By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
BATON ROUGE: What an incredible finish to a great SEC basketball game, as LSU downs Arkansas, 79-77 on Wednesday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The Tigers looked to carry over their improved play from Saturday's road victory over Tennessee, and that they did. LSU and the Razorbacks would clash in a exciting battle that would have several lead changes, big shots made, and big defensive plays at the end by the Tigers to decide the win.
The Razorbacks controlled the opening tip, and wasted no time as Mason Jones hit from behind the arc for a 3-0 lead. Two minutes later Emmitt Williams scored on a layup to put the Tigers on the board. 3-2. From that point, both teams played well and up tempo, going back and forth at each other, finding us all tied up, 21-21 at the 8:41 mark. With 7:18 left in the half, and LSU up 24-23, Arkansas went on a 14-0 run as the Tigers went cold missing several easy shots and a few free throws. The Tigers would finish 8 of 12 from the charity stripe in the half. LSU would regain their hot hand and begin to chip away at the Hogs lead, led by a pair of three point baskets by Darius Days. With 22 seconds left, Darius Days was fouled. Arkansas' Reggie Chaney out of frustration, threw the ball into the stands drawing a technical foul. Skylar Mays would make both tech foul shots. Then Darius Days would go one for one on his free throws, ending the half with Arkansas up 40-37. Skylar Mays lead the Tigers at the half with 12 points, Darius Days added 9. LSU only committed four turnovers and out-rebounded the Hogs, 25-13.
The Tigers came out and played well, as they have all season long to begin the second period. At the 17:15 mark, Emmitt Williams would draw a foul and make his first free throw to tie the game at 44-44. Williams would miss the second, but Darius Days would grab the offensive rebound. Skylar Mays would then can a three to give the Tigers the lead, 47-44. LSU would continue to hold onto the lead over the next six minutes, leading by as much as five. However, with 11:19 left, Isaiah Joe would steal a Emmitt Williams pass, take it the length of the floor, score and draw the foul to tie things up at 58-58. Joe would miss his free throw. Tied at 60, Trendon Watford would score four straight, two charity shots then a layup to put the Tigers back up 64-60, with 8:05 to go. Both teams continued to physically go back and forth. Arkansas would fight back to regain the lead, 72-71 with 4:34 to go. For the next 2:20, both teams would miss scoring opportunities, missing easy shots or turning the ball over, until Skylar Mays would make a layup to give LSU the lead back, 73-72. With 38 seconds left, Jimmy Whitt Jr. would score on a short jumper to help Arkansas retake the lead. 74-73. LSU would respond after a quick time out, as Trendon Watford would take it to the basket, score and draw the foul on Mason Jones, fouling him out of the game with 32.3 seconds left. Tigers, 76-74! The Hogs would answer right back as Isaiah Joe would drive to the goal, score, and draw a phantom foul on Skylar Mays. Joe would make the free throw giving Arkansas the lead back, 77-76, with 21 seconds left. It would be Watford again, making a short jumper and drawing a foul, with eight seconds to go. 79-77 LSU! After a LSU time out, Arkansas would bring it quickly down the court, and actually get two shots off before the final buzzer, but, both were blocked by Charles Manning Jr. to clinch the victory for LSU.
Trendon Watford lead the Tigers in scoring with 21 points, (15 in the second half). Darius Days played a great game with a double-double, (16 points, 16 rebounds). Skylar Mays finished with 19 points and Javonte Smart added 10 on the night. The Tigers showed grit and heart tonight as they battled a very good Arkansas team down to the wire, and made the big plays to pull the game out. LSU now sits at 10-4 overall, 2-0 in the SEC, While Arkansas falls to 12-2 overall, 1-1 in SEC play. Up next, the Tigers will host Mississippi State, Saturday, January 11th, 7pm. Grab your tickets and come out and fill the PMAC!
LSU Head Coach Will Wade Opening Statement…
“Obviously a critical win. I thought our crowd was great, especially down the stretch. I appreciate everyone that came. I look forward to have the students back on Saturday. I thought the crowd helped us big time. They’re a very, very good team. It was a huge win for us – a quad one win. They’re going to be a team that is going to be in the SEC race. They have great guard play. They do a great job manipulating matchups. I thought the difference in the game was, obviously, our rebounding. We had 23 offensive rebounds. They had 24 total rebounds. We killed them on the glass which allowed us to get more shots up than they did. I thought they did a good job winning the free-throw line. I wish we would have shot it better from the free-throw line. Obviously Trendon (Watford) made some tremendous play down the stretch and finished them off at free throw line and Charles Manning with two huge defensive plays at the end of the game. I’m very, very proud of our team. It was a very, very good win. We’ve got to flip it around and get ready to play (Mississippi) State on Saturday.” On the final two offensive possessions that both ended in Trendon Watford And-Ones… “I think it was huge. One thing that I look at is (Darius) Days was a little hurt down the stretch so we had to be a little carfeul with that and he had been playing well. For Trendon to miss the dunk and miss the bunny a couple minutes before that and both of them would have given us the lead – for him to do that and come back and make those winning plays and then have the poise to knock down the free-throws after the big plays is tremendous. I’m very, very proud of him. The first play was a backdoor play where if we didn’t have the backdoor that meant they were overplaying him and they were playing on top. So Trendon was just to follow it with the drive which is what he did. The second one was one of our deep side out of bounds plays and the first option was Days. He wasn’t open on the curl so we got it into Trendon and it just becomes a little bit of a single side iso.”
LSU Guard Skylar Mays On Watford’s effort at the end of the game…
“(Trendon) is special, man. He’s been playing great as we have been going along. He has really turned the corner. I am just so proud of (Trendon and Darius Days). Trendon made awesome plays today.” On matching Arkansas’ physicality… “We just know they are a quality team. They play as hard as we have seen. We just kind of tried to match their energy. Definitely a key was getting on the offensive glass. We did a great job of that, (Trendon and Darius) especially.” On holding Arkansas to zero second-chance points… “The coaches were definitely happy about that. That is the first thing they said in our postgame talk. That is just a credit to us as a team and the defensive rebounding. We did a great job tonight.”
LSU Forward Darius Days On the career high rebounds…
“Coach Wade preached in practice to stay on the glass, stay on the glass, stay on the glass. I was just very aggressive to the glass and my teammates were aggressive as well. It is very simple, we just stayed on the glass and did what we were supposed to do.”
LSU Forward Trendon Watford On the last possession…
“Coach Wade drew up a few plays for me coming out of bounds. He just trusted in me to do what I do every day. I have to thank him and thank my teammates for putting me in that position.” On improving free-throw shooting… “Me and Coach Wade get together after every practice and shoot 50 free throws. I went seven out of eight, so a lot of pressure has built up on me. It is just practice everyday. I definitely have to thank (Coach Wade) for working with me. I wasn’t shooting good earlier in the year, so he’s definitely working with me and it is paying out.”
By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports!
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