LSU erased an 18-point second-half deficit and the PMAC reprised its role as the Deaf Dome, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a 90-89 loss to Arkansas.
Arkansas guard Mason Jones hit what would be the game-winning shot with 22 seconds remaining. LSU brought the ball down the floor without calling a timeout and had got three shots off, none of which fell threw to end the game.
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said the wild nature of the game gave him some nostalgia of a time when games like this between the two programs was commonplace.
“What an unbelievable game,” Anderson said. “I saw (former LSU basketball) coach Dale Brown, and it reminded me of all the games when I was (at Arkansas) as an assistant under (former Arkansas coach Nolan) Richardson, we had some crazy games, and they all seemed to end kind of like that there.”
The loss ended a 10-game winning streak and an 18-game winning streak in the PMAC, which ended the second longest run in the arena’s history.
The Tigers (17-4, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) more than doubled up Arkansas (13-8, 4-4) on the boards, grabbing 44 to the Razorbacks’ 20.
LSU coach Will Wade said the loss was a matter of time, pointing to the Tigers’ previous in which they’ve played with fire as of late.
“When you walk a tightrope we’ve been walking a tightrope for about two weeks, you’re eventually going to fall off,” Wade said.
A week after a miracle comeback victory against Missouri, it looked once again that LSU’s first SEC loss was an inevitability as Arkansas led by 18 with 13:45 remaining.
But after cutting that lead to 15 and forcing a turnover, Javonte Smart and Marlon Taylor made a decision to get the crowd into the game.
“We are appreciative of them coming out,” Smart said. “When we were down, we knew they would help us bring energy. The energy helped us come back.”
What ensued was a crowd-fueled comeback that saw the Tigers erase that lead and finally go up by a point with just under four minutes remaining in the game.
Things swung further in LSU’s favor as Arkansas had three players foul out, including point guard Jalen Harris and star forward Daniel Gafford.
Gafford, who finished the game shooting 11 of 15 from the field for 23 points and had 8 of Arkansas’ 20 rebounds, was the last of the trio to foul out with just more than 2 minutes remaining.
Harris finished the game with 11 points and five assists, shooting 5 for 7 from the field.
From there the game turned into a dogfight, with the two teams slugging back and forth and trading leads until Jones’ game winner.
Naz Reid got a good look on the final possession, but his layup attempt didn’t fall, which led to the ball being tipped back out to Javonte Smart
Smart took a baseline jumper that also didn’t go in. Reid gathered the rebound and tried a turnaround prayer, but the ball bounced off the rim and the final buzzer sounded.
Prior to Jones’ shot, LSU had the ball with under a minute left with a chance to extend its lead beyond a point. Tremont Waters heaved an ambitious alley-oop attempt to Marlon Taylor, who couldn’t quite gather it before it landed out of bounds.
“I probably should have called a timeout,” Wade said. “That was a bit of a set play. Tremont makes great plays, and 9 times out of 10 he’s going to make the right play for us. We trust him. He’s our point guard. He’s our guy.”
Wade also opted not to call a time on LSU’s last possession, trusting his players to find a good look within the natural flow of the game.
The Tigers found two of them and a prayer, none of which fell, but Wade said he didn’t regret letting them play.
“I have to go back and look, but I think Naz had a pretty clean layup,” Wade said. “Once Javonte got it, though, it was a bit of a scramble situation. I thought we could get to the rim but they collapsed in a bit. It was going to be hard to get a timeout.
“Naz got a good look, we got a good look from Javonte on the pull-up. We just couldn’t knock them down.”
Reid led the Tigers in scoring with 19 points in addition to grabbing 10 rebounds for the double-double.
Waters had 12 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists, while Smart finished with 18 points.
Arkansas Guard Isaiah Joe shot 4-for-8 from the 3-point line for 18 points.
Things won’t get any easier for LSU moving forward as the Tigers hit the road Wednesday for a game against Mississippi State in Starksville.
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