Postgame thoughts: LSU 75, Arkansas 54

By: Scottie Bordelon
Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Arkansas center Daniel Gafford tries to turn to the basket while he is defended by LSU forward Duop Reath during a game Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas center Daniel Gafford tries to turn to the basket while he is defended by LSU forward Duop Reath during a game Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.

— Some thoughts following Arkansas' 75-54 loss to LSU in Bud Walton Arena:

Tremont Waters

If you saw the end of LSU's win at Texas A&M over the weekend, or any of the Tigers' SEC games, you knew what kind of talent Tremont Waters was and what kind of a challenge he'd pose for Arkansas.

The 5-11 freshman delivered for coach Will Wade, scoring eight points, handing out eight assists and grabbing five rebounds in the meantime. Wade said this wasn't one of Waters' best performances of the season, and he's probably right (Waters poured in 39 points against Marquette in November).

But he was poised. He was under control. And that's exactly what an opposing team needs to come into Bud Walton Arena and win. Waters finished with just two turnovers and didn't seem at all phased by the environment.

He dissected the Razorbacks' defense throughout the night on pick and rolls, splitting Arkansas' hedge defender and getting into the lane where he then had a number of avenues to take.

Wade praised Waters postgame for making the pass to the assist. LSU got just about anything it wanted in a halfcourt setting. For Arkansas, that's troubling because Tennessee coach Rick Barnes had the exact same thing to say after the Vols' overtime loss in late December.

Waters is playing at a really high level right now and has to be one of the primary reasons the Tigers have started SEC play with a pair of impressive road wins and a tight loss to Kentucky.

I don't think it's too early to start talking about Waters as a viable SEC Freshman of the Year candidate.

Struggles carry over

I wrote pretty extensively this week about Arkansas' first half struggles in its first three games in league play. I didn't expect them to continue, especially not like Wednesday when the Hogs turned in their worst half of basketball in a long time.

Arkansas scored a woeful 21 points before halftime and didn't crack double figures on the scoreboard until a Daniel Gafford layup with 8:22 left in the half. Its .568 points per possession was by far a season-low. The Razorbacks had as many fouls as made field goals at the half.

Then Arkansas came out flat to begin the second half, turning the ball over on its first two possessions. Jaylen Barford, who scored 10 of his game-high 17 in the second half, did get going for a stretch and the Hogs cut the LSU lead to 12 on C.J. Jones' jumper/floater in the lane.

But after Aaron Epps' 3-pointer rattled around the rim and dropped, LSU regained traction, settled in and cruised. Epps' triple kicked off an 11-0 run in a two minute, 32 second span that took the life out of the building and sent a mass majority of the crowd to the exits.

Arkansas' first half numbers were atrocious: 6 of 33 shooting, 1 of 11 from 3-point range, two assists and one steal. LSU scored 18 of its 37 first-half possessions and carried a 20-point lead into the locker room.

Mike Anderson has to get the Hogs' slow starts in order. As Clay Henry told me during the game, this is a year in the SEC you can get blown out at home or on the road if you don't bring it from the get-go. Arkansas didn't have it Wednesday, and hasn't had it yet in conference before the half.

The win was LSU's second largest victory against the Razorbacks in their 64-game history.

Daniel Gafford's touches

Daniel Gafford didn't take his first shot until the 8:22 mark in the first half. That's pretty inexplicable.

Eight Arkansas players, including Darious Hall, Dustin Thomas, Trey Thompson and Adrio Bailey, launched at least one shot before Gafford got his. Bailey took three and Thomas missed on two jumpshots. Not exactly what you want.

Fourteen of Arkansas' first 15 shots were jumpers or 3-pointers, and seemingly everyone settled for those perimeter looks despite them not falling. Following an Anton Beard layup, Arkansas misfired on eight consecutive jumpers. You'd think if there was a lid on the basket, like Mike said there was, you'd throw the ball to Gafford in hopes on an easy bucket or, if he's double-teamed, a kick out to a teammate for an uncontested shot.

Gafford simply cannot go more than 10 minutes without the opponent feeling his presence on the offensive end. It just can't happen. Arkansas was way too perimeter-oriented Wednesday.

Saturday vs. Missouri

I was really looking forward to the atmosphere inside Bud Walton on Saturday leading up to Wednesday. Now I'm not sure what to expect.

Arkansas' performance against LSU was pretty disheartening and I'm left wondering where the fan base is with this team after three straight losses and a nosedive out of the national rankings. Many left with around eight minutes to play after the Tigers ballooned their lead back to 19. Can't blame them.

Meanwhile, Missouri will be coming in fresh off a 12-point win against Georgia Wednesday night. After a 20-point first half, the Tigers exploded for 48 points after the break and grabbed a 68-56 win at home behind freshman Jeremiah Tilmon's efforts and four players reaching double figures.

Arkansas needs a bounce-back win in the worst way, but I feel like there are a lot of question marks heading into the weekend.

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