Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for WholeHogSports.com. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, Bordelon previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Springdale. He is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and Football Writers Association of America, and was awarded 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Postgame Thoughts: LSU 79, Arkansas 77
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman, left, talks with player Mason Jones in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)
Arkansas' first loss in Southeastern Conference play was a heartbreaker.
The Razorbacks scrapped and clawed for 40 minutes, overcame a seven- and six-point deficit in the second half, dealt with their largest rebounding margin in four decades, according to HogStats.com, and still had a chance to win on the road in the SEC.
LSU, though, made the game's three biggest plays on the final two possessions of the night and escaped with a two-point win over Arkansas at home. The Razorbacks drop to 12-2 on the season and 1-1 in conference play heading into another road game against Ole Miss on Saturday.
With eight seconds to play and Arkansas clinging to a 77-76 lead, Tigers freshman Trendon Watford got a bucket at the rim to fall plus the foul to give LSU a late lead. Out of a timeout, sophomore Isaiah Joe saw his potential game-winning 3-point attempt blocked by Charles Manning.
Desi Sills picked up the loose ball and attempted a last-second 3 from the left wing. It, too, was blocked by Manning.
Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said following the loss that he was fine with the way the offensive possession unfolded, with the ball in the hands of his two best available shooters. Mason Jones, who turned in a terrific performance with a game-high 24 points, fouled out with 32 seconds to play.
In his postgame remarks with the Razorback Sports Network, Musselman said you cannot simply look at one play as the determining factor in the game, but he did point out one critical moment, an utter lapse in judgement by one of his players, in the first half that proved costly.
Sophomore forward Reggie Chaney, who has now played only 14 minutes in Arkansas' two SEC games, was whistled for a foul on LSU guard Skyler Mays under the rim. As the ball fell to the floor from the rim, Chaney slapped the ball into the crowd with his right hand in a bit of frustration, drawing a technical foul.
The act resulted in two points for the Tigers as Mays knocked down a pair of free throws. Chaney did not see the floor following his technical. He appears to be really in his own head of late, and his body language has been terrible. Add Wednesday night's incident with his play against Texas A&M and it will be interesting to see what his role is moving forward.
Musselman also noted he had never been a part of a game like this before. LSU outrebounded Arkansas 53-24 in its win and blasted the Razorbacks 26-0 in second-chance points. Will Wade's club notched its second best offensive rebound rate of the season (52.3), and Darius Days led the way in that regard.
Days was one of four Tigers in double figures with 16 points, and he grabbed 16 rebounds as well, nine on the offensive end. He now holds a personal offensive rebound rate of 14.4 percent, which ranks 35th nationally, according to KenPom. In conference play only, that number jumps to a stunning 27.7 percent.
Watford, who led LSU with 21 points, grabbed nine rebounds - four offensive. Mays added 19 points.
Wednesday marked Arkansas' worst rebounding margin (-29) in a game since the 1981-82 season. Unsurprisingly, the Razorbacks are currently last in the SEC in offensive and defensive rebounding through two games. Opponents have grabbed 43.7 percent of their misses while Arkansas has corralled just 16.4 percent of its errant shots.
"We're undersized and you could really see it tonight on the glass," Musselman said. "To think that a team could beat you on the glass, 26-0 in second-chance points and you have a chance to win the game is absolutely unheard of. And then you add in the fact that they went to the foul line 10 more times than us, it's a miracle to some degree that we were in the game and could have won the game.
"We've got to rebound the ball better, for sure. ... Having said that, LSU is a good basketball team and they're very talented. None of their plays hurt us whatsoever. None. It was strictly them going and getting it off the glass and them getting the free throws attempted. That's what won the game for them."
Jones was the Razorbacks' player of the game, leading the team in scoring yet again. He has now reached double figures in five consecutive games. Jimmy Whitt was great, too, pouring in 22 points on an ultra-efficient 9 of 13 from the floor. He was 3 of 4 on midrange jumpers on the left side of the floor, 3 of 4 in the middle of the floor and 2 of 4 on the right.
He has brought the midrange jumper back from the dead. His efficiency has been remarkable, and he is so steady.
Joe, averaging 19.3 points over his last six games entering LSU, was largely a nonfactor in the game until a few minutes passed in the second half. He was scoreless and missed both of his shots before halftime, battling foul trouble in the meantime. Joe did add 13 points after the break, but he was 4 of 11 from the floor and 2 of 8 from deep.
The Razorbacks have plenty to clean up before heading to Oxford this weekend. Arkansas posted its worst defensive efficiency rating of the season (113.0) and allowed far too much dribble penetration and paint touches off the bounce. And yes, there will surely be an emphasis placed on boxing out over the next couple of days, don't worry.
The Rebels, at the moment, look to be the perfect team to bounce back against. Ole Miss lost at Texas A&M and scored just 47 points on Tuesday.
A close loss, especially on the road against a rival, is always tough to swallow, but the fight in this Arkansas team is admirable and undeniable. It simply never quits, and I have a hard time believing this group won't be ready to get back on track this weekend.
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