Arkansas falls at LSU in SEC opener

LSU guard Justice Williams (11) shoots against Arkansas guard Ricky Council IV (1) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — KJ Williams made a key steal and Adam Miller sank two free throws with 2 seconds left to lead LSU to a 60-57 victory over No. 9 Arkansas on Wednesday night.

The Tigers (12-1, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) got a spinning layup from Trae Hannibal to go ahead 58-55 with 32 seconds remaining. A layup by Anthony Black after his offensive rebound got the Razorbacks (11-2, 0-1) within one once again.

Arkansas had a chance to pull out the victory when Makhi Mitchell blocked Derek Fountain’s shot with about eight seconds left. But Williams stripped the ball from Black as he drove to the basket. Miller was fouled and made two foul shots.

“The players deserve a lot of credit,” LSU coach Matt McMahon said. “We improved in our mental toughness tonight. We’re such a work in progress. We’re just trying to get better every day. But the goal is to win while doing that. I hope this is something we can build on.”

Hannibal led LSU with 19 points. Fountain finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“My main thing is to never let someone stop me from getting to where I want to go,” Hannibal said.

Devonte Davis scored 16 points for the Razorbacks. Ricky Council and Jordan Walsh each had 13.

Arkansas grabbed its largest lead of the game at 40-34 midway through the second half. Back-to-back 3-pointers by Walsh and Council gave the Razorbacks their six-point advantage.

But LSU used an 8-0 run to grab a 44-42 lead. Consecutive layups by Fountain put the Tigers on top with 7:06 to play.

LSU led 54-52 after a three-point play by Fountain with 2:28 remaining.

“Obviously, the offense is going to struggle when you go 0 for 13 on 3-point attempts in the first half,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “It was very out of character for us to take 25 3s. It was also very out of character for us to only get 10 free throw attempts.”

The first half was dominated by defense. A 3-pointer by Hannibal and back-to-back baskets by Mwani Wilkinson and Fountain put the Tigers on top 17-12. LSU led 24-19 at the break.

“Arkansas is the best in the country at scoring off turnovers,” McMahon said. “We just had 10 turnovers and they had four points off them.”

No Offense

Playing on an opponent’s home floor for the first time this season, Arkansas scored more than 20 points below its season scoring average. The Razorbacks went 4 for 25 from 3-point range.

Pitching In

Williams entered Wednesday’s game averaging 18.5 points and 7.9 rebounds. Mitchell’s physical play helped limit Williams to eight points. But Fountain and Hannibal helped pick up the slack. Hannibal’s nine field goals were a career high.

Big Picture

Arkansas: The Razorbacks came up on the short end of the score in their first true road game of the season. Arkansas’ other loss was against Creighton in the Maui Invitational in November.

LSU: The Tigers continued their success in close games. LSU is 5-1 in games decided by fewer than five points.

Up Next

Arkansas plays Missouri in its SEC home opener Wednesday.

LSU is at Kentucky in their first conference road game Tuesday.