State of the Hogs: LSU thumps jump shooting Arkansas

By: Clay Henry
Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2018
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson looks at his players during a game against LSU on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson looks at his players during a game against LSU on Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018, in Fayetteville.

— Just when it looked like Arkansas was on track in the Mike Anderson era, it's time to dust off the best of the Nolan Richardson quotes: All sickness is not death.

That was the line Anderson fell back onto after LSU waltzed to a 75-54 victory that didn't seem that close for most of Wednesday night at Bud Walton Arena. The Hogs came out settling for long-range jumpers, not always in open space. It was ugly all the way.

The Hogs seem pretty dead right now after three straight losses since climbing into the national polls at No. 22 after a wonderful overtime victory over Tennessee to open SEC play.

It's the second straight season Arkansas has opened SEC play at 1-3. Senior guard Jaylen Barford was asked to put that in perspective. He didn't have nearly as good of an answer as Anderson.

“That's life,” Barford said.

What no one said was that Arkansas was awful out of the gate. A late-arriving crowd for another of those awful 8 o'clock starts for the SEC Network had hardly settled into its seats before LSU scooted to a big lead.

The Hogs came out clanging jumpers, content to fire away against LSU's sagging defense. There weren't many touches for 6-11 center Daniel Gafford. He was 1 of 2 for the first half it didn't seem like the ball ever got to him. The Hogs made only six field goals before halftime.

LSU coach Will Wade didn't hide that the strategy was to stay with Barford and Daryl Macon, and shove Gafford out of the paint.

“We tried to push him off certain areas,” Wade said, who noted Gafford was 54 of 57 shooting when he caught the ball with at least one foot in the paint.

“We didn't want him to catch it and bounce it a couple of times.”

Mission accomplished and no one else looked dangerous, especially any of the forwards. Barford and Macon were blanketed when they got to the lane.

Some of it looked like fouls, but the three-man SEC crew of Anthony Jordan, Pat Adams and Ron Groover did not bail them out. Adams hit Anderson with a technical foul at the16:50 mark of the second half.

Anderson thought Barford was fouled on several charge calls. There were lots of chances on the tough-to-get-right decisions on blocks or charges.

“I thought there was a bunch (of missed calls) like that, maybe three,” Anderson said. “I thought a foot was right in the circle.”

As far as the technical, Anderson didn't have “any idea” what he said to trigger the call. He added, “Maybe I got personal. I don't know.”

The Hogs were worst than the officials. They shot 18 percent in the first half when they fell behind 41-21. The Tigers led all but for the first 43 seconds.

“We settled,” Anderson said of the shot selection. “You've heard me say sometimes it was a raggedy ride and it was ragged tonight. All sickness is not death, what my mentor said.”

The Hogs had no answer for LSU freshman point guard Tremont Waters. But it could have been worse. Waters was 3 of 10 from the field and 2 of 5 from the free throw line. He did his damage dribbling away from Anton Beard and Macon, with slick passes for eight assists.

“He usually shoots a lot better than that,” Wade said. “And, as for his assists, sometimes it was like a hockey assist, the next guy got it but (Waters) started it.”

Barford led the Hogs in scoring with 17, but no one else was in double figures. There was no production from the bench. C. J. Jones did make two field goals, including a running jumper in the lane to cut the deficit to 12 with 10:42 left.

The Tigers had an answer on the other end when Aaron Epps hit a 3-pointer that sparked a 10-0 run. That one bounced well above the rim, then rattled home.

“They got the bounces,” Anderson said. “That one was typical of the night. It seemed to happen a bunch of time. We'd cut it to 12 and had a lot of time. That was about 10 minutes and that's usually go time for us. That one took the air out of us.”

Wade said it was “our night.” Earlier he said his team “got tighter” when the Hogs seemed poised to make that patented run.

“That's how we've been all year,” he said. “Aaron hit a huge three. It rattled around.”

Arkansas senior Trey Thompson added, “That's the kind of night they had. It fell for them.”

That really doesn't do it justice. Thompson had a better summary earlier.

“We didn't play no defense,” he said. “When you are not making shots, you have to get stops.”

LSU shot 56 percent in the first half and 53 percent for the game. The Tigers got open shots and the Hogs did not.

“It seemed like we ran into them,” Barford said of his drives into the lane. “We didn't get any calls.”

Agreed. There were replays on the big screen that infuriated fans, with some getting attention from the officials. There seemed to be heated words afterward from the officials. There was a conversation with UA game management as officials left the court. Things could get interesting if that crew returns to another game in Fayetteville.

Anderson -- frustrated with his team and the officials -- called two timeouts in the closing seconds. It seemed like he wanted a conversation with Adams, but never got it.

Now it's a quick turnaround for Missouri, Anderson's old employer. The Tigers are like everyone else in the SEC this year, capable of winning at Bud Walton Arena. The Hogs have to find some defensive answers.

Anderson said they did in practice the last two days after lacking intensity in road losses at Mississippi State and Auburn.

“Our defense was not very good and we have to get it back in practice,” Anderson said. “We talked about getting that edge back. We couldn't generate any energy tonight. That's what happens when you don't make shots and we made only 19 field goals.

“I thought we had it the last two days. We brought it. Our intensity was amped up.

“We typically play with more intensity but that's what happens when you don't make shots. We did have some good looks.”

It wasn't a good look with fans heading to the exit in a constant stream over the final eight minutes. They didn't like the work of the referees, but they didn't like much they saw from the Hogs, either.

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