Tested Tigers Red-Hot On Road

FAYETTEVILLE — LSU's pure talent has Arkansas' players worried in advance of tonight's contest in Bud Walton Arena.

The Tigers' 21-4 record and new national ranking has also caught the Razorbacks' attention.

But to junior guard Stefan Welsh, the most glaring example of LSU's worth stems from its calmness during Arkansas' comeback attempt in the Tigers' 79-69 victory 18 days ago.

"They always play together, and everybody understands their role," Welsh said. "In the second half, when we made our run, their faces never changed. They have a great amount of experience, and right now, the most important thing is they're the No. 1 team atop the SEC (Southeastern Conference) standings."

That Jan. 31 victory over the Hogs was the second of six straight wins for LSU. Its performance away from home, however, serves as a truer indicator of the Tigers' recent improvement. During the streak, LSU has won at Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi State.

The Tigers finally cracked the Top 25 this week, entering at No. 23 in the Associated Press poll and at No. 24 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. And the three road victories put LSU, the only SEC team ranked, into a tie with Kentucky for the most league road conquests with four.

"They are playing better than anybody in our league," Arkansas coach John Pelphrey said. "They are very well-coached and efficient. They get scoring from four or five spots, and they defend and rebound in a big-time way.

"They have a good understanding of who they are, they play the right way and they have experience."

Just how much experience is almost startling, especially for a young Arkansas (13-10, 1-9) team that has lost nine of its last 10 games. LSU has the second-most experienced roster in the SEC and 36th in the country, according to www.kenpom.com

And the Tigers aren't just deep; they're immensely talented.

LSU is the only SEC team with two players amongst the top five scorers during league play — senior guard Marcus Thornton is second (21.4 points per game) and junior forward Tasmin Mitchell is third (20.6).

"It's really impressive," Arkansas freshman guard Rotnei Clarke said. "They're capturing the attention of the nation. Being 9-1 in this conference is pretty unbelievable, especially since it's been hard for us to win on the road. It's really impressive the way their team is handling it."

The Tigers will be without hobbled sophomore point guard Bo Spencer, who nailed five of his six shots from 3-point range, against Arkansas on Jan. 18. But first-year LSU coach Trent Johnson can simply slip senior guard Terry Martin into the starting lineup tonight, merely adding more poise to a team that has its collective mind in the right place.

"We haven't and will not overlook anybody," Johnson said. "I don't have to say much to this group. We've done a pretty good job of staying focus, being ready to play and respecting our opponents."

Coupled with nearly unmatched experience, that humble approach has LSU on the verge of winning the Western Division.

Today's Ticket

No. 23 LSU at Arkansas

When: 7 p.m. TV: None.

Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville

Records: LSU Tigers, 21-4, 9-1 Southeastern Conference; Arkansas Razorbacks, 13-10, 1-9.

Radio: KEZA-FM 107.9, KKEG-FM 92.1, KUOA-AM 1290, FM 105.3.

Coaches: LSU, Trent Johnson (21-4, first season at LSU; 135-78 overall in seven seasons); Arkansas, John Pelphrey (36-22, second season at Arkansas; 180-125 overall in 10 seasons).

Series: Arkansas leads 28-19 (Arkansas leads 13-4 in Fayetteville).

Last Meeting: LSU beat Arkansas 79-69 on Jan. 31 in Baton Rouge, La.

LINE: LSU by 3.

At A Glance

SEC Road Records

Team Record

LSU 4-1

Kentucky 4-1

Tennessee 3-1

Mississippi State 3-2

South Carolina 2-3

Florida 2-4

Auburn 1-3

Vanderbilt 1-4

Ole Miss 1-5

Alabama 0-5

Arkansas 0-5

Georgia 0-5
Photo courtesy of www.LSUSports.net

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