FAYETTEVILLE - The change of venue nearly always helping Coach Mike Anderson’s Arkansas Razorbacks didn’t help them one bit Wednesday night.
An Arkansas first half even more dreadful than trailing Auburn by 17 at intermission in last Saturday’s 88-78 SEC loss at Auburn, Ala. Wednesday night at Walton Arena doomed the Razorbacks to trail the LSU Tigers, 41-21 at intermission en route to an embarrassing 75-54 SEC defeat, their first home loss of the season.
It marked Arkansas’ third consecutive SEC loss and lowers 11-5 overall and 1-3 SEC records before hosting Missouri in Saturday’s 5 p.m SEC game at Walton.
The LSU Tigers of first-year Coach Will Wade waltz out of Walton 11-4 overall and 2-1 in the SEC and host SEC rival Alabama Saturday in Baton Rouge, La.
“We typically play with a lot more intensity at this place here,” Anderson said. “But when you don’t make shots …”
Other than Adrio Bailey hitting one of two free throws at 19:37 for the game’s first point, the Razorbacks never led.
They were down 19-5 at 12:30 and fading fast and would trail as much as by 24 during a half when they could hit 6 of 33 from the field at 18 percent.
“First let me congratulate LSU coming in and doing what they had to do,” Anderson said. “They came in and caught us real flat. We came out and couldn’t make any baskets early on. I think we started off on the free throw line and went 1-0 and after that it just seemed like there was a lid on the basket. A lot of times our defense generates our scoring and getting back into our defense but it was one of those nights. You shoot 18 percent from the field you are going to get these kind of results.”
Arkansas shot 13 of 24 for the second half but it was too little too late, especially after LSU big man Aaron Epps, leading the Tigers with a 13 points/11 rebounds double-double, hit a bouncing high off the rim bouncing back in 3-pointer starting a 11-0 run after Arkansas cut a 21-point lead to 12.
“Epps hit a three that kind of came out and went back in,” Arkansas senior guard Jaylen Barford said. “He hit a dagger.”
Arkansas’ little comeback balloon burst before the eyes of the 11,818 that tried both halves to revive their slumping Hogs.
“We had gained some momentum and he makes a big, big shot and kind of takes the air out of the lid,” Anderson said, mimicking the sound of a tire going flat. “Before you knew it, I think we missed a shot and they go down and score again, so that 12 turns into like 15 or 17. They answered the call.”
Plenty of Tigers answered the ball with starting guard Skylar Mays and reserve guard Randy Onwuasor scoring 12 each, starting big man Duop Reath scoring 11 wth six rebounds and two shot-blocks while freshman point guard Tremont Waters, LSU’s leading scorer for the season, only scored eight yet at 5-11 played huge dishing eight assists against two turnovers and grabbing five rebounds.
“I thought Tremont did a good job of orchestrating getting everybody involved,” Anderson said.
Barford led all scorers with 17 points but required 15 shots to do it. Normally fellow high-scoring senior Arkansas guard Daryl Macon connected but 2 of 7 from the field for nine points.
“We got fortunate tonight, and it kind of snowballed” Wade said, noting the Tigers can expect Arkansas to be at peak level when they rematch Feb. 3 in Baton Rouge, La. “We played about as well as we could play. They've got two great guards (Barford and Macon)n They've got (6-11 El Dorado freshman Daniel) Gafford, who is a phenomenal big guy. And (Arkansas senior guard Anton) Beard can play. They’ve got a great team.”
Anderson stressed throughout the week the Hogs’ need to attack inside-out but it seemed his players thought they could
jump start their team with jump shots.
Their jumpers didn’t reach ignition.
They hit but 1 of 11 attempted first half treys and were shooting 2 for 11 and seemed seldom looking for Gafford while firing awry from outside.
“They were packing their defense inside and I thought we kind of settled (for jumpers), Anderson said. “I thought we could have attacked them a lot more and we did in the second half. And in that first half we had some open looks but didn’t make them.”
The stunned crowd did the best it could to rally their Hogs, erupting when Barford hit Arkansas’ lone first-half three upping Arkansas to a still huge 36-19 deficit at 3:20.
Twenty-nine seconds later the crowd slumped back to their seats with Gafford charged with his third foul.
Arkansas committed just two more miscues, 11 to 9, but was outscored, 15-6 on turnovers and 29-17 on bench points, though senior big man and Forrest City High graduate Trey Thompson, eight points and six boards, had a nice 16 minutes subbing for Gafford.
“Their bench played well for them,” Anderson said. “That was a big difference in this game.”
Officiating certainly didn’t beat Arkansas but Anderson was disgruntled by some calls and got a late second-half technical foul after Barford was called for a charge.
“I thought it was more than just that call,” Anderson said. “I thought there were a bunch of calls like that and those were momentum calls. I have no idea why I had the technical. Maybe it got personal. I don’t know.”
That technical difficulty was the least of Anderson’s many worries Wednesday night.