Tom Murphy is a sports 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. He was the 2017 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Gym'Backs upset No. 8 LSU at sold-out Barnhill
Arkansas' Lauren Williams competes Friday, Jan. 13, 2023, in the floor competition of the Razorbacks' meet with Alabama in Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — A big, energetic crowd and an explosive floor routine helped vault No. 23 Arkansas to a school-record score and a major upset Friday.
Five Razorbacks scored 9.9 or better on the floor exercise, sparked by event champion Leah Smith’s 9.95, as Arkansas rallied past No. 8 LSU 197.475-197.25 before a crowd of 7,147 at Barnhill Arena.
Freshman Lauren Williams of Bentonville placed second on the floor exercise at 9.925, and every other counting Arkansas score from Maddie Jones, Bailey Lovett and Frankie Price tied for third at 9.9 with LSU’s Aleah Finnegan. The Razorbacks made up a deficit of 0.2 points entering the final rotation with an event score of 49.575.
Arkansas (2-2, 1-2 SEC) snapped a 9-meet losing streak against SEC competition in dual or tri meets and a 25-meet losing streak against LSU (1-4, 1-2) that dated to Jan. 20, 2012.
The Razorbacks had been hampered the last two weeks by one faulty event — the uneven bars in a home loss to Alabama and the balance beam in a road loss at Auburn last week.
But they brought all four events together against the Tigers, capped by the huge final rotation.
The Razorbacks got the win despite resting ace all-arounder Noah Flatley on the floor exercise.
The graduate student was still a huge contributor, winning the uneven bars (9.925) by a handy margin over a quartet of gymnasts with 9.875: Arkansas’ Jones and Reese Drotar and LSU’s Elena Arenas and Alyona Shchennikova.
Flatley also tied freshman teammate Cally Swaney for second place on the balance beam (9.9) behind Finnegan (9.925).
LSU’s Haleigh Bryant, the reigning co-SEC gymnast of the week, took her fifth consecutive all-around title with a 39.575.
The teams were tied at 49.3 after the first rotation, with nearly every Razorback planting their vault dismount and no counting score less than 9.8. Williams pulled off a near flawless vault, ending with a stuck landing in the anchor position and a 9.925 to place third.
In the second rotation, five Arkansas gymnasts stuck their landings on the bars and produced a season-high 49.35.
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