By CODY WORSHAM | Tiger Rag Editor
Shaquille O’Neal took one dribble from the halfcourt circle and launched a three. He never made one in three seasons at LSU — not even in the 1991 SEC-title winning season whose team returned to campus this weekend for a reunion — but this one found the bottom of the net, sending the Pete Maravich Assembly Center into a frenzy.
There would be little cheering the rest of the way.
Arkansas outscored LSU 47-30 in the second half for a 78-70 win, erasing a Tiger lead which once grew as large as 14 and handing the hosts their 11th straight defeat.
Antonio Blakeney scored 21 points and grabbed a career high 12 rebounds, and Duop Reath matched Blakeney’s double double effort with 14 points and 15 rebounds in defeat.
Trailing by 12 with 3:35 to play, LSU nearly came back. Brandon Sampson, who scored 12 points in defeat, fired a three-pointer with 30 seconds left that would have made it a three-point game, but the ball tantalized the net, spinning around the rim a full 360-degrees before rolling out.
LSU started fast, racing out to a nine-point lead after 10 minutes — its largest advantage in 38 days, since the Tigers knocked off Missouri in Columbia. Duop Reath blanketed the paint on both ends, and his dunk, followed by another from Blakeney seconds later from a Skylar Mays steal and assist, put LSU up 25-16 and brought the crowd to its feet.
Reath finished the game with 14 points and 15 rebounds, his sixth double-double of the season.
Unlike games past, the Tigers didn’t take their foot off the gas. Mays hit Reath with a fullcourt dime for a dunk, and Blakeney battered his way to the free throw line, hitting three straight to cap off a first half double-double and a 7-0 LSU run. LSU lead 40-31 at the half, out-rebounding Arkansas 28-12 and outscoring them 26-10 in the paint.
The Razorbacks came out of the break gunning. Hannahs, who didn’t score his first points of the night until the 1:41 mark of the first half, keyed an 11-0 Arkansas run with a pair of triples, tying the score at 42 less than four minutes into the half. Blakeney answered with four straight before Hannahs connected on his fourth three of the game. That jump-started a 10-0 Razorback run — Hannahs had six of those, good for a 55-46 lead with 12:29 to go.
The culprit in LSU’s collapse: turnovers. After just six in the first half, the Tigers coughed it up seven times in the first seven minutes, key in Arkansas’ decisive 24-4 run.
SOPHOMORE GUARD ANTONIO BLAKENEY
On what went right in the first half…
“In the first half we were playing defense and letting it contribute to offense. Playing good defense got us out on the break and we got easy points.”
On what was different in the second half from the first…
“We turned the ball over. I think we had 10 turnovers in the second half, so we gave them easy opportunities. We didn’t do a good job of getting into the gaps and making the next play.”
On if some emotion from the Kentucky game carried over…
“I think so to start, just not for the whole 40 minutes. That’s our problem, we didn’t do it for the whole 40 minutes.”
On if having Shaq and the 1991 team in the PMAC motivated them…
“Definitely. Shaq talked to us before the game and motivated us. He’s a Hall of Famer. He said we had to play hard and that the tradition of the school isn’t built for how we’re playing.”
JUNIOR FORWARD DUOP REATH
On what they were doing on the boards…
“We just came in and wanted to dominate. I think last game they won the rebounding count. We just had to be aggressive inside. We didn’t carry it out in the second half very well.”
LSU HEAD COACH JOHNNY JONES
Opening statement …
“I thought we came out and played a good first half of basketball. In the first 20 minutes, I thought a lot of good things happened on both ends of the floor, offensively and defensively. In the second half, we didn’t need to play a good second half; we needed to play a great second half to make sure that we were able to secure victory. We had some opportunities in the first half that we didn’t take advantage of and needed to capitalize on. The first five minutes were going to be important. We came back out in the second half, unfortunately, as though we were a team who was satisfied with what we were in the first half. We allowed (Arkansas) to get off the mat and play and become a confident basketball team in the second half. We did not play tough enough to put ourselves in the position to secure victory.”
On the team entering the game confidently …
“I thought we got off to a good start at home. I thought we’ve had good practices. I thought we have been playing well, but again, it’s about consistency in having the ability to put ourselves in the position to not think that when things are going well that we get bored with it. Then we try to put ourselves in the position to do too much. We had six turnovers in the first half, sharing the basketball, making good plays. We wound up having 10 turnovers in the second half, trying to force the action and the issue, trying to make too many individual plays. Against a team like this (Arkansas), who is handsy and extremely quick and a good defensive basketball team, you can’t play that way. We created some offensive opportunities, easy scoring, because of the way that we played on the offensive end.”