that led to a minus-26 avalanche in second-chance-points — yet the Hogs battled and were plus-one on the scoreboard at 0:21 before LSU freshman Trendon Watford scored inside and made a free throw with 8.4 seconds left as the Tigers moved ahead and held on for a 79-77 home win on Wednesday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.
Arkansas had a chance to steal a road win after Watford’s three-point play, but the Hogs attempted two 3-point shots that were both blocked — the first by Isaiah Joe at :03 and the second by Desi Sills as time expired. The teams traded the lead eight times in the final 5:27 of the game.
Arkansas (12-2, 1-1 SEC) failed to match its best start to a season through the first 14 games in 15 years (the 2004-05 Hoop Hogs started 13-1). The Razorbacks — ranked NCAA NET No. 21 coming into the game — fell to 2-2 in true road games and 3-2 in all games played away from Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Defending league-champion LSU (10-4, 2-0 SEC, NCAA NET No. 28 coming into the game) avenged last season’s home loss to Arkansas, a 90-89 Hogs’ upset win on Feb. 2, 2019, over the then-19th-ranked Tigers at the PMAC. LSU has now won 18 of its last 20 regular-season SEC games.
“Just more physical than us,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said of LSU’s dominance inside. “You know we went with a five-guard lineup, it was our best lineup rebounding the ball … I’ve never been part of a game where it’s 26-0 in second-chance-points, and we could have won the game. Their plays absolutely did not hurt us one bit, it was free throws attempted and rebounds.
“I’ve never been a part of a game like that in my life.”
LSU outrebounded Arkansas 53-24, including a 23-3 advantage on the offensive glass. The Tigers outscored the Hogs 26-0 in second-chance-points, and they won points-in-the-paint 34-24. In addition to owning the boards and the paint, LSU shot 10 more free throws than Arkansas as the Tigers converted 21-of-28 for 75.0% compared to the Hogs’ 17-of-18 effort for 94.4%.
Arkansas shot 26-of-58 field goals (44.8%), including 8-of-25 from 3 (32.0%), while LSU was 27-of-66 from the field (40.9%), including 4-of-15 from 3 (26.7%). The Hogs were plus-6 in turnovers (13-7), which translated to a 15-10 edge in points-off-turnovers. The Hogs also held an 8-1 advantage in steals.
Junior guard Mason Jones led the Hogs with 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists before fouling out inside the final minute of the game. Senior grad-transfer Jimmy Whitt, Jr., finished with 22 points — including a go-ahead basket at :38 for a 74-73 Hogs lead — to go with 3 rebounds. Joe had 13 points — all in the second half — including an old-fashioned three-point play on a lay-in and free throw with 21 seconds remaining that gave Arkansas a 77-76 lead.
Watford led LSU with 21 points and 9 rebounds. Senior guard Skylar Mays had 19 points and 4 rebounds. Sophomore forward Darius Days finished with 16 points and 16 rebounds. Sophomore guard Javonte Smart had 10 points and 5 rebounds.
LSU erased a 40-37 halftime deficit with a 14-4 run to start the second half for a 51-44 lead. Trailing 54-47, Arkansas answered with an 11-4 surge to tie that game at 58-all on a Joe steal and lay-in at 11:17. The Hogs trailed by four, 69-65, when Joe hit a triple and made two free throws to give Arkansas the lead back at 70-69 at the 5:27 mark.
The lead went back and forth from there until Watford’s game-winning three-point play.
In the first half, LSU led 24-23 when Arkansas sprang a 12-0 run that was capped by a deep 3-pointer by Jones for a 35-24 Hogs’ lead at the 4:05 mark. Jones had 7 points and senior forward Adrio Bailey had 5 in the surge.
The Tigers answered as Days made two 3-pointers as the catalyst to a 13-5 LSU run to close the half with Arkansas leading 40-37. The run included a 3-of-4 free-throw possession that was the result of a common foul followed by a technical foul on Arkansas sophomore Reggie Chaney, which gave him 4 first-half fouls. And Joe played only 10 scoreless first-half minutes due to foul trouble.
Jones had 15 points, Whitt 12, and Bailey 8 in the first half as Arkansas shot 16-of-31 from the field for 51.6%, including 5-of-13 from 3 for 38.5%. Arkansas was 3-of-3 from the free-throw line. The Hogs’ defense limited a good field-goal shooting LSU team (the Tigers came in at 49.9% on the season) to just 13-of-33 for 39.4%, including 3-of-10 from 3 for 30.0%. The Tigers were 8-of-12 from the foul line for 66.7%.
LSU dominated the rebounding department in the opening 20 minutes (25-13, including 10-0 on the offensive glass for an 11-0 advantage in second-chance-points). Arkansas won the turnover battle (6-3) as well as points-off-turnovers (9-4).
The Razorbacks are back on the road for an SEC game at Ole Miss on Saturday, Jan. 11. The Hogs will then return home for games against Vanderbilt on Wednesday, Jan. 15, and Kentucky on Saturday, Jan. 18.