Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Adversity hits Hogs before tip, continues
LSU's Jordan Mickey (25) shoots over Arkansas' Moses Kingsley during an NCAA college basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/The Advocate, Catherine Threlkeld)
BATON ROUGE, La. - Arkansas was down two players before even tipping off against LSU on Saturday with forwards Michael Qualls and Alandise Harris left at home because of indefinite suspensions.
Then the game started and the Razorbacks found themselves down by 20 points with six minutes left in the first half.
All the downers added up to another road loss for Arkansas as LSU led from start to finish to win 88-74 before an announced crowd of 10,925 at the Maravich Assembly Center.
“Of course we had some adversity before the game, not having two of our guys that we count on, but that’s part of it,” Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said. “When adversity takes place, you’re going to findout a little bit more about your basketball team, and what I found out tonight is that our guys won’t quit.
“They had a chance to really get buried, and they came out in the second half and really fought against a good LSU team.”
The Razorbacks (13-8, 2-6 SEC) trailed 70-50 with less than nine minutes left, but they outscored the Tigers 18-4 to pull within 74-68 with 4:51 left on Mardracus Wade’s three-point basket.
LSU outscored Arkansas 9-0 - including a three-point basket by 6-9 freshman Jerell Martin, dunks by 6-9 junior Johnny O’Bryant and 6-8 freshman Jordan Mickey and two free throws by Mickey - to push its lead to 83-68 at the 2:20 mark and put Arkansas away for good.
“It took so much out of our guys,” Anderson said of the comeback. “But to me, the beauty of it is, I got a chance to see.
“There have been some games where it didn’t take place where we make a run. We made a big push at them, and LSU did what they had to do to hold us off.”
Arkansas freshman forward Bobby Portis, who had 15 points, said the Razorbacks showed some improvement compared to their 69-53 loss at Texas A&M in the SEC opener.
“I think we got better this game,” Portis said. “I remember in our first road game at Texas A&M, we got down big time and then we kind of folded.
“This game we actually fought back and tried to get back in the game.”
LSU dominated inside with O’Bryant (23 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists), Mickey (22 points, 11 rebounds and 6 blocked shots) and Martin (15 points).
“They’re long, they’re athletic, and obviously they’re playing at home, so they played with a lot of energy,”Anderson said. “They played well.”
LSU led 83-72 with 1:32 left when 6-10 freshman Moses Kingsley made a steal and went down the middle of the lane to dunk, but had his attempt blocked by Mickey.
“I love playing with Jordan,” O’Bryant said. “I have never in my life played with a guy that can do the things he does.”
“Mickey was blocking everything,” Portis said.
O’Bryant hit 11 of 16 shots and the Tigers outscored the Hogs 48-24 in the paint.
“O’Bryant, he’s a man,” Portis said. “He’s strong down low, he seals really well and he’s got good body control.”
LSU hit 11 of its first 16 shots and got six points from O’Bryant to lead 26-9 lead with 10:27 left in the first half. The Tigers finished 54.7 percent (35 of 64 from the field).
“It seemed like they hit every shot,” said Arkansas guard Kikko Haydar, who hada career-high 15 points. “We fought back in the second half and we got it close.
“We just didn’t quite get over the hump.”
LSU hasn’t trailed in either of its past two games, including an 87-82 victory over No. 11 Kentucky on Tuesday night.
“It was important for us to come out of the gate quickly,” Tigers Coach Johnny Jones said. “The one thing we didn’t want them to do was become a confident basketball team.”
Arkansas, led by Ky Madden’s 17 points, fell to 0-4 on the road this season and 2-22 in Anderson’s three seasons as coach.
“I’m sure everyone is frustrated, but no one’s more frustrated than we are,” Haydar said. “We want to win. This is my last year. I’ve got a month, two months left of college basketball.”
Haydar said the Razorbacks “will break their backs to win” and aren’t giving up on the season.
“A lot of people are probably jumping off our bandwagon, but we have a lot of basketball left,” Haydar said. “It hasn’t gone the way we’ve wanted it go, obviously, but we’ll ready to go the next game. We’re going to get back to work and keep fighting.”
The Razorbacks shot 32.8 percent from the field (21 of 64), but kept the game from being a rout by hitting 25 of 27 free throws compared to 11 of 16 by the Tigers.
“We’ve got our backs against the wall,” Portis said. “We’re trying to fight to get to the [NCAA] Tournament or just to get somewhere.”
Haydar said it’s always tough not to have a full team, but didn’t blame the loss on the absence of Qualls and Harris.
“The guys that were here came out and played very hard,” Haydar said. “If we’d come and played better in the first half, I think it would have been a different game.”
Sports, Pages 21 on 02/02/2014