FAYETTEVILLE - If the Arkansas Razorbacks don’t harbor a revenge motive for their next game, then it seems they never will for any game.
The LSU Tigers, 12-9 overall, 3-6 in the SEC, that Arkansas, 15-7, 4-5, faces at 2:30 p.m. today on the SEC Network at LSU’s Maravich Center in Baton Rouge, La. are the only team this basketball season at Arkansas’ Walton Arena to defeat the Razorbacks.
The Tigers didn’t just defeat Arkansas. They rubbed the Razorbacks’ nose in it start to finish of a 75-54 shocker sending an initially Hog calling full house home in silence.
“They played awfully well,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson recalled. “And we just played so bad. And that’s got to be the first thing on our guys’ minds. I thought we were flat. That’s the bottom line.”
Statistically, the bottom line still favors Arkansas, 4-2 since losing Jan. 10 at home to LSU while first-year LSU Coach Will Wade’s Tigers have fallen, 1-5 since winning at Walton.
However LSU’s win Jan. 23 in Baton Rouge was significant. A 77-65 triumph over those same Texas A&M Aggies that defeated Arkansas, 80-66 last Tuesday night at A&M’s Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.
Obviously the Razorbacks’ traditional comforts of home court advantage at Walton couldn’t prevent LSU freshman point guard Tremont Waters flowing through Arkansas’ defense like a strategic stream. Waters dished eight official assists and who knows how many “hockey assists” the not officially tabulated assisting pass to the official assister that Anderson says actually usually comprises the most pivotal pass.
Normally a prolific scorer averaging a team-leading 14.8 points, Waters only scored eight points at Walton but was so deadly with his other aspects, including five rebounds, that the Hogs might have wished he would have shot just a little better so that he wouldn’t have penetrated and passed so much.
Waters’ flow led to a big night for LSU’s senior big men. Aaron Epps, 6-10, double-downed on the Hogs with 13 points and 11 rebounds while Duop Reath, 6-10, scored 11 points with six boards and blocked two shots. LSU guards Skylar Mays and Randy Onwuasor, 12 points each, also benefitted from the table that Waters set.
What must his Hogs do to prevent a repeat in this rematch?
“We've got to do a better job of being in place,” Anderson said. “I thought our defensive help side was not every good at that point and time. Hopefully that's something we've addressed where we've gotten better at it. Knowing that the penetration is going to come, we've got to build a wall and make them kick it out to those shooters and be in position where contest those shots and rebound the basketball.”
Offensively, the Hogs were anemic against LSU. Only senior guard Jaylen Barford, a game-leading 17 points, scored double-digits against LSU at Walton. The Hogs shot just 19 of 57 from the field and 12 of 20 from the free throw line.
Arkansas senior guard Daryl Macon only hit 2 of 7 shots and scored nine against LSU. However for his last five games, four off the bench including his last three, Macon has scored 20, 13, 25, 22 and 20 points.
Barford scored 19 at A&M and freshman guard Darious Hall, starting since Macon comes off the bench, scored 13 with a perfect 6 for 6 from the field and hitting his only free throw.
Initially breaking into the lineup for his defense, Hall, a 6-6 alum of Little Rock Mills, has developed into an all-round player improving in every phase.
“He can do multiple things. He's athletic. He can rebound (a team-leading seven against Texas A&M) block shots. He does a great job of playing without the basketball.
I think he's progressed pretty nicely. He continues to get better, and that's what we expect.”
Anderson certainly expects his big men, 6-11 freshman Daniel Gafford, and seniors Trey Thompson, Dustin Thomas and Arlando Cook, swapping time as keys in Arkansas’ 15 victories, to improve on their below par Tuesday night in College Station if the Hogs today are to win their second true road game for this season.
“We have to have all of our players on deck,” Anderson said. “And that means our forwards have really got to start stepping up.”