For the first time in 11 games, Arkansas led at halftime and ended up thrashing over-matched LSU 87-52 Wednesday night before a paying crowd of 12,777 at Bud Walton Arena.
Courtney Fortson had 17 points, Rotnei Clarke 16 points and four of his team's 13 steals and Jemal Farmer 11 points off the bench for the Razorbacks (13-11, 6-3), who won their fifth straight game and did so by the third largest margin ever in an SEC game.
"This was certainly a different feeling than what we have had a chance to experience to this point and time in the SEC season," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said before joking that, "When you are a coach, you start trying to figure out what you did well and how you are going to explain losing the lead."
Five other UA players scored more than six points as the home team ripped off to a 10-0 lead, led 43-21 at halftime and had pulled it starters before Farmer dropped a pair of 3-pointers to make it 73-38 with over eight minutes left in the game.
"I thought we played very well," Pelphrey said. "We got off to a great start, we did flinch for a moment and LSU came back, but then I thought we started the second half very well and really put ourselves in good position to win the basketball game.
"I was very, very concerned coming into this so I am a little surprised by the score," Pelphrey said. "The score is not indicative of the two teams. We are not that much better than them. When we go back down there, it will be a very, very hard-fought game."
It was a second straight disheartening loss for the Tigers (9-15, 0-10), who won the SEC West last season but have imploded this season. They were coming in off an 81-55 humbling loss at home to No. 3 Kentucky.
"It was a good old fashioned – uh, what is the word I want to use – a good old fashioned butt whipping," LSU head coach Trent Johnson said. "That's the second one (in a row). We got one at home.
"But when you look at the improvement in Clarke, you look at (Marshawn) Powell – who is probably one of the more underrated freshmen not in our league but in the country – for them to be playing the caliber of basketball they are playing, that speaks volumes for his leadership," Johnson continued.
Powell (9 points, 5 rebounds, 2 blocks), Mike Washington (8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks), Glenn Bryant (6 points, 9 rebounds), Stef Welsh (6 points, 3 steals) and Julysess Nobles (6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists) all made significant scores.
Arkansas shot 55.6 percent from the field, 47.5 percent for the game, out-rebounded its foe 40-27 and forced 17 turnovers while committing just eight.
The offensive outburst from Farmer was significant in that he had only scored 16 points total in his last 10 games.
"I just tried to stay focused and keep working hard in practice and doing the extra stuff to get my game back right," Farmer said. "It paid off tonight."
Fortson and Clarke both had 13 points at intermission while Bryant grabbed eight first-half rebounds.
"It was important up front to get some of that because Mike – after getting banged up against Auburn and not getting a chance to practice on Monday because he was sick – we were not sure what all we were going to get there," Pelphrey said. "You need guys to come off the bench and for him to be able to come off the bench and get eight rebounds was big."
All of those young men also had key defensive plays in the rout.
"Defensively, they are a lot better than people give them credit for," Johnson said. "When I looked at them on video tape, one of the things I thought was that they are playing really, really good defense. They are even playing a lot better on tape."
It was certainly nice that Fortson and Clarke – who have played lots of minutes lately – were able to rest for the final 10 minutes of the contest.
"It was really fun being able to see other guys on the team that have worked so hard – whether it be in practice or any certain point – come in and succeed," Clake said, "and just be over there and having fun being able to watch them."
Tasmin Mitchell had 15 points and 13 rebounds and Zach Kinsley 13 points for the Tigers, who have now lost 13 of 14 games after an 8-2 start.
"We are not very good," Johnson said. "There is no secret to that. We are in a similar type situation for us as a basketball team that I was when I was at Nevada – in terms of it being a second year and knowing you got a ways to go in term of the caliber of players and things like that.
"But I can't fault our guys effort at times," Johnson said. "They were just better. They were really good tonight."
Fortson has fueled Arkansas' five-game winning streak – its second of the season – but Johnson was quick to point out the other Razorbacks.
"As good as Courtney can be and as good as he is, the key to this whole team is guys like Britt and Clark and Powell, the freshmen who makes a big difference," Johnson said. "Washington is as good a player as there is in the league.
"So there is some talent, but they are playing so well together," Johnson added. "More importantly, they are committed to listening to Coach (Pelphrey) and defending. They are going to have a chance to win it all."
Arkansas will now try and go get its third straight road win in Saturday's 3 p.m. game at Alabama.
The Razorbacks downed Alabama 71-59 in Fayetteville earlier this season, but had lost the previous five games prior to the game with the Crimson Tide.
"It (the win over LSU) gives us a lot of confidence, but we know we are going to start having to get ready tomorrow," Clarke said. "It is going to be a really tough game, especially down at Alabama. It was tough for us last year."
Courtney Fortson drives to the basket. He scored 17 points against LSU.
Glenn Bryant scored 6 points, but added 9 rebounds.
John Pelphrey said the Hogs were "fortunate" to score an easy victory against the Tigers.
Marshawn Powell dunks for one of his three field goals against LSU.
Photos by Marc F. Henning, Hawgs Illustrated