After spending the first half trying to outrun and outgun LSU, the University of Arkansas played hard-nosed defense, got the ball inside to their preseason first-team All-SEC power forward Daniel Gafford and managed to force overtime.
The Razorbacks then forgot to play defense and were outscored in overtime 13-7 as the Hogs suffered their fifth defeat, 94-88. It was also their fourth loss at home this season.
This was a game of halves and runs.
In the first half, LSU looked like the better team. When it had a 13-point lead in the second half, the Tigers had a swagger about them.
That's when the Razorbacks went toe-to-toe, nose-to-nose with the Tigers. The Hogs challenged almost every dribble and shot. The loud crowd urged them on.
They outscored LSU 22-10 in the final 9:52 of regulation to force overtime.
Gafford almost had been forgotten in the Razorbacks' offense the past two games, but on Saturday the sophomore -- who got four shots against Florida on Wednesday -- scored 32 points on 14-of-19 shooting from the floor.
LSU didn't seem concerned about Gafford in the first half, but in the second half the Tigers realized they needed help and still did not slow him down.
Gafford was unstoppable. What this team should have learned is that he needs 19 shots a game, or maybe more, and that they need to attempt fewer three-pointers.
Mike Anderson's offense feeds off the defense, and that's what got the Razorbacks to overtime.
It didn't get them through the extra five minutes. After Gafford gave the Hogs the lead, LSU hit back-to-back three-pointers, and momentum had swung with 3:22 left in OT.
LSU stepped up its defense -- and the Tigers are a team that wants to win with its offense -- and denied Gafford the ball. Not even he can score without it.
Overall, it was a competitive game against a very good LSU team and a loss that won't hurt the Hogs with NCAA rankings. They should be able to build off this performance.
They have to be patient on offense and go inside-out on most possessions. Gafford doesn't shoot if he doesn't have a shot. He'll kick it back outside.
And they have to play defense. Anderson was rotating players in and out to keep fresh legs on the court, and it helped them overcome a big deficit, but there was no quit in the Tigers in Walton Arena.
The first half was an old-fashioned shootout. Dale Brown and Nolan Richardson, the former head gunslingers for LSU and Arkansas, would have loved the opening 20 minutes.
LSU's ability to make seven of 11 three-pointers gave the Tigers a 50-42 halftime lead. The Hogs were just one of seven on three-pointers, but the good news was the same team that had been firing threes the past two games finally got Anderson's message to get the ball to Gafford.
Gafford took 12 shots in the opening half and made eight as the Tigers tried to guard him one-on-one, which they couldn't do. He missed just once in the final 20 minutes.
LSU had an 18-11 rebounding advantage at the break, which took an early toll on the Hogs.
The Razorbacks didn't have an answer last season in either contest for Tigers guard Tremont Waters, a preseason first team all-SEC slection. He again was the spark for LSU, scoring 17 points and dishing out 11 assists, although the Hogs forced him into several of his 7 turnovers in the second half.
Arkansas answered most LSU field goals with a field goal, but the three-point defense of the Hogs gave the Tigers too many open looks early.
It almost was a great comeback.
Sports on 01/13/2019
Print Headline: WALLY HALL: Hogs figure out where to get ball despite loss