No luck for Arkansas vs. can't-miss LSU

Posted: February 4, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

LSU's Aaron Epps (21) rejects a shot by Arkansas' Jaylen Barford (0) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. (Patrick Dennis/The Advocate via AP)

As the old saying goes, better lucky than good. On Saturday, the LSU Tigers were so lucky they looked good as they beat the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville 94-86.

Granted the Razorbacks didn't play great defense in the first half, but LSU looked like a team that should be vying for the SEC title instead of battling to earn a little respect.

It seemed like the spirit of Peter Maravich was having a homecoming Saturday in the Maravich Center.

Going into the game, the Tigers were not impressive in SEC play, making only 28.9 of their three-pointers, 44 percent of all shots and hitting just 72 percent from the free-throw line.

Against the Razorbacks, they hit 50 percent of the 30 threes they attempted, almost 53 percent of all shots and an amazing 91.3 percent on free throws (21 of 23).

There was no officiating bias. There were no excuses. The Tigers were simply red hot and their long-range shooting more than made up for the fact that the Hogs had four more field goals, making 33 of 60 for 55 percent.

No doubt, some of that luck was created by the Tigers, especially Tremont Waters, a true freshman who had 27 points and 11 assists. Although the Razorbacks dogged him on almost every dribble, he had only four turnovers in 36 minutes.

Consider this: He had one less assist than the entire Arkansas team. The Tigers also had six guys who made at least one three-pointer; the Hogs, who were 3 of 8, had two -- leading scorers Daryl Macon with two and Jaylen Barford one.

Still, the Hogs had more rebounds and fewer turnovers and still couldn't get over the Tigers hump. Twice in the second half Arkansas got within four but couldn't shut the door because LSU refused to lose, playing hard-nosed basketball for 94 feet.

All things considered, the Hogs were lucky to be down only 43-35 at the half.

In the first half, the Razorbacks were cold from the field and the Tigers were armed and dangerous. Arkansas suffered through a 5:10 stretch when it went 0-8 from the field and fell behind 28-16 as LSU hit uncontested three-pointers and scored on driving layups.

LSU also was able to go inside and get the Hogs to commit to collapsing, then kicked it out to an open shooter. The Tigers were primed and ready for anything the Razorbacks could throw at them, and for the entire game the Tigers played man-to-man defense.

Arkansas led for a little more than six minutes, but LSU was turning the ball over early and not making shots. Once the Tigers got control of the tempo, the turnovers stopped and the scoring started.

Like the earlier game in Fayetteville, the Hogs didn't appear to have an answer for freshman point guard Waters, who had 10 points and six assists in the first half and then took over in the second half.

On a day when Missouri beat Kentucky and Alabama knocked off Florida, the Hogs got knocked backward in their hope of making the NCAA Tournament without needing a couple of victories in the SEC Tournament.

The Tigers gave the Razorbacks a costly loss, their second in a row, and it is going to hurt their RPI. They dropped eight spots after losing to Texas A&M, and the Aggies have a strong resume despite a bad SEC record.

For whatever reason this Razorbacks team has struggled to play two good halves, and while that was true again Saturday, their main problem was that they didn't have an answer for Waters, who took over the game and created luck for 40 minutes.

Sports on 02/04/2018