FAYETTEVILLE – The Arkansas Razorbacks’ revenge tour ends Saturday afternoon at home nagainst the LSU Tigers.
One of three teams Coach Eric Musselman’s 20th-ranked Razorbacks play twice on their SEC regular season schedule,
LSU, 14-7 overall/third in the SEC 9-5) rematches Arkansas, (18-5 overall/second in the SEC 10-4) at 1 p.m Saturday on ESPN2 at Walton Arena.
On Jan. 13 at their Maravich Center in Baton Rouge, La. Coach Will Wade’s Tigers annihilated Arkansas, 92-76.
Arkansas suffered early season SEC losses of 81-68 to Missouri, the Razorbacks’ lone loss at Walton Arena, and 90-59 at Alabama. The Razorbacks avenged defeating Mizzou, 86-81 in Columbia, Mo. and Wednesday stunned nationally No. 6 SEC leading Alabama, 81-66 at Walton.
Actually the Razorbacks are supposed to play four of their 13 SEC opponents twice but it seems fluky if Arkansas plays that opponent at all.
The Texas A&M Aggies “postponed” the home and home with Arkansas among eight “postponements” including their last seven games because of covid-19 positive tests and contact tracing within their program.
Consider seven of those games cancelled, including Saturday’s A&M vs. Missouri game, with the Aggies allegedly next to play Mississippi State next Wednesday in College Station, Texas then Arkansas in Fayetteville on the SEC’s March 6 makeup games Saturday before the March 10 start of the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tenn.
That said, the Arkansas vs. Texas A&M game seems sufficiently dicey that Arkansas this Saturday will honor its seniors, graduate transfer starters Justin Smith and Jalen Tate, walk-on Emeka Obukwelu and Khalil Garland, on medical hardship scholarship when a serious medical condition was discovered, like Saturday’s game with LSU is the home finale before finishing Tuesday at South Carolina.
The Razorbacks enter this Saturday’s game off the highest of highs upending Alabama in fashion to make a covid-19 restricted crowd of 4,000 sound like a Walton Arena, 19,000 sellout.
Are the Hogs too high not to come down against LSU?
“That’s a great win!” a euphoric Musselman said during Wednesday’s postgame yet already eying LSU. “I hope the guys enjoyed the postgame, but now we have to get ready for a big game on Saturday and get ready to compete. If we’re not tough against LSU, we’re not going to win.”
The Razorbacks have more than held their own against most on the boards this season but were outrebounded, 48-39 in Baton Rouge.
“We have to get ready to rebound,” Musselman said. “There’s a lot of things that we have to work on from defensive rebounding. We can’t get pushed in the back, you’ve got to hold your ground defensive rebounding. That’ll be the focus as soon as I’m done meeting with all of you guys (media). I’ll be able to go back and start watching some LSU stuff.”
Musselman even stifled a media member’s suggestion the epic triumph over nationally No. 6 likely SEC champion Alabama had punched Arkansas’ NCAA Tournament ticket.
“No,” Musselman said. “ LSU Tigers, Saturday afternoon. LSU Tigers. LSU Tigers…”
While the Hogs with eight straight SEC successes play near infinitely better now than they played in Baton Rouge, there’s cause for Musselman to repeat his warnings about LSU bear repeating.
The Tigers entire starting five scored from 11 to 23 points.
Mwani Wilkinson, supposedly the role player among Wade’s starting five, scored 11 points with six boards.
Trendon Watford scored the 23 with 10 rebounds.
In between, Darius Days double-doubled with 18 points and 13 boards. Freshman sensation Cameron Thomas, averaging a team leading 22.7 points, tallied 17 against Arkansas while coming off an injury while point guard Javonte Smart scored 13 with five assists.
So the Hogs do have that Baton Rouge memory of their heads handed to them to get their heads out of the Alabama clouds.
ARKANSAS (18-5, 10-4)
F-Justin Smith 6-7 Sr. 11.7 pts. 6.7 rebs.
C-Connor Vanover 7-3 So. 7.7 5.3
G-Jalen Tate 6-6 Sr. 11.2 3.7
G-Moses Moody 6-6 Fr. 16.5 5.6
G-Davonte Davis 6-3 Fr. 7.1 3.6
LSU (14-7, 9-5)
F-Mwani Wilkinson 6-5 Fr. 3.8 pts. 3.1 rebs.
F-Darius Days 6-7 Jr. 12.3 7.6
F-Trendon Watford 6-9 So. 16.2 7.1
G-Javonte Smart 6-4 Jr. 16.2 3.3
G-Cameron Thomas 6-4 Fr. 22.7 3.0