Tom Murphy is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of Louisiana Tech University, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 football poll. Murphy was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Razorbacks show resiliency in Baton Rouge
LSU guard Tremont Waters (3) and Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford (10) scramble for the ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Bill Feig)
BATON ROUGE -- University of Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson glanced over the stat sheet Saturday night and tried to make sense of what had just happened.
Somehow, his Razorbacks had overcome a 38-11 discrepancy in free throw attempts and a 44-20 rebounding disadvantage, had weathered the storm of LSU's rough and tumble full-court pressure, egged on by a sellout crowd of 13,311 at the Maravich Assembly Center, and won the day.
Arkansas men vs Vanderbilt
WHEN 8 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville
RECORDS Arkansas 13-8, 4-4 SEC; Vanderbilt 9-12, 0-8
SERIES Arkansas leads 24-12.
TELEVISION SEC Network
RADIO Razorback Sports Network
"You look at the stats, man, and it's like there's no way," Anderson said.
Arkansas lost an 18-point lead during LSU's frantic comeback but did not fold in the tense final four minutes with the crowd in a frenzy. The Razorbacks survived 90-89 to upset No. 19 LSU, snapping the Tigers' 18-game home winning streak.
"Just don't panic," Anderson said was his running theme as LSU hacked and attacked and paraded to the free throw line to dissolve the 66-48 lead the Hogs had built with 13:45 remaining. LSU outscored the Hogs 37-18 over a 9:28 stretch to take an 85-84 lead on Ja'vonte Smart's loose-ball layup with 3:41 remaining.
"I thought it was the resiliency of our guys. ... I love it because they never went away, even when those guys fouled out," Anderson said.
The Razorbacks had to hang on down the stretch with point guard Jalen Harris, big man Daniel Gafford and key front court sub Gabe Osabuohien, who had provided 5 assists, 3 rebounds and 3 charges taken, on the bench with 5 fouls.
Arkansas won its third consecutive league game -- despite being outrebounded 130-81, an average of 43-27, in those games -- and squared its SEC record at 4-4 with 2-2 marks at home and on the road.
Arkansas took the lead on Mason Jones' high-arcing 6-footer over Naz Reid with 22 seconds left, then hung on during a frantic scramble at the end. Reid's spin move put him at the rim with about 11 seconds left, but Reggie Chaney's tight pressure forced the first of three misses in the final seconds.
"They got the ball now and they're going down to the other end and we've got to make plays on defense," Anderson said. "But I thought the pressure really shifted now and they've got to make that shot. Because they're supposed to win. They're supposed to beat us here. So our guys just hung in there and hung in there. Again, we had just enough fuel in the tank to win the game."
In the last five-years plus, Arkansas is now 30-11 in February under Anderson.
"It's always been the formula," Anderson said. "Early on, we've got so many new pieces. The experience they gained through nonconference and even as we bumped our heads coming into conference play, eventually they start figuring it out."
Arkansas helped itself with 58.3 percent shooting, including a season-best 13 of 24 from three-point range, led by four three-pointers each from freshmen Isaiah Joe and Keyshawn Embery-Simpson.
LSU outscored the Razorbacks 32-7 at the free-throw line, but Arkansas offset that discrepancy by outscoring the Tigers by 24 points from three-point range as LSU went 5 of 24 from deep.
The Tigers lost for just the 46th time in 402 games when making more free throws than their opponents have attempted since 1966-67.
The Razorbacks' composure in the face of a hostile crowd with officiating decisions going against them was critical.
"We were up early and they fought back. They fought back hard," Jones said.
"All we had to do was just stay calm," Gafford said. "We were getting jittery, the nerves were going and we were thinking they were going to come back and win it. We just stayed solid on defense and stayed calm."
Just a week earlier, LSU rallied from a 14-point deficit in the final 2:14 of regulation to beat Missouri 86-80 in overtime.
Anderson said the Hogs' refusal to bow out after blowing the lead showed the progress his club has made in recent weeks.
"I think we just continue to get better," Anderson said. "I think that's the biggest thing from a confidence standpoint. We've been playing well. Sometimes we haven't been rewarded. We played well at Texas Tech and we weren't rewarded with a win. This time we were rewarded with a win."
Jones said the Hogs' first road win over a ranked opponent since beating No. 21 South Carolina 83-76 in 2017 could be a spark.
"It could mean a lot because we're pushing forward and we keep making progress," Jones said.
"It means we're growing as a team," said Gafford, who scored 23 points to give him 55 in two games against LSU this year. "That 'young' stuff, that's out the window because we've grown as a team, as players, as a program. This is a big step for us and we're going to take it down the stretch as motivation."
The Razorbacks got off to a 1-4 start in SEC play, including home losses to Florida and LSU to add on to Walton Arena setbacks against Western Kentucky and Georgia Tech in December.
"We had a rough stretch in certain areas, but we've fixed that in practice and we've come out and fixed it in games," Gafford said. "We just have to have a mindset that we're a great team and we can be great if our mindset is like that. We can come out and shoot the ball perfect if our mindset is like that."
Joe, who had been 2 of 10 from the floor while playing through an illness the last 2 games, recovered to hit 4 of 8 three-pointers and score 18 points.
"They stole one from us at home, so we had to come steal it right back," Joe said. "I think this is going to give us a big confidence boost."
Sports on 02/04/2019
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