The No. 9 Razorback men’s basketball team fell to the LSU Tigers 60-57 Wednesday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the first Southeastern Conference matchup of the season.
“It’s tough,” senior center Makhi Mitchell said in the postgame press conference. “Coach [Musselman] has been preaching that all summer…He tries to bring everything back to SEC play, all the little things that are important in SEC play. Every night is going to be just like tonight: a dogfight.”
Junior guard Davonte Davis led the way on the offensive end for the Hogs with a season-high 16 points on 7-18 shooting. Davis joined guards Anthony Black and Ricky Council IV in playing all 40 minutes of the game.
Neither side could find the bottom of the net with much success in the first half. Arkansas shot just 27% from the floor, including 0-13 from the 3-point line. Council paced all scorers in the opening period with seven points through sheer volume, as he was just 3-10 from the field.
“Obviously, not making a 3 in the first half, your offense is going to struggle,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said. “When you take 13 three-point attempts and you don’t make one of them, you just go one-for-three from the foul line… We need guys to work on their game individually and get shots up.”
The Tigers were only slightly better, hitting 29% of their shots in the first half. They found slightly more from deep, hitting 3-11 from beyond the arc. LSU took a 24-19 lead into halftime, its largest of the game.
Arkansas hit its first two shots of the second half to tie the game at 24. Both teams went blow-for-blow, with neither pulling ahead by more than two possessions. The Razorbacks took a 40-34 lead, their largest of the game, on a Council 3-pointer assisted by Black with 10:19 remaining in the game.
The Tigers tied the game at 42 after a tip-in with 7:54 left. Arkansas managed to claw its way back to a 51-49 lead at the 3:46 mark with a pair of free throws.
Black added another free throw to make it 52-49 a minute later, but the Hogs did not lead for the rest of the game. Council had a chance to tie the game as the clock ran out, but was stopped by a collection of Tigers.
“We had one of the best open-court finishers in college basketball, Ricky, in the flow of the game,” Musselman said. “Ricky Council trying to get downhill on a broken play, usually something good happens for us.”
The offense looked aimless Wednesday night, as LSU was packing the paint and forcing Arkansas to shoot. With freshman guard Nick Smith Jr.’s indefinite absence due to a right knee injury and sophomore forward Trevon Brazile suffering a torn ACL, it was the first real test for the Hogs without their two top shooters.
The lack of depth displayed by Arkansas could be cause for concern for fans. The Razorbacks came into the season with the capability for one of the deepest rotations Musselman has had in his Arkansas tenure. Musselman is known for shortening the bench as the season goes along, but playing three different players the entire game and only the five starters double-digit minutes cannot be sustainable for a full season, especially in a league as grueling as the Southeastern Conference.
“We went eight deep, we tried to put Jalen (Graham) in there… we thought maybe Joseph (Pinion) at one point,” Musselman said. “We certainly would like more productivity, but in their defense, you have to have minutes to produce.”
The Razorbacks will look to get back in the win column when they take on the Missouri Tigers at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Bud Walton Arena. Missouri is coming off an upset win over No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network and stream live on the ESPN app.
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