Wash-rinse-repeat is a great notion when you’re doing a lot of things. When it’s how your SEC season is proceeding, not so much.
See if you’ve heard this before: LSU fell behind, rallied nicely with several scoring bursts but they got burned by one of several Achilles heels.
After the Tigers closed within six points with 2½ minutes to go, troubles at the free-throw line and the defensive glass jumped up and bit hard as LSU wobbled down the stretch in a 99-86 loss.
For the third game in a row, the Tigers (9-9, 1-6 SEC) scrapped and showed the kind of fight that was conspicuously missing in action for much of the two weeks prior. That wasn’t enough against an Arkansas team nearly as disinterested to committing to defense as their visitors.
LSU shot 66.7% (20-for-30) from the field after halftime to stay in range and charge back from 16 points down in each half. Freshman Skylar Mays broke out with a career-best 22 points and 6 assists, while Duop Reath recorded 17 points and 7 rebounds in an exhausting battle against Razorbacks’ big man Moses Kinglsey.
But getting over a second-half hurdle was again too much for the Tigers, who dropped their fifth consecutive SEC game, four by double digits.
The two glaring reasons why this time, besides the same old Swiss-cheese defense: Foul shooting in the second half and consistently allowing the Hogs second chances, especially when the deficit dwindled to single digits.
The Tigers finished the night 15-for-30 from the stripe, 4-of-14 in the second half. As good as Reath was, he missed both foul shots on two trips in the closing 6:46 – the second pair with 1:57 left that could have kept the difference at six points.
Despite the finish, which included a Dusty Hannahs’ salt-in-the-wound 3-pointer from 26 feet out in the closing minute, LSU put itself in position for a potential stunner after dropping back into a 16-point cavern.
Arkansas (15-4, 4-3) notched seven unanswered points after the Tigers closed within 78-69 on a Jalyn Patterson free-throw jumper in transition with 7:51 left, stretching the lead back to 85-69.
Instead of folding, though, LSU showed some life.
Reath was fouled on the other end of the floor and the Tigers got into a groove in a defense-optional stretch (there were a lot of those) and uncorked a 16-6 surge over 2:09 to close the gap to 91-85 on a Wayde Sims break-away layup.
Mays scored five points in the run and Brandon Sampson cranked in one of LSU’s five second-half 3-pointers, part of his 15 points.
Moments later, Reath’s two missed free throws seemed to close the door on the Tigers’ chances, but they still had a pulse when Arkansas’ Jaylen Barford missed a contested shot from the lane on the ensuing offensive trip.
Except that the ball caromed off an LSU player to give the Hogs possession again. Barford tried again after Arkansas ran some clock and missed again. But Daryl Macon corralled the rebound in the circle for the Razorbacks with 1:27 on the clock and the Tigers had to resort to fouling.
As well as LSU shot in the second half, the initial 7 minutes were a nightmare as the Tigers missed 10 of their first 11 field goals to drop behind 15-4, a first-half theme that has plagued them most of the season. Sims, Reath and Sampson finally helped LSU heat up with buckets on three offensive trips in a row.
The Hogs kept the Tigers at arm’s length for several more minutes until Mays – who was 6-for-9 from the floor and 9-of-11 from the free-throw line – hit a stretch when he scored seven points in an 11-2 LSU flurry. His 3-pointer and two free throws pulled the Tigers within 32-28 and set a pace that seemed to benefit LSU.
When Reath followed an Aaron Epps with 1:11 to go before halftime, the Tigers were down just 43-37 and had momentum in their grasp, but Arkansas’ Anton Beard knocked down two foul shots and scored on a fast break to nudge the lead to 47-37 at halftime.
The Hogs registered the first six points after halftime for a 53-37 lead before Antonio Blakeney triggered his personal 12-point half with a trey to begin LSU’s long -- and ultimately unsuccessful -- climb back into the game.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
- The torrid second-half shooting performance allowed LSU to shoot 51.6% (32 of 62) in the game.
- Turnovers weren’t a huge issue for either team in the fast-paced affair. The Tigers lost the ball 12 times, which led to 13 Arkansas points, while the Razorbacks lost it 13 times for 12 LSU points.
- The Tigers had an early advantage on the backboards, but that faded badly with the Hogs seizing a 44-30 victory.
- After one of the best games of his career at Auburn, LSU junior Aaron Epps played only 19 minutes Saturday. He scored 4 points and grabbed 5 rebounds in the shorter stint.
- Other than Mays’ 9-for-11 night at the foul stripe, LSU was 6-for-19 (31.6%).
- Kingsley led Arkansas with 24 points and 7 boards. He nailed 10-of-18 field goals to help the Razorbacks shoot 53.2% (33 of 62) as a team.
- The Hogs recorded 20 assists on 33 made field goals, with Beard’s 7 helpers leading the way.
- Six Arkansas players shot four free throws or more and three of them went to the line for six attempts or more. The Hogs were 25-of-35 overall, but just 14-of-24 in the second half.
BOX SCORE | Arkansas 99, LSU 86
What’s next: Florida at LSU, 8 p.m. Wednesday