Razorbacks

Hogs Beat LSU

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – A big second half closed Arkansas’ final atonement day in a big way.

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Previously atoning for early season losses with SEC successful  second time arounds against Missouri and Alabama, Arkansas Saturday  afternoon at Walton Arena at halftime trailed, 37-32 the LSU Tigers that routed the Razorbacks, 92-76 on Jan. 13 in Baton Rouge, La.

Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks roared louder than any Tiger during Saturday’s leading LSU up to 21 points before settling for an 83-75 triumph and a ninth consecutive SEC victory without losing a February game. 

The nationally No. 20 and bound to go higher in Monday’s Associated Press poll Razorbacks take a 19-5 overall record and at least a second-place tie clinching  11-4 SEC record into Tuesday night’s SEC game at South Carolina.

Allegedly, Arkansas concludes its regular SEC season next Saturday hosting the Texas A&M Aggies who have cancelled their last seven games because of covid-19 issues and twice postponed home and home games against Arkansas with only next Saturday’s to have a makeup attempt.

LSU dropped to 14-8 overall/ 9-6 in the SEC.

Arkansas fears that the Razorbacks might be emotionally letdown from upending nationally No. 6/SEC leader Alabama last Wednesday and Coach Will Wade’s Tigers inspired wanting to shake off forfeiting  a 3-game winning streak by laying a 91-79 egg losing at Georgia took hold during Saturday’s first half.

The Tigers, leading as much as 10  during the first half and never trailing it other than 2-0, outrebounded Arkansas, 27-22 the first 20 minutes including nine offensive boards.

Seems the Tigers’ game went by the boards when Arkansas outrebounded them 23-12 for the second half totaling Arkansas rebounding  up, 45-39 for the game.

“Rebounding and us turning the ball over,” LSU freshman star guard Cameron Thomas said of the different tale of two halves.

What made the rebounding difference?

I don’t know,” Thomas said. “Maybe they wanted the ball more I guess.”

Certainly that was Musselman’s message.

“We needed to rebound the ball better than we did in the first half,” Musselman said. “So I thought our rebounding in the second half was absolutely great.”

Arkansas senior forward Justin Smith, recovering from ankle surgery and not playing when the Tigers trounced Arkansas in Baton Rouge, paced Arkansas’ scoring and rebounding Saturday with a 19 points/10 rebounds double-double.

“”The play of Justin Smith as of late, he’s playing as an NBA player,” Musselman said.

Smith led a group effort erasing the boards.  

Backup center Jaylin Williams grabbed six rebounds while the Hogs’ backcourt played big up front. 

Led by Moses Moody’s eight boards, and his  also second to Smith’s 18 points, Moody and fellow guards JD Notae, Jalen Tate and Jacksonville’s Davonte “Devo” Davis, six, six and five, combined for 25 boards.

Arkansas’ first half began bleakly. Point guard Tate amassed his second foul three minutes into the game. He sat the next 17 minutes, got his third foul early in the second half and only played 12:22.

Combo guards Davis, 15 points, six assists and a steal against zero turnovers, and Notae off the bench, 18 points an assist and two steals against two turnovers and lavishly praised both by Musselman and assistant coach David Patrick for his defense, more than adequately shared the point guard load.’

“I think both of those guys did a great job on both sides of the ball,” Musselman said.  “Because one of them was playing the point guard when Tate was out. Obviously that’s the least amount of minutes that Jalen Tate has played all year. The rebounding,  Notae had 6 rebounds and Devo had 5. That’s been one of our themes, is rebounding at the guard spot against LSU.”

Despite his deprecating remark about LSU’s second-half rebounding Thomas seemed to play with plenty of desire, scoring a game high 25 points.  He  the lone Tiger vastly increasing his output from the first Arkansas vs. LSU game when the entire LSU starting five scored from 11 to Trendon Watford’s 23 points.

LSU forward Darius Days, 18 points and 13 boards on Arkansas in Baton Rouge, Saturday scored zip, 0 for 8, all attempting threes, with two rebounds.

“I thought we were pretty physical with him,” Musselman said.  “We had certain matchups we wanted to be on him. I thought Jaylin Williams did a really good job on him.”

The Razorbacks offensively played physically in the second half.

Penetrating LSU’s zone and taking it to the hole. That reflected in Arkansas attempting 23 of 31 free throws, Moody sank 11 of 14, to LSU’s 6 of 12.

“I thought in the first half we were standing around,” Musselman said. “We settled (on jump shots). That’s what we did at Baton Rouge. The message at half was ‘Be strong. Draw contact. Draw free throws attempted.”

It brought home the message, Notae said, that LSU is considerably renowned for its offense but not its defense.

“”Just knowing that they don’t really want to guard,” Notae said. “They just want to make us settle. So, we just attacked and got what we wanted.”

An irony, coming from Notae, known for his offensive and streaky 3-point shooting but not getting much defensive praise until these last two games avenging against Alabama and LSU.

“We all know he can score,” assistant coach Patrick said. “But  we’ve been on, and  Coach has been on him about guarding and trying to share the ball more.  I thought he did a good a job with (standout LSU guard)  Javonte Smart  defensively.   The way we’re playing that defense is going to keep him on the floor.  You couple that with the way he shoots he’s going to be a a big addition for us.”

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