By Otis Kirk
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas used a first-half explosion and then went on to take a 60-40 victory over LSU Tuesday night in Bud Walton Arena.
The Hogs raced out to a 38-14 lead at intermission and appeared on their way to an easy win on a snowy night in Fayetteville. However, Arkansas came out cold in the second half, going 2 from 12 from field and turning the ball over seven times to allow LSU to pull within 46-35 with 9:18 remaining in the game. Eric Musselman took a timeout and steadied his team to allow them to pull away for a win over a team that beat them 60-57 on Dec. 28 to open SEC play. That game was in Baton Rouge.
“To start the second half defensively we had a lapse,” Musselman said. “It’s hard sometimes to play with a lead, especially with some of our younger guys and then we were able to regroup and finish the game the way that we wanted to.”
Just as he did in Baton Rouge, Davonte “Devo” Davis led the Hogs in scoring with 16 points. Davis was 7 of 8 from the field and hit both 3-point shots he attempted. Davis also added seven rebounds and three assists while playing the full 40 minutes. Musselman credited Davis for much more than his scoring.
“I think our huddles, Devo Davis was especially vocal in our huddles from the very, very beginning of the first media timeout that we had,” Musselman said.
The first-half blitz by the Hogs included holding LSU to 3 of 25 from the field and no 3-pointers. LSU only made one 3-pointer in nine attempts in the game. The lone 3-pointer was made by Adam Miller with 17:05 remaining in the game. Miller and KJ Williams each had nine points to lead the Tigers. Williams also chipped in 11 rebounds.
“I thought defensively, I don’t know I’ve been part of a first haff where you hold a team to 3 of 25 and 12 percent in a 40-minute college game,” Musselman said. “Nobody on the opposing team scoring in double digits and holding an SEC team to 40 points. I was really, really impressed with a lot of little things we did defensively.
“We did a great job on their two star players that we identified in Williams and Miller. Holding those two to five field goals combined and 22 shots. So excellent job defensively.”
Also in the first half, Arkansas forced 10 LSU turnovers and scored 14 points off them. For the game, Arkansas turned the ball over 12 times compared to 15 for LSU. The Hogs outscored LSU 18-4 on points off turnovers. The rebounding battle was more even with Arkansas pulling down 36 boards to 35 for the Tigers.
Anthony Black had 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists for the Razorbacks. Ricky Council IV added 10 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Makhi Mitchell also had 10 points to go with eight rebounds and an assist.
Arkansas shot 45 percent from the field for the game on 23 of 51 baskets. The Hogs held LSU to 26 percent on 14 of 54 shots. The Razorbacks were 5 of 13 from 3-point range for 38 percent. That compared to 11 percent for LSU from distance. Musselman said there was no extra work needed in getting the team focused on playing LSU.
“Well this was a game there was no internal motivation needed,” Musselman said. “I think our guys were upset that we lost the game in Baton Rouge, close game, could have gone either way. But I think this team was extremely focused the last couple of days in practice. They were as a group, the guys were excited to play this game.”
Arkansas (14-6, 3-5) will face Baylor on Saturday at 3 p.m. in Waco. The game is part of the SEC and Big 12 Challenge. Baylor (15-5, 5-3) is ranked No. 17 in the nation. The Bears enter the game owning a five-game winning streak. They defeated No. 9 Kansas 75-69 on Monday night in their last outing. Musselman was already thinking about Baylor immediately after topping the Tigers.
“Can’t wait to go home and start watching tape and texting all the assistant coaches about the Bears,” Musselman said.
The game will tip at 3 p.m. and televised on ESPN. This will be the final non-SEC contest for the Razorbacks before closing the regular season with 10 more conference games.