Despite a late surge by the home team to force an overtime period, the LSU Tigers knocked off the Arkansas Razorbacks 94-88 to improve to 12-3 (2-0 Southeastern Conference). The Razorbacks have now lost four games in Bud Walton Arena and fall to a 10-5 (1-2) record.
Though the Tigers led the game throughout the entirety of regulation, the two teams put on quite a show in the first half, shooting a combined 35-of-62 from the field. The Razorbacks kept pace with the Tigers in the last four minutes of the first half and cut the lead to a manageable 5 points with one possession left. LSU made good use of that possession, as Marlon Taylor hit a last second three pointer in one of his very few shot attempts away from the rim.
LSU had as large as a 13 point lead a few minutes into the second half, but foul trouble started rearing its ugly head as it often does in the first few games of conference play. Or any game in conference play, really. I’m not too fond of the way the game was officiated and I’m sure Arkansas fans would agree.
Only 28 seconds into the game, Naz Reid slammed a dunk down to open scoring, and the ball awkwardly bounced back to him as he turned to run to the other side of the court. He was called for a technical foul—again, only 28 seconds into the game—for, admittedly somewhat forcefully, tossing the ball back at a Razorback who wasn’t anticipating it. Two of his next three fouls were complete head-scratchers, but I’m just relieved at this point that he somehow didn’t foul out.
I know the players and refs can still be a little green at this point of the season, but 52 fouls in 45 minutes of basketball is entertaining to no one.
With a game officiated as such, free throw shooting becomes that much more important to the outcome of the game. Marlon Taylor and Tremont Waters combined for a perfect 10-of-10 from the stripe, and the team finished 18-of-22 as a whole. Arkansas took six more free throw attempts, but really hindered their chances by only converting 17.
After a foul-filled flurry in the second half, the two teams found themselves tied at 73, 75, 77, and finally 81 at the end of regulation. It was pretty upsetting to watch, judging by one of my gamethread updates:
Gafford dunked over Taylor. We’re heading to overtime with two timeouts to spare, and our last attempt at a shot was Waters trying an off-balance layup. I know he can be good with those kind of moves, but we’ve GOT to start seeing actual offensive plays thought out for “last play” situations. This is becoming inexcusable, and we all know how LSU tends to perform in overtime.
Ok, maybe I was still a little upset at that thing that happened in Texas regarding overtime, but I really don’t like the call to go with nothing but Waters there. The game is tied, you’ve got the ball with maybe .3 seconds separating the shot clock and game clock, and you’ve got two timeouts. I’ve watched too many Johnny Jones teams not call a timeout in that situation to be okay with that kind of play call, granted it all goes away if Tre’s layup falls. I get trusting your player there, but Arkansas just knew it was coming, especially without a preceding timeout.
Daniel Gafford, who ended the night leading the Razorbacks with 32 points, opened scoring in overtime to take the first Arkansas lead of the night 83-81. The Tigers answered with back-to-back three pointers by Ja’vonte Smart and Naz Reid, both playing with four fouls. Arkansas was never able to get the game tied back up, giving LSU their first win on an opposing team’s court in 367 days. The nine game losing streak is now sandwiched between two LSU wins in Bud Walton Arena.
Naz Reid ended the night leading the Tigers with 27 points on 12 shots, as the freshman pulled out 26 minutes (22.4 average) in arguably his best game as a Tiger. Reid also shot an incredible 4-of-4 from the arc and snagged 7 rebounds.
Emmitt Williams led the Tigers with 10 rebounds off the bench, making up for a shockingly bad game by starter Kavell Bigby-Williams. After an incredible performance that made the difference in a win over Alabama earlier this week, Bigby-Williams turned in 0 points in 18 minutes before fouling out.
Marlon Taylor scored 21 points on 8 shots, impressing everyone but the home crowd any time he approached the rim with or without the ball. The junior from Panola College also grabbed 7 rebounds (4 offensive) and shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line to help close the game out.
I may have been upset with the decision—or lack thereof—to use Tremont Waters at the end of regulation in lieu of an actual offensive play, but the sophomore had another impressive game that we’ve come to take for granted. Tre ended the night with 17 points, 11 assists, and 3 steals, earning his second double-double in the last three games and his third of the season. His seven turnovers can be very concerning, but you’ll never get the exceptional without those exceptions.
The Tigers take their newfound road (and overtime!) winning streak to Oxford Tuesday night, where they’ll take on the Ole Miss Rebels. The Rebels are 13-2 (3-0) this season with big wins over Auburn and Mississippi State. That game will tip off at 8pm on the SEC Network, the Rebels are an early five point favorite.