BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Trendon Watford made a three-point play and Charles Manning blocked two field goal attempts in the final seconds as LSU defeated Arkansas 79-77 in a Southeastern Conference game Wednesday night.
The lead changed hands eight times in the final six minutes. Watford put the Tigers (10-4, 2-0) ahead 76-74 with a three-point play with 32 seconds remaining in the game. The Razorbacks (12-2, 1-1) regained the lead on a three-point play by Isaiah Joe with 21 seconds to play.
LSU kept possession after Skylar Mays had his shot blocked out of bounds by Adrio Bailey with 12 seconds left. Watford then made his second three-point play with eight seconds to play. Arkansas had two shots at a game-winning 3-pointer, but Manning blocked both – one by Joe and one by Desi Sills.
“(LSU) coach (Will) Wade drew up a few plays for me coming out of bounds,” Watford said. “He trusted me to do what I do every day. I have to thank him and thank my teammates for putting me in that position.”
Watford led LSU with a season-high 21 points. Mays had 19 points, while Darius Days had 16 points and a career-high 16 rebounds. Javonte Smart had ten points.
“This was a huge win for us,” Wade said. “The difference in the game was obviously our rebounding. We had 23 offensive rebounds and they had 24 total rebounds. Trendon made some tremendous plays down the stretch and Charles had two huge defensive plays.”
Mason Jones, who fouled out in the final minute, was the top scorer for the Razorbacks with 24 points. Jimmy Whitt had 22 points and Joe had 13 points – all in the second half.
“LSU was more physical,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “We went with a five-guard lineup and it was our best lineup rebounding the ball. They hung in the lane and reacted better than us. LSU has size and they utilized it on the backboards. Their best offense was putting it up and going to get it.”
Neither team had more than a four-point lead until Arkansas put together a 12-0 run late in the first half. Jones and Bailey combined for all 12 Razorbacks points. A 3-pointer by Jones put Arkansas ahead 35-24 with 4:06 before halftime.
LSU responded with its own spurt down the stretch of the first half. Days knocked down two 3-pointers to help the Tigers reduce their double-digit deficit. A foul shot by Days with 22 seconds remaining left LSU behind the Razorbacks 40-37 at halftime.
The Tigers built two seven-point leads in the second half – the last coming at 54-47 after Watford made yet another three-point play with 15:03 remaining. Arkansas came back and tied the score at 58-58 on a basket by Joe with 11:17 to play.
After falling behind 66-60, the Razorbacks scored five consecutive points on two foul shots by Jones and a three-point play by Sills with 7:08 remaining. The game was tightly contested the rest of the way.
LSU: The Tigers won their first close game of the season as they had dropped three games by two points in the non-conference portion of the schedule to VCU, Utah State and Southern California.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks suffered their first defeat of the season in regulation. Arkansas’ other defeat came in overtime at Western Kentucky.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
LSU barely made 40 percent of its field goal attempts. However, the Tigers were able to win the game because they dominated Arkansas on the boards. LSU outrebounded the Razorbacks 53-24. Days had a career-high 16 rebounds, while Watford finished with nine boards. More importantly, the Tigers grabbed 23 offensive rebounds which resulted in 26 second-chance points. Arkansas only had three offensive rebounds and no second-chance points.
Arkansas’ one-two scoring punch of Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe combined for 37 points – their season average. Jones, who fouled out late in the game, had a team-high 24 points. Jones was 7-of-15 from the field, including 4-of-7 on 3-pointers. Jones, who fouled out in the last minute, did not score in the final seven minutes of the game. Joe, who sat out nearly nine minutes in the first half due to foul trouble, scored all 13 of his points in the second half. Joe had a rough shooting night as he missed nine of his 13 field goal attempts. Joe was just 2-of-9 on 3-pointers.
LSU will play another home SEC game when it faces Mississippi State on Saturday.
Arkansas will play a second straight SEC road game when it meets Ole Miss in Oxford on Saturday.