Arkansas impressive in 94-83 win over LSU on Wednesday at BWA on senior night

By Kevin McPherson
on 2024-03-07 12:34 PM

By Kevin McPherson

FAYETTEVILLE – It’s been a bumpy ride for Arkansas on its home court of Bud Walton Arena in 2023-24, but the Razorbacks closed out the home portion of their season with a 94-83 win over LSU on Wednesday on Nolan Richardson Court in front of a sparse BWA crowd on senior night.

The Hoop Hogs (15-15, 6-11 SEC) snapped their two-game losing streak but with only one game remaining in the regular season Arkansas is still one loss away from establishing its worst league mark in 15 years as well as finishing the regular season with its first overall losing record in the last 14 seasons. The Razorbacks are 5-5 in their last 10 games after starting SEC play with a 1-6 mark.

Arkansas split the two-game, home-and-away series against LSU (16-14, 8-9 SEC) after the Tigers won the first matchup, 95-74, on their homecourt in early February. The Hogs have won five of the last seven meetings between the two programs and lead the all-time series, 43-36.

Although he failed to reach 30 or more points after having three consecutive games of doing just that, guard Khalif Battle led the way with 29 points (7-of-14 field goals, including 2-of-6 from 3, and 13-of-14 free throws) to go with 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, and 3 turnovers. Battle has totaled 141 points (35.3 points per outing) spanning the Hogs’ last four games, a total that is the most by an SEC player in a four-game span in more than two decades according to an Arkansas men’s basketball spokesman.

Senior Makhi Mitchell dominated the big man battle in the paint as he finished with 19 points (8-of-10 field goals, and 3-of-4 free throws), 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Senior guard El Ellis pumped in 16 points (6-of-7 field goals, including 2-of-2 from 3, and 2-of-3 free throws), 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 3 turnovers. Junior wing Tramon Mark contributed 9 points, 8 rebounds, and a team-high 5 assists. Junior wing Jeremiah Davenport was very active at both ends of the floor and chipped in 5 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists. Senior frontliner Chandler Lawson finished with 7 points (all coming in a quick burst early in the second half as he shot 3-of-3 from the field and 1-of-1 at the free throw line) and 2 steals.

Arkansas had 18 assists for 31-of-51 field goal shooting (60.8%), including 5-of-16 from 3 (31.3%). The Hogs were 27-of-33 at the free throw line (81.8%). Defensively, the Hogs yielded 30-of-67 field goal shooting (44.8%) to LSU, including 5-of-18 from 3 (27.8%). The Tigers shot 18-of-26 at the free throw line (69.2%).

Arkansas dominated fastbreak scoring (26-16), blocks (10-0), bench scoring (27-17), and assists (18-8) while also winning the overall reboudning battle (34-30). LSU won turnovers (15-10), points-off-turnovers (16-12), offensive rebounds (12-4), second-chance-points (17-8), points-in-the-paint (48-46), and steals (9-8).

“I thought offensively we’re playing at a high level,” fifth-year Arkansas coach Eric Musselmans said after the game. “The 18 assists. A lot of guys were playing, running offense through obviously … El plays a lot of point, but we also played T-Mark at a lot of point tonight, and he had five assists and El had four. So nine between them. I thought J.D. Davenport, his ball distribution especially when they went zone and we stuck him in the middle of the zone, he did a good job of finding people. That probably I’m assuming is his season-high with the four assists. So the 18 assists on 31 baskets, we’re doing a great job. Our shot selection, even the threes that we missed for the most part are high quality shots. In this league, it’s hard to score a lot of points. But offensively we are scoring at a high clip.

“Our team has gotten better. I know we played really poorly for an 8-and-a-half minute stretch against Vanderbilt. But other than that, even some of the games we’ve lost, Mississippi State, Kentucky, two road games, two road environments. This basketball team is playing as good if not better than at any time all season. And that’s what you want a team to do, is improve. 52 points in the second half tonight, that’s a lot of points to score. So scoring the ball, understanding offensive schemes and such, we’ve really improved in that manner.”

The Razorbacks finished 11-6 on their homecourt of BWA on the season, a record that includes a final league mark of 4-5.

“I’m happy that the team played well in Bud Walton,” Musselman said. “We didn’t play well last game. I mentioned the 8.5 minutes that we didn’t play well. We fought. We got down and we scrapped and had a chance to tie it. You look at the five years, this is the one year that we haven’t played up to the way that we would like at home.”

Arkansas’ NCAA NET resume now includes records of 2-8 in Quad-1 matchups, 1-5 in Q2, 8-1 in Q3, and 4-1 in Q4.

Musselman improved to 110-57 overall as Head Hog, which includes a 51-44 mark against SEC foes and a 59-13 record against non-conference opponents (all three marks include postseason results).

LSU was led by senior wing Jordan Wright’s 24 points, Tyrell Ward’s 19 points, and Trae Hanninal’s double-double (10 points and 10 rebounds).

Next up for Arkansas is a return to the road in the team’s regular-season finale as the Razorbacks will play at No. 16 Alabama on Saturday, March 9. Following the Tide tilt, the Hogs and the 13 other league teams will take part in next week’s SEC Tournament that will determine the league’s lone automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament that will follow.

Against LSU on Wednesday, Musselman started Battle, Mark, Ellis, Lawson, and Trevon Brazile.

The Hogs had their biggest lead of 11 points, 42-31, before LSU closed the first 20 minutes with a 4-0 mini spurt to pull within 42-35 at the break.

Battle (10 points) and Mitchell (7 points and 5 rebounds) led the first-half production for the Hogs.

Arkansas had 7 first-half assists for 14-of-23 field goal shooting (60.9%), including 2-of-5 from 3 (40%). The Hogs were 12-of-14 at the free throw line (85.7%) in the opening half.

Defensively, the Hogs yielded 14-of-33 field goal shooting (42.4%) to LSU in the first half, including 2-of-9 from 3 (22.2%). The Tigers shot 5-of-7 at the free throw line (71.4%) in the first 20 minutes.

Arkansas won first-half fastbreak scoring (11-4), steals (7-5), and blocks (6-0).

(Last updated: 2024-03-07 12:34 PM)