Arkansas nearly blew a 23-point lead to LSU on Wednesday night, but 14 second-half fouls by the Tigers put a nail in the coffin on the Razorbacks 99-90 victory.
The Razorbacks (19-11, 7-10) shot an impressive 50% from the field, compared to just 44.3% by LSU (20-10, 11-6). Senior Jimmy Whitt Jr. scored 26 points and pulled down 15 rebounds to secure his third double-double of the season — just the sixth by a Razorback player on the year. His teammate, and SEC Player of the Year Candidate, junior Mason Jones recorded his eighth 30-point game of the season, scoring 36.
“Whitt just controlled the game,” LSU head coach Will Wade said. “We can’t guard him. We couldn’t guard him at our place and couldn’t guard him here.”
The Tigers recorded their 20th foul of the game with 14:32 remaining in the game, doubling the Arkansas foul total of 10. LSU was shooting lights out from three to begin the second half, though, as three early 3-pointers brought them within 16-points of the Hogs.
LSU played full-court press defense for most of the second-half, leading to a plethora of foul calls for the Tigers defensively.
The continual fouls by LSU gave Arkansas plenty of scoring opportunities at the line that did not amount to a bigger lead. The team was 36-54 from the free throw line in the game.
“To take 54 foul shots is a really unbelievable number,” Razorback head coach Eric Musselman said. “But that’s what happens when you get a big lead under the eight minute mark. You’ve got to start fouling and getting aggressive, and that’s what LSU had to do.”
Sophomore Desi Sills drained a 3-pointer nearly four minutes into the game to give the Razorbacks their first true basket of the game. On the next offensive possession for Arkansas, he nailed another one to give Arkansas a 9-6 lead going into the first media timeout.
The two three’s by Sills were the only field goals made by Arkansas until the 11:13 point in the first half, when Whitt drained his signature two-point jumper. Out of Arkansas’ first 17 points, nine came at the free throw line.
Through the first 10 minutes of the first half, Arkansas was shooting just 30.8% from the field, compared to 31.6% by the Tigers. A layup by Whitt with 9:03 remaining gave the Hogs their first double-digit lead of the game, 24-13.
The highlight of the first half was a steal by Whitt that led to a fast-break 3-pointer by Jones with six minutes left. The Tigers began to fall apart after this, as Arkansas took a commanding 42-22 lead by the 4:08 mark.
Arkansas took a 55-34 lead into halftime. Jones (20), Whitt (12) and Sills (10) all scored double-digits in the half for the Razorbacks. The Hogs ended the half shooting 53.1% from the field – a big upgrade from their slow start.
Up next, the Razorbacks will finish the season Saturday in College Station, Texas, against the Texas A&M Aggies.
“They’re a completely different team from the first time we played them,” Whitt said. “They’ve always been a really good defensive team, but they even stepped it up more recently and throughout conference play, so it’s definitely going to be a hard game and a tough battle for us.”
The game will tip-off at 3:30 p.m. and will be aired on the SEC Network.