In just 11 minutes with an unfathomable 40-6 first-half run, it was done.
From that point, all LSU had to do was not get fat and happy and sloppy, yet it inevitably advanced to that stage Wednesday night.
A once 31-point lead dwindled to 13 with just more than three minutes left before LSU finally got to the final buzzer with a 92-76 SEC victory over Arkansas in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
For the first time this season, the Tigers (9-2, 4-1 in SEC) had all five starters score in double figures and had two with double-doubles.
Forward Trendon Watford had 23 points and 10 rebounds and fellow forward Darius Days finished with 18 points and 13 rebounds. Guards Javonte Smart and Cam Thomas added 17 and 13 points respectively and forward Mwani Wilkerson contributed 11 points and 6 rebounds.
Arkansas (10-3, 2-3 SEC) was led by guards JD Notae and Moses Moody with 22 and 18 points respectively.
LSU’s 20-point halftime lead at 51-31 was its largest in SEC play this season and it could have even more if not for a 12-0 Arkansas run after the Tigers led by 31 points at 44-13 with 6:10 left in the first half.
After Arkansas led 7-4 off two put-backs off missed shots and a 3-pointer by rail-thin 7-3 Arkansas center Connor Vanover, the Tigers put on a defensive clinic for the next 11 minutes rarely seen in recent seasons.
At one point, Arkansas made just 2 of 15 shots against an LSU 2-3 that communicated and moved as if pulled by one string. When the Razorbacks weren’t clanking shots, they were committing 11 first-half turnovers leading to 14 LSU points.
The Tigers just kept scoring and scoring, hitting 10 of 12 shots and it wasn’t necessarily a barrage of 3s. Whether it was Watford or Smart or Thomas, it just seemed LSU kept driving past standstill Arkansas defenders who often braced for contact but were left standing in a pose after Tigers’ consistently Euro-stepped around them.
LSU hammered Arkansas in first-half rebounding 25-17, so the only way the Hogs had a chance of coming back after halftime was getting shots up and making it a street fight on the boards or getting fouled.
The Tigers, who missed eight of their last nine shots in the first half – all jumpers and no drives – went inside four of their opening four buckets of the second half.
Arkansas cut the LSU lead to 18 points in the first 24 seconds following halftime., But a 6-0 Tigers’ run boosted the lead back to 24 and the Razorbacks eventually made a late run to make it interesting.
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