LSU 79, Arkansas 69

Down 20 at halftime, Arkansas staged a furious second half comeback only to fall short to LSU and fall to 1-5 in the Southeastern Conference.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- They could've left the Pete Maravich Assembly Center thrilled by their second-half rally. They could've marveled at the way they outscored LSU by 10 points after halftime.

The Arkansas Razorbacks could've claimed moral victory.

But minutes after their 79-69 loss Saturday at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Arkansas coach John Pelphrey wanted no part of that talk. The sting of trailing 41-21 after 20 minutes far outweighed the encouraging feeling of watching Arkansas temporarily dominate the Southeastern Conference Western Division leaders.

"It angers me," Pelphrey said. "Nothing changed at halftime. No one grew. Nobody got quicker. But the attitude was just different. It's disappointing we couldn't come out and compete like that for 40 minutes."

The Hogs (13-6) fell to 1-5 in the SEC because their inept start created too large a deficit.

They missed three of their first 14 shots from the floor, and they didn't fare much better the rest of the half. In fact, they missed three of their next 14 tries before consecutive baskets by junior forward Michael Washington, who led Arkansas with a game-high 24 points.

LSU's swarming defense certainly factored into Arkansas' first-half field goal percentage of 26.7.

"I thought we were really intense and ready to go," LSU coach Trent Johnson said.

But plenty of the Hogs' offensive ineffectiveness was self-inflicted — as in missed layups, missed open 3s and seven LSU blocked shots (six by 6-11 center Chris Johnson).

Arkansas' defense was just as spotty. Johnson continually nailed open jumper shots and burned the Razorbacks with offensive rebounds and Bo Spencer drilled all three of his first-half 3s. LSU had 10 offensive rebounds and 11 second-chance points before halftime.

"Coach Pel told us we kind of laid down for them," freshman guard Rotnei Clarke said. "We let them do whatever they wanted. We weren't doing what we were supposed to do in the first half, and we laid down at the same time."

The manner in which the Tigers outmatched Arkansas in every facet enraged Pelphrey, enough to provoke his voice-raising in the Razorbacks locker room.

"They did get challenged (at halftime)," Pelphrey said of his players. "There's a reason for not converting layups. There's a reason for not blocking out and rebounding, and to me that's attitude."

Once the second half began, the Razorbacks immediately showed they had adjusted their approach to Pelphrey's liking.

They didn't use a big spurt to trim LSU's lead; they just consistently outplayed LSU. They snagged loose balls, fought for rebounds, created turnovers with their press and shot 57.1 percent from the floor.

Arkansas closed to within 64-59 when Fortson swished a wild 6-foot lefty floater. But the Hogs' next two possessions resulted in a wide-open missed 3 by Clarke and a tightly-guarded missed 3 by Washington.

Meanwhile, an offensive rebound and putback by Marcus Thornton and a top of the key 3 by Tasmin Mitchell quickly let LSU increase its lead back to 10. In the end, 20 quality minutes weren't enough to erase 20 maddening minutes.

"They played 40 minutes hard, and we played 20 minutes hard, and the results showed that on the scoreboard," Fortson said. "LSU played hard the whole 40 minutes, until there were (all) zeroes on the clock."





Morning News Photos by Zac Lehr

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