Razorback basketball notebook: LSU goes on 3 spree

LSU forward Jalen Reed (13) rises above the rest to secure a rebound against Arkansas during an NCAA college basketball game at Pete Maravich Assembly Center, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, Baton Rouge, La. (Javier Gallegos/The Advocate via AP)

LSU has been on a heater from three-point range in the last few weeks and the Arkansas Razorbacks did nothing to slow it down during the Tigers’ 95-74 rout on Saturday at the Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge.

Led by 7-footer Will Baker’s sizzling 4-of-5 shooting, the Tigers went 12 of 23 from three-point distance for 52.2% shooting that accounted for 38% of their scoring.

The long-distance shooting effort gave the Tigers their second-highest three-point total of the year behind a 14-of-26 showing in a 106-60 rout of Mississippi Valley State in the season opener, and it marked a school-record fifth consecutive game of hitting double-figure threes in a game.

LSU also hit 10 or more three-pointers in consecutive games against Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama, though the last three of them resulted in losses.

The Tigers are 54 of 129 (.419) from three-point range in the last 5 games.

Mike Williams went 4 of 6 beyond the arc and Jalen Cook was 3 of 5 to support Baker’s big game.

“Our struggle has been from two-point range,” LSU Coach Matt McMahon said on the LSU Radio Network. “We hadn’t finished really well, whether that was the other team’s defense or poor shot selection on our part or inability to finish.

“Today we go 17 of 30 from two. We were also able to put a lot of pressure on the rim by attacking the paint, get 28 free throws and make 25 of them. So it was really in all three areas — two-point range, three-point range, the free-throw line — where we executed at a high level.”

Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman also discussed LSU’s hot three-point game on the Razorback Sports Network.

“Defending the three, we talk about it every day,” Musselman said. “We drilled it the last game and we won the game but [the Missouri Tigers] were 10 of 20 [on three-pointers]. Guys are nervous about closing out, I guess. The thought somebody is going to go by them. We’re not keeping a guy in front and we’re not guarding the three.”

Baker’s baker’s dozen

LSU 7-footer Will Baker was cooking during a stretch of 3:40 in which he scored 13 points to give the Tigers early separation.

Baker sank a three-pointer in the right corner from Trae Hannibal at 15:25 to put LSU in front 10-2.

The 245-pound grad transfer from Nevada was just getting started. Baker, a left-hander, hit another three-pointer from the right side near the top of the circle 42 seconds later, again on a Hannibal pass.

Jordan Wright fed him for a standard jumper 59 seconds later, then Baker hit another three-pointer at the 12:23 mark from Tyrell Ward. Baker capped his hot streak with another jumper at 11:45 for LSU’s eighth consecutive made shot and a 22-10 lead.

Baker, who wears No. 9, scored 13 of the 15 points in the Tigers’ 15-10 run.

Baker finished with 25 points, four shy of the season-high 29 he scored in the season opener. It was his first game with more than 18 points since Nov. 19 against Wake Forest.

Baker had been 2 of 10 from three-point range in SEC games, 9 of 31 (.290) this season and a 31.8% three-point shooter in his career.

“I just think I got in a rhythm early,” Baker said on the LSU Radio Network. “I think one of my strengths is stretching the floor so I’m a threat from outside, and that does draw the defense out to me and that not only sometimes opens up opportunities for me to drive or kick to a teammate, but also for my teammates to be open.”

Double denied

Arkansas forward Makhi Mitchell was denied in his bid for a third-consecutive double-double, though he got halfway there with a 10-point showing on 3 of 4 field goals and 4 of 4 free throws. Mitchell was limited to three rebounds, all on the defensive end.

The senior from Washington, D.C., posted 19 points and 14 rebounds at Missouri, and 12 points and 13 rebounds against Kentucky.

20 down, up

Arkansas trailed by 20-plus points for much of the game in losing for the fourth time this season by 20-plus points. It marked the first season with four 20-point setbacks since Coach Mike Anderson’s first team in 2011-12.

Arkansas has also led by 20-plus points in both of its SEC wins this year against Texas A&M and at Missouri.

LSU’s 28-point lead with 2:08 remaining was the largest in an SEC game under second-year Coach Matt McMahon.

20 ‘Ts’

Arkansas drew its 20th technical foul of the season, according to HogStats.com, when Coach Eric Musselman was whistled during a dead-ball timeout with 6:54 remaining. It was Musselman’s fifth technical of the year, according to HogStats.com.

Musselman took exception when LSU 7-footer Will Baker collided with Layden Blocker near the free-throw line as Blocker took a shot that went in. The officials did not count the basket, drawing Musselman’s ire, and as the telecast was in a commercial break referee Will Howard assessed a technical on Musselman for excessive arguing.

LSU guard Jalen Cook made both free throws for the technical to give the Tigers an 81-60 lead, then Blocker missed both on the other end. Somehow, the personal foul on LSU was changed to Jalen Reed during the timeout.

20 for Cook

LSU guard Jalen Cook did not start as he was dealing with a leg injury, but the transfer from Tulane joined the scoring party with a bang. Cook finished with 20 points on 5-of-8 shooting, plus 7 of 7 from the free-throw line.

LSU Coach Matt McMahon said on the LSU Radio Network it benefited Cook to come off the bench.

“He was able to see what the coverage was on all the ball screens that Arkansas was running because they do a good job of mixing them,” McMahon said. “Then I thought he was electric coming off those ball screens and making plays for his teammates.”

Cook entered the game in a mini slump, shooting 36.5% overall and 29.4% from three-point range with just 7 assists in the last 5 games.

Starting in his place was Trae Hannibal, who had not started a game this season. In a 60-57 win over the Razorbacks in last year’s conference opener, Hannibal scored 19 points on 9-of-14 shooting and had 6 rebounds.

18 straight

LSU guard Jordan Wright scored 13 points to hit double-figure scoring for the 18th consecutive game, but it did not come easy for the Louisiana native and Vanderbilt transfer.

Wright missed his first 5 shots through nearly the first 38 minutes of the game before he drilled a step-back three-pointer with 2:01 remaining.

Wright already had double figures by that time because he sank 10 of 11 free throws.

Early lull

The Razorbacks scored the first field goal of the game on Jalen Graham’s baby hook at the 19:36 mark, but they went cold after that.

Arkansas opened 1 of 5 from the field and trailed 10-2 by the time Keyon Menifield cashed in a three-point play at 15:05 to cut the deficit to 10-5.

Less than :01

For the second game in a row the Razorbacks scored with less than a second remaining in the first half. Chandler Lawson rebounded Jeremiah Davenport’s missed three-point try just before the halftime buzzer and he was fouled by Jordan Wright as the horn sounded.

Again, the officiating crew reviewed the foul and the clock and determined there were 0.6 seconds remaining. Lawson hit 1 of 2 free throws to pull the Hogs within 45-30 at the half. Tramon Mark also dunked after a steal just before the final buzzer on Saturday to set the final score at 95-74.

In Wednesday’s 91-84 win at Missouri, Layden Blocker was fouled by Jordan Butler with 0.2 seconds left in the half and sank both free throws to give the Hogs a 47-28 halftime edge.

Series update

LSU cut Arkansas' all-time series lead to 42-36, including 38-31 since the Razorbacks joined the SEC for the 1991-92 season.

The Tigers improved to 21-13 against the Hogs in games played in Baton Rouge.

Personnel report

Arkansas played a third consecutive game without forward Trevon Brazile, who has knee soreness, and guard Davonte Davis, who has stepped away from the team.

Coach Eric Musselman turned to the same starting lineup in consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 16 and Jan. 20 against Texas A&M and South Carolina.

The Hogs went with guards Khalif Battle, Layden Blocker and Tramon Mark, and forwards Chandler Lawson and Jalen Graham.