Only once before in LSU coach Will Wade’s college career, he had the pleasure to watch what unfolded for 11 minutes in the first half Wednesday night.
Complete devastation unleashed by his live Xs and Os.
Wade’s Tigers put together an unfathomable 40-6 first-half run, built a 31-point lead and messed around enough in the last five minutes for Arkansas to look semi-respectable in a 92-76 LSU SEC victory in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
The Tigers’ (9-2, 4-1) late-game loosey goosey play provided Wade with a teaching point to carry to Saturday’s home game vs. South Carolina. But that was all he complained about as his team produced a second consecutive solid defense effort, complemented with LSU’s entire starting five all scoring in double figures for the first time this season.
“There was one year when I was an assistant at VCU when we started a game 32-4 against George Mason,” Wade said, “but it rarely happens. But you get the (defensive) pressure going and you get them (Arkansas) going and you get them to take the quick shots you want to take.”
Combined such defense with three starting forwards who teamed for 52 points and 29 rebounds and a pair of starting guards who combined for 30 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists, it was clear LSU issued a good ‘ol fashioned rump roastin.’
“Defense and energy, everyone was having fun, everyone was eating,” said junior forward Darius Days, one of two Tigers with a double-double as he scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. “The bench was crazy. Guys were yelling and screaming. Other guys made great plays and everyone had great energy for everybody.”
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 anywhere.
Arkansas made just 1 of 13 shots and had 9 turnovers against an LSU 2-3 zone that communicated perfectly and rotated as if pulled by one string.
The Tigers just kept scoring and scoring, hitting 15 of 23 shots in their magnificent blitz and it wasn’t necessarily a barrage of 3s. Whether it was Days or sophomore forward Trendon Watford (23 points, 10 rebounds) or freshman forward Mwani Wilkerson (11 points, 6 rebounds) or junior guard Javonte Smart (13 points, 5 assists) or freshman guard Cam Thomas (17 points, 3 assists), it seemed LSU kept driving past stationary Arkansas defenders like they were crash-test dummies.
“We tried to come out with energy and lock in on defense because we know we can score,” Watford said. “We knew they would make a run and we wanted to keep fighting and punching back.”
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 near the end of the first half. But the Hogs couldn’t make up any ground on the Tigers until the end.
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman admitted he had no answers. He called his last time out of the game with 12:53 left after LSU freshman guard Eric Gaines slammed in a fast break dunk for a 69-44 advantage.
“I would’ve called three more (timeouts) or five more or 10 more if I would’ve had more,” Musselman said. “LSU is a really, really talented team and basically one through five they were able to beat us off the dribble.”
The most glaring evidence of LSU’s domination was the Tigers’ starters outscored the Razorbacks’ starters 82-33.
“We’ve got a really, really good group,” Wade said. “I hadn’t had this much fun coaching a team since I’ve been here. This is a fun group.
“I don’t know where it’s going to lead. But we’ve got great, great people and we’re starting to come together, man. I’m just very, very excited.”