BATON ROUGE – Too little, too late.
Arkansas fell down 18 points early in the second half and made a valiant comeback, but LSU held off the Razorbacks 56-53 Wednesday night in SEC action at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
Marshawn Powell led Arkansas (11-4, 1-1) with 15 points and Delvon Johnson 10, but 21 of their 25 points came after the Tigers (10-7, 2-0) jumped to a 39-21 lead with 16:13 left in the contest.
"LSU outplayed us and they deserve the credit," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "You have to play for 40 minutes in this league and we really put ourselves behind the eight ball in the first half, it is tough to do."
Jeff Peterson had a chance to send the game to overtime in the final seconds, but his 3-pointer went awry on a night when the Razorbacks were 2-of-20 from beyond the arc.
Rotnei Clarke was 1-of-7, Julysess Nobles 0-of-6, Peterson 0-of-3, Marcus Britt 1-of-3 and Mardracus Wade 0-of-1.
"We couldn't make it back," Pelphrey said. "I thought we fought very hard both halves, but we just really struggled scoring the ball.
"In the second half, we were able to score around the basket, but from the perimeter we just struggled the whole night," Pelphrey added. "We had our opportunities all way down to the end to convert, but our guards just couldn't make any shots tonight."
Still Arkansas got within 49-47 at one point, but couldn't get over the hump.
"As long as there is time on the clock and the guys are out there fighting and scratching pretty hard, we have a chance to win," Pelphrey said. "Our defense was able to rebound the ball in the second half a lot and then I thought we were going to make it back."
Powell, who was sick during the contest, summed it up rather well.
"I feel like we didn't play hard at all in the first half, we didn't play our game," Powell said. "If we would have played like we did in the second half who knows what would have happened at the end of the game. We are just ready to get back to practice and work hard."
Ole Miss transfer Malcolm White had 13 points to lead the Tigers while Matt Derenbecker added 12, Andre Stringer 11 and Garrett Green 10 points and 10 rebounds.
LSU was playing without its leading scorer in 6-6 freshman guard Ralston Turner and won despite going just 3-of-8 from the free throw line in the final minute of the contest.
"That's a good win for us because obviously Arkansas is playing extremely well and is a good basketball team, but also considering the fact that we don't have Ralston and Storm (Warren) is showing great courage out there basically playing on one leg," LSU head coach Trent Johnson said.
The Tigers, who led 31-17 at intermission, were even worse from 3-point range than the Razorbacks with the hosts hitting just 1-of-13, but getting by because of cashing in 17-of-31 free throws while Arkansas hit 13 of 16.
LSU also pounded Arkansas 43-26 on the boards, including a 29-11 thrashing in that department in the first 20 minutes of the game.
"We had some opportunities to rebound the basketball in the first half but didn't get it done," Pelphrey added. "The second half we operated much better in terms of getting the ball inside and made some plays."
The Tigers downed Auburn 62-55 last Saturday on the road while holding the home team to just six points in the first half and its first half defense allowed it to get to 2-0 in league play.
"It sounds a lot better than 0-2," Johnson said. " Again, it's a game by game thing. One thing I do like about this group - and I said this earlier - they listen, they care and they try to do the best they can. I think they're aware this is short-lived if we don't play with a sense of urgency and do those things that we talk about - rebounding, defending and taking care of the ball."
Arkansas will try to rebound on Saturday when it host Alabama at 12:47 p.m.
LSU 56, Arkansas 53
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