By: Terrill J. Weil
Da Boot Sports
NASHVILLE, TN: The Tigers and the Razorbacks would meet for the third time this season in the semifinals round of the Conference tournament, a date with the top seed Alabama Crimson Tide in the Championship Game on the line. LSU would send Arkansas packing with a 78-71 victory, as LSU will make their first appearance in the tournament championship game since 1993. LSU hasn't won the SEC Tournament Championship since 1980..
Arkansas would control the opening tip and score quickly as Davonte Davis would hit a jumper three seconds into the contest. After a LSU miss, Moses Moody who would begin the game hot as a pistol, would hit a three pointer giving the Hogs a 5-0 lead.
LSU would answer with four straight with a pair of baskets by Watford and Thomas as the game would sit at 5-4 at the 17:37 mark.
Both teams like to run and shoot quickly and this contest was shaping up to be a fast pace game with high intensity.
At the 15:15 mark, both teams had played all even with the score tied 12-12. But over the next five minutes, Arkansas would begin to pull away going on a 19-12 run, as LSU would go on a short slump. The Hogs would lead 31-24 with 10:39 left in the first half.
LSU would pick it back up over the next two minutes going on a 7-0 run, highlighted by a four point play by Cam Thomas as he was fouled while hitting a three pointer by Desi Sills. With 8:22 left on the clock the score would be tied at 31-31.
After Moody would hit one of two free throws for the Hogs to take a one point lead, LSU would go on another 7-0 run to build a 38-32 lead.
The Razorbacks would respond scoring four straight to cut the lead to 38-36 with 3:15 to go. Both teams would miss several basket opportunities over the final two minutes as we would go to halftime with LSU leading 40-37.
After a slow start. LSU ended up playing a pretty good first half against a very strong defensive team. Three Tiger players would score in double digits in the first 20 minutes. Javonte Smart would have 13 points, Cam Thomas would have 11 points, while Darius Days would score 10. LSU would shoot well from the floor going 16-34 for 47%, and shoot very well from behind the three point arc going 5-10 for 50%. LSU would go 3-3 at the free throw line, but will need to draw ,more fouls and get to line more often in the second half. The big concern for the Tigers would be rebounding, as Arkansas would lead on the boards 22-19 as LSU continues to struggle to get defensive rebounds.
The Hogs would come out with new energy to start the second half, scoring three straight to tie things up, 40-40 at the 18:20 mark. Arkansas would then take the lead on a jumper by Jalen Tate..
LSU would fight back to regain the lead as Cam Thomas would hit a three pointer with 15:33 to go, giving the purple and gold a 47-45 lead.
Over the next four minutes both teams would go back and forth trading the lead until we would find ourselves all tied up again at 52-52 at the 11:42 mark.
Arkansas would begin to ice up, missing several shots, allowing LSU to go on a 12-4 run over the next four minutes to take a 64-56 lead with 6:55 left in the ballgame.
We would play even over the next five minutes with each team managing 6 points each as LSU
would hold on to a eight point lead, 70-62 with 2:35 left in the contest.
Leading by six with 1:28 left, LSU would go into melt down mode, relaxing a little too early, as the Hogs would explode on a 5-0 run within 48 seconds.
Smart would take it coast to coast hitting a huge floater to put the Tigers back up by three. Then Eric Gaines would make a steal with :18 seconds left, and LSU would defeat the Hogs, 78-71, punching their ticket to the SEC Championship game where they will take on Alabama.
Cam Thomas would lead the team with 21 points, followed by a great outing by Javonte Smart with 19 points on the night. Darius Days had a solid game finishing with 13 points. Eric Gaines would add 10 points, while Trendon Watford finished with scoring 9. It was a great team effort and a huge win in the history of the program. Now the Tigers must face a team who will land a #1 national seed and are a solid favorite to win the national Championship. A team that has blown them out twice during the regular season. It's that time of the season to separate the men from the boys. Do the Tigers have it in them? We will find out on Championship Sunday... Tipoff set for 12:00pm CT... The contest will be televised on ESPN.