BATON ROUGE - The LSU men's basketball team used a composed team effort and made critical plays down the stretch in all facets of the game to put its three-game losing streak in the rear view mirror and grind out a 71-65 victory over Arkansas Saturday at the Maravich Center.
LSU (13-9, 3-5 SEC) had four players score in double figures and converted on 9-of-12 of its free throw attempts during the game's final five minutes.
On the defensive end, the Tigers forced Arkansas (16-7, 4-4 SEC) into 19 turnovers en route to a 25-15 scoring edge in points off miscues. LSU also racked up a season-high 12 blocked shots, the last time the Tigers tallied double digit stuffs was against Ole Miss on Feb. 14, 2009.
Ralston Turner led the way and notched 10 of his team-high 16 points during the second half. He also buried 7-of-8 at the foul line.
From the point guard spot, Anthony Hickey chipped in double figures for the sixth time in eight SEC outings. He posted 12 points, three assists and three steals.
Off the bench, Eddie Ludwig provided a spark. The Metairie native matched his season-high with 12 points. He also added four rebounds and two assists in 17 minutes of action.
Arkansas' Mardracus Wade and Julysses Nobles collected 15 and 14 points, respectively, to pace the Razorbacks. Due in large part to Andre Stringer's suffocating defense, Wade was limited to just three points on 1-of-4 shooting during the second half.
After building a 35-31 advantage at halftime, LSU reeled off six straight points over the first 1:45 of the second stanza. Hickey canned consecutive jumpers followed by a Hamilton lay-up to make it 41-31.
The Tigers never relinquished the lead, but Arkansas got as close as 50-49 on a Wade triple at the 9:02 mark. LSU charged back with O'Bryant III and Turner baskets from the paint over the next minute to regain a five-point lead.
With 2:15 remaining and LSU ahead 61-58, Hickey drew a critical charge on a driving BJ Young in transition to swing the momentum back to the Tigers. After scoring 19 points during the two teams meeting in Fayetteville earlier this season, Young was bottled up for three points on 1-of-5 from the floor. It was Young's lowest output since Arkansas' season opener against USC Upstate.
Two possessions later, Hamilton knocked down two free throws to put LSU back ahead 63-58 with 1:48 on the clock. The Razorbacks pulled back to within four points on four separate occasions, the latest at 67-63 with 28.9 seconds.
A Ludwig lay-up off the press breaker, two Turner free throws and a Stringer steal vaulted the Tigers back into the win column, 71-65.
Even at 11-11 after the opening eight minutes of the first half, LSU caught fire and doubled up the Razorbacks with 22 of the next 33 points to build its largest lead of the game at 33-22 with 3:33 left. The Tigers nailed 10-of-17 shots during the spurt and seven different players collected a basket.
Arkansas responded with a 9-2 spurt of its own to draw within 35-31 at the intermission.
The Tigers travel to Vanderbilt Wednesday for an 8 p.m. CT tilt to officially open up the second half of conference play. The game will be televised by CSS and COX4 along with ESPN3.com live and tape delay on Cox Sports TV after the New Orleans Hornets game.
The LSU Sports Radio Network also will broadcast the game on 100.7 FM (The Tiger) in the Baton Rouge area. Jim Hawthorne, Kevin Ford and Ricky Blanton will call the action.
LSU returns to the Maravich Center next Saturday against Alabama (6 p.m. - ESPN2)
HEAD COACH TRENT JOHNSON
Opening statement ...
"Boy, we needed that. Obviously, after our last game versus Kentucky, we were pretty fragile make no mistake about it. They found a way to fight through during the course of the week. I thought Eddie's (Ludwig) contribution off the bench was huge. Anthony (Hickey) continues to show courage. The one runner he shot in the lane in a late clock situation was pretty good. Arkansas is a lot better team than they were when we played them over there in my opinion, because obviously they can play out in terms of run out on you. They're really good defensively. Their perimeters cause a lot of problems because they shoot it, and they bounce it well. Again, it's a good win. We will enjoy it for a day and a half."
On LSU's offense being balanced ...
"We need contributions from everybody. If you look at what's happened over the course of the year, you have four guys and have five guys in double figures our offensive efficiency is pretty good. I thought we had some ill-advised turnovers at times For the most part, I want to compliment Arkansas on that. Then we had some guys that were out of position ... "
On LSU's size advantage on the inside ...
"I thought we did a good job. I think it's evident that we went to the free throw line 33 times, so obviously we're getting something done in the post. I thought Ralston (Turner) did a very good job of attacking the rim. He got some easy baskets. For us, that's the only way we can win a game at this level. We have to establish a post presence and go inside out."
On LSU's defense ...
"Without looking at the tape, I think some of our blocks were because our perimeter players are getting beat at the point of attack. I thought Arkansas was in the middle way too much, which speaks volumes for us breaking down defensively. We try to force everything to the base line and front the strong side post. Again, without looking, I thought those blocks were good plays that needed to be made, but also speaks volumes that we weren't defending at the point of attack on the perimeter."
On LSU's offense being patient ...
I thought we were way too patient. I thought Justin (Hamilton) sometimes got real tentative in the first half. I want to say it was four minutes to go in the half, he'd come back to it and all he would do was look down the floor. He kept looking back to go to Anthony (Hickey). Then I think late whether Anthony was tired or whatever, I think him and Andre (Stringer) didn't come back to the ball, because I don't think they wanted the ball quite frankly. That put Ralston (Turner) to where he was the primary handler. Those are things that we've been through, those are things wel work on. I think it was a combination of those, sometimes patience and sometimes just a broken down assignment."
LSU player quotes
Center Justin Hamilton
On finishing the game...
"We were emphasizing on finishing a lot. In the last 10 minutes, we just wanted to set each other up and play good solid defense. We got a couple charges that were crucial. Overall, we did a good job of coming together. There were a couple of times they made a run, but we responded really well."
Guard Anthony Hickey
On beating the press...
"We had seen their pressure once before. We executed well in practice and were very prepared. In the game, they ran a lot of presses, and I was able to hit the open man. We were able to run our fast break and hit the open shots."
Guard Ralston Turner
On making shots...
"I felt that lately I have been settling for a lot of jump shots. I tried to get locked in and get in the lane. Whether it was the pass or the shot, I didn't have it in my mind. (I) just tried to score. The guys did a good job at setting screens, and we all did a good job of executing on offense. I tried to make plays and help other people."
On the importance of the win...
"We had a tough stretch the past few weeks. It was important for us to get this win because it is good for us. It is the last month to try and make a push. This is the first step. We played three ranked teams at the top of our league. It was really tough; two of them were on the road. It was good for us to get this win."
Forward Eddie Ludwig
On coming off the bench...
"Coming off the bench, you have to understand your role. I knew I had to come in, make some solid passes and kind of run the offense through me. This whole week of preparation, we were working with the four man going up and either swinging the ball or throwing it down to Ralston (Turner) on the shuffle cut or Justin (Hamilton) ... I knew my role coming in. I was fortunate to have a teammate like (Anthony) Hickey who penetrated and dished it to me to give me some pretty easy looks."
Arkansas Head Coach Mike Anderson
"I thought it was a physical basketball game. I thought there was a discrepancy in the free throws. I think that's probably the difference in the game. It was a physical game and I thought our kids fought. We had windows of opportunity to win on the road and we just didn't finish going down the stretch. I thought there were some controversial plays that probably should have gone our way. So with that being said, that's life on the road. We just couldn't make the right plays at the right time, but it wasn't because of a lack of effort."
On the controversial plays
"They shot 33 free throws and we shot 23. That's controversial to me."
On early success pressing LSU and what LSU did to adjust to that
"I thought they did a good job throughout the game. Our pressure is not necessarily to steal the basketball. I think that confuses a lot of people. To me, it's more to disrupt what they want to do and I thought, for the most part, that was effective throughout the game. We went down double figures, but we were able to come back because our defense was able to disrupt and make them take quick shots. Obviously, we didn't get rebounds. They got some offensive rebounds on us as well because you're spreading it out. We had our windows of opportunity. We got an offensive rebound and turned it over. The story of this game was probably turnovers. We were trying to put them in the position of turning the ball over, but we ended up being careless with the basketball."
On LSU's Anthony Hickey
"I think when he is out there, they are a little more settled. I think he is a guy who can get them into the things they want to do. He hit a big shot, a big floater there, when we made a run at them. He's a good, little ballplayer."
Arkansas Guard Julysses Nobles
On the difference in the game
"Probably offensive rebounds. We have to box out and be better on the offensive glass and keep them off the offensive glass."
On the Arkansas turnovers
"Turnovers killed us too. I know I was the worst today as far as turnovers. We just have to go to work to get better about them."
Was this a game that Arkansas could have won
"Yeah, we could have had this one. We shot ourselves in the foot. Coming down the stretch, we had some crazy turnovers."
On LSU's Anthony Hickey
"He's a great player. Being a freshman, coming in he gives them big minutes in there. He's a great player. He gets everything done. He finds the open person and he knocks the shots down. You know, he's a great player."
On needing a road win at Georgia to have a chance at the NCAA Tournament
"It's very important because everyone wants to go to the tournament. If we can't win on the road, there's no chance we'll get there. We have to go back to practice and work hard and try to steal one at Georgia."
Arkansas Guard Mardracus Wade
On the tough loss
"It's a very tough loss. I'm very disappointed and upset. I expected my team to come out here and win today, but we just didn't come up with the W. We gotta go back, look at film and see what we gotta get better on and try to capitalize on the things we are doing well. Main thing is just capitalize on things we're doing well out there."
On the difference in today's game
"I think Johnny O'Bryant came in and gave them a big boost and a lot of energy. He was blocking shots, rebounding and he got a couple of 'and one's'. With him on the floor, it's a just a whole different LSU team. When we played them back home in Arkansas, he wasn't out there, but with him out there it's a totally different team and we couldn't get by him today. He made a lot of special plays for those guys."
On the lack of scoring spurts by Arkansas
"I think the difference was they scouted us pretty well. We just couldn't adjust. We really didn't have ball pressure. Stringer and those guys got in the lane a couple of times and finished things. Those things are our fault, the guard's fault, and we just have to go back and look and see what we gotta get better at."