LSU 66, Arkansas 55

LSU freshman Brandon Bass stars as the Tigers roll to the win in the SEC's opening game of the 2004 league slate.

Arkansas ended its string of blowouts at the hands of LSU at two on Tuesday night, but the Tigers still cruised to the finish line once again against the Razorbacks.

Superb freshman forward Brandon Bass had 20 points and 8 rebounds and got enough help from his teammates as visiting LSU topped Arkansas 66-55 before 18,478 fans at Bud Walton Arena and an ESPN national television audience.

"It feels good to win in a gym like this with people against you," Bass said. "It was a big win and it was our first road win. We just need to keep it going."

It was just under the career high of 22 points for Bass, a 6-8, 240-pound rookie, who has had four double-doubles this season and played before his first truly hostile crowd.

"He's going to be a special player," LSU head coach John Brady said. "He still got a lot to learn and he knows it like the subtleties of the game - like angles of screen, hedging screens, helping on defense and seeing plays as they come...but his work ethic and his physical prescence and his willingness to learn and his coachability, all that is in place."

Darryl Mitchell added 13 for the Tigers (10-1, 1-0) who downed the Razorbacks (8-4, 0-1) for a third straight time and came away with a win in the SEC's first conference game of the season.

"They are some broken hearts in that locker room right now," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "The kids wanted it. They were out there anxious and they had practiced extremely hard. Maybe we were just too jacked for the game."

Jaime Lloreda, the SEC's leading scorer and rebounder coming into the game with over 20 points and 11 caroms per contest, had just seven points, but had a game-high 15 boards.

"Down the stretch Jamie has always been a guy that can go get the ball and he sure went and got some for us tonight," Brady said. "...People are going to double-team him every time he touches the ball and he is going to have to be patient."

Billy Pharis had season-highs with 21 points and 11 rebounds for Arkansas, but leading scorer Jonathon "Pookie" Modica was held scoreless in the first half before ending with 11.

Eric Ferguson added 10 points and 6 assists for the Razorbacks, which lost their third game at home this season and had a modest two-game win streak snapped.

It was Pharis' best effort of the year, his first double-double and his fourth straight double-figure scoring effort.

"Billy played outstanding," Heath said. "He made some shots and he really rebound the ball well.He helped on defense in the post a lot. Maybe he just had a breakout game. We needed everything he gave us on the court, unfortunately we needed one or two more guys to step up to that level."

LSU connected on 41.2 percent of its field goals, 19-of-26 free throws , won the board battle 42-41 and its 14 turnovers were one more than the host had.

Arkansas shot a woeful 32.8 percent from the field, but even worse from the free throw line while making just 2-of-10 charity tosses.

It did knock down 9-of-27 3-point attempts, but just 13 inside the arc.

"We seemed to be more worried about what they were doing than going to the basket," Heath said. "...We were very much a perimeter team today and it really affected us and we didn't finish the shots around the basket that we did get."

Arkansas trimmed a 14-point first-half deficit to as close as 42-38 in the second half on Rashard Sullivan's swat on one end and dunk on the other with 10:27 remaining, but could not get any closer from that point on.

Bass put the dagger in the Razorbacks' heart when with the score 50-45, he pulled up and drilled a 3-pointer with 3:39 left in the game.

"It's like I told the guy on ESPN," Brady said, "I'll be glad to coach him as long as I can."

The game was tied 9-9 before LSU began to assert its dominance inside with Bass as LSU ripped off five straight points and 15 of the next 20.

That spree culminated when Tiger reserve Tack Minor netted a long 3-pointer to put his team up 24-14 with 7:23 left in the opening half.

Arkansas would not get within seven points before intermission and actually found itself down 35-21 when Mitchell buried the last of four LSU first-half treys with 26.9 seconds left before intermission.

Ferguson's driving lay-up with 7.9 seconds left got Arkansas within 35-23 at recess.

The crowd was especially on Brady, who has acquired a villian's role in this series, which LSU has won five of the last six to cut Arkansas' lead to 24-13 all-time.

"I don't know why people picked us to win the West," Brady said. "Based on what? We only have two started back from a year ago and got five freshmen. I must be a coaching fool, huh?"

Mitchell came crashing down hard after a first-half dunk and ensuing foul by Arkansas sophomore forward Rashard Sullivan.

Brady was enraged at that point, but he said it wasn't over the foul.

"That's part of the game," Brady said of the foul. "...The thing that got me was I thought it was a late whistle. He about hit the ground before they blew the whistle. I thought they weren't going to call the foul and that's what really incensed me."

Brady got it from the crowd the entire night and says he just doesn't get it.

"I have never been treated this bad in my whole life," Brady said.

"I don't understand why," Brady said later. "I walked out there and felt bad for a slight moment. They all booed me and it was like they had rehearsed it. They booed me in unison."

He sees an Arkansas team that must score easily to have success and he was intent on not letting the Razorbacks do that on Tuesday night in a game where he was expecting to be pressed.

"I see them as an extremely athletic team that is good off the dribble that has to get easy baskets to win and has to get to the free throw line," Brady said. "Our emphasis coming in was to keep the ball in front and don't let them drive and shoot lay-ups. I was really surprised they did not press us. I thought they would try to really come at us and get the game real stupid as opposed it to being more halfcourt as it became."

It doesn't get any easier for Arkansas, which travels to unbeaten Mississippi State (11-0) on Saturday as it starts a stretch of three road games in its next four outings.

"We have got to regroup because there is a lot of basketball in front of us and we have got to get ready for Mississippi State," Heath said. "The only thing you can do is move on and try to learn some lessons from this one.

"The big thing I have got to make sure I deal with is the pschye of the players and making sure they don't get down and all of a sudden lose confidence because we had been playing good basketball," Heath said. "I really felt like it was going to happen tonight, but it just wasn't our evening."

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