Same song. Different verse.
Trent Johnson’s LSU Tigers (10-7) improved to 2-0 in SEC play by nearly repeating its Saturday performance, a 62-55 win over Auburn.
A missed three pointer by Razorback Jeff Peterson preserved a 56-53 victory in LSU’s SEC home opener.
In both games, the Tigers jumped out to an early lead and were able to hold on down the stretch.
LSU’s zone defense has proven to be a serious challenge to opposing offenses, especially in the first half. After holding Auburn to just six first half points on Saturday, the Tigers held Arkansas to just 5-of-27 shooting for 18.5% in the first half.
“(The zone defense) is working for us now because it forces teams to come down and pass the ball at the point of attack, which we were having trouble with from a man (to man) stand point,” said Johnson.
Razorback guard Rotnei Clarke entered the game averaging 14.3 points per game. He was limited to five points in 29 minutes against the Tiger zone
The zone defense may be out of necessity as Tigers Ralston Turner and Storm Warren nurse injuries following the dismissal of Dennis Harris.
Filling in for the injured Turner, freshman guard Matt Derenbecker played a game high 38 minutes, scored 12 points and grabbed 6 rebounds.
“I don’t have time to get my feet wet in the game,” said Derenbecker. “I’ve got to come out strong. I’m glad to get the experience of starting, and when Ralston gets back in the lineup…we’re definitely going to be an improved team.”
Junior forward Garrett Green picked up where he left off in Auburn where he scored a career high 18 points. Green notched a double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 boards to help offset the lack of production from Warren.
Warren played 11 minutes on an injured Achilles. He scored two points and grabbed five rebounds in an effort that Johnson called courageous.
A Derenbecker basket at the 17:40 mark in the first half gave LSU a lead that they would never relinquish.
The Tigers’ 12-2 run, beginning at the 10:55 mark in the first half, pushed the lead to 24-11. LSU led 31-17 at the break.
Andre Stringer’s bucket with 16:13 to play in the game gave LSU their biggest lead, 39-21.
From there, LSU held on for dear life.
The Hogs cut the deficit in half over the next five minutes, culminating with a Clarke three which prompted a Tiger timeout with 12:38 to play.
“When Rotnei Clarke hit that one three, we knew that he had the potential hit five more, and we just didn’t let him. We contained him,” said freshman guard Matt Derenbecker.
A Derenbecker layup with 9:09 on the clock put the Tigers in front by 10, but they wouldn’t make another field goal in the game.
When the time came to ice the ballgame down the stretch, the Tigers couldn’t find the touch from the line, missing five of eight charity shots in the final 49 seconds.
“I think we’re thinking too much when we get to the line, at least I know I am,” said Derenbecker, who was 1-of-2 from the line down the stretch. “I need to step up there and clear my thoughts and shoot them like I do in practice.”
LSU finished the game a putrid 17-of-31 from the line for 54.8 percent.
The Tigers will get back to practice Thursday as they begin preparations for a trip to Lexington to face the 13th ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena on Saturday.