Da Boot Sports
By: Terrill J. Weil
BATON ROUGE, LA - The Tigers began SEC play on Wednesday night as they hosted 9th ranked Arkansas (11-1) in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center/Dale Brown Court.
LSU (10-1) has struggled against weaker early season opponents, needing to hang on late to win several of those games.
So the Tigers need to reboot the season and raise their level of play if they have any hope of upsetting the highly ranked Razorbacks, and that's exactly what the Bayou Bengals did, as they were strictly business in the final five minutes of play, taking down the Hogs, 60-57.
With the score even at 49-49 with only 4:27 left in the game, Trae Hannibal took over, scoring six of his team leading 19 points on three huge drives to the basket into the teeth of the Razorbacks defense.
LSU not only battled a very good Arkansas team for 40 minutes, they also survived horrible officiating all night long as they had to fight through several phantom calls at key moments of the contest.
"The goal was to go 1-0 and for us, we’re such a work in progress that we’re just trying to get better every day in practice and in games. Obviously, the goal is to win while doing it so I hope it’s something we can continue to build on." Matt McMahon said. "There’s a lot of things that went into winning tonight. I thought our defensive effort and ability to defend the paint was much improved. I was really concerned coming in because Arkansas is probably the best team in America in forcing turnovers and then converting those turnovers into points in transition. There were a couple of brutal turnovers late, but we had 10 turnovers and they only scored four points off those turnovers. I believed they were averaging around 25 points off turnovers coming in, so I thought that was really key. Of course, we had huge individual performances such as Trae Hannibal, who was a monster. The first half, we didn’t finish well at the basket while the second half we went 14-for-22 on two pointers. We got to the rim and finished. Derek Fountain had a 14-10 (14 points and 10 rebounds) double-double, but now you’re going down the line. We had great bench play and KJ (Williams), who has been such a great scorer for us. It speaks to his game that he’s just about winning and how unselfish he is. He was the screener on a lot of those downhill drives where Trae (Hannibal), Justice (Hill) and some of our guys got to the basket and finished. A lot of positives to take from it. Obviously, it wasn’t an offensive masterpiece for anybody. Winning is winning and we’ll take it. We’re just really proud of our players.”
Both teams began the game ice cold, missing several shots before the Hogs got on the board first
when Davonte Davis put the ball up and in at the 17:28 mark. 2-0 Razorbacks.
KJ Williams answered the Arkansas basket with a three pointer from the top of the key giving the Tigers their first lead, 3-2.
The Tigers hit back to back three pointers, one by Adam Miller, the other by Trae Hannibal to take a 13-12 lead with 11:05 left in the first half.
Over the next four minutes LSU outscored the Hogs 4-0 to extend their lead to 17-12 at the 7:39 mark.
The game remained an evenly played, low scoring contest with both teams playing even, 6-6 over the next four minutes as LSU held onto a 19-18 lead with 2:59 remaining in the half.
The Tigers ended the half with a 5-1 run to lead 24-19 at the break.
The Hogs started the second half scoring five straight to tie the contest, 24-24 at the 18:30 mark as the game picked up where it left off at the end of the first 20 minutes.
With 11:41 left on the clock and LSU trailing 34-32, Justice Hill missed three free throws after being fouled while shooting from behind the arc. Arkansas' Jordan Walsh would then hit a three after being left all alone at the top of the key to give the Hogs a 37-32 advantage.
Trailing 40-35 at the 9:38 mark, the Tigers brought a roaring Assembly Center crowd of 10,428 to their feet as they went on a 12-4 run to go up 47-44 with 5:51 left in the game.
“A couple of things stood out. Number one, I’m proud of our players. I thought that they played with great toughness and effort and sustained it for 40 minutes. They deserve all the credit for gutting out a tough and nasty win here." McMahon said. "The second thing: just walking out of the tunnel and seeing the crowd and atmosphere. The energy in the building on December 28th with a top-10 team in the country on our court was awesome. We’re really thankful to the great Tiger fans who came out tonight and we’re really proud of our players for beating an outstanding basketball team.”
With the win the Tigers are now 11-1 overall and 1-0 in SEC play.
Next up LSU will travel to Lexington to take on the Kentucky Wildcats in Rupp Arena on Tuesday, Jan. 3. Tipoff is set for 7:00pm CST and the game will be televised on ESPN.
Photos Below By: Michael Bacigalupi
*John 14:6 - "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (Give your life to Jesus)
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