NEW ORLEANS (UofA) - Despite 13 points from freshman BJ Young, the University of Arkansas men's basketball team suffered a 70-54 loss to LSU Thursday afternoon in the opening round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
The loss knocks the Razorbacks out of the tournament, and moves Arkansas to 18-14 overall. LSU improves to 18-13 overall on the season with the victory.
"Congratulations to LSU," said Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson. "This time of year needs to be about energy, and their strength and rebounding came through in the second half."
Arkansas closed out a strong defensive first half with a scoring run, and headed to the locker rooms tied 28-28. LSU, however, used a 10-2 run at the start of the second half to take a 38-30 lead with 15:57 left in the game. Arkansas cut the Tigers' lead to five points with 11:40 left, but could not get any closer as LSU used an inside edge and an advantage on the free throw line to close out the game.
Young scored his 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the floor and 5-of-7 from the free throw line, and he also dished out three assists. Sophomore Mardracus Wade scored nine points on 3-of-5 shooting from three-point range, but all of those points came in the first half.
Arkansas used the game's fast pace to its advantage in the first half. The Razorbacks forced 10 Tigers turnovers in the first period alone, and scored 13 points off turnovers to LSU's two. Wade opened the game with a three-pointer and helped Arkansas take a 5-0 lead early. His second three-pointer gave Arkansas an 8-4 lead just over five minutes into the game, but LSU responded with a 7-0 run to take an 11-8 lead with 12:12 left in the half.
The teams traded baskets with LSU maintaining a slim lead for much of the first period, until a 7-0 run gave Arkansas a 26-23 lead with just over two minutes left in the half. Young keyed the run with a basket, an assist and a rebound, and added another jumper less than a minute later to give Arkansas a 28-25 lead. A jumper and a late free throw allowed LSU to tie the game 28-28 at halftime.
"The first half was a defensive struggle," Anderson said. "In the second half, we just couldn't make shots. We had guys who had open shots, and they just didn't go down."
Freshman Hunter Mickelson led Arkansas with six rebounds, and also scored six points. Junior Julysses Nobles tallied nine points, two steals and one block. Senior Michael Sanchez scored seven.
Arkansas shot 12-for-18 from the free throw line in the game, while LSU was 14-for-25. LSU's Johnny O'Bryant was 10-for-17 from the line on his own, including 11 attempts in the second half. O'Bryant led the Tigers with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The Razorbacks shot 35.8 percent from the field in the game, while LSU made 50 percent. Arkansas was 4-for-10 from the three-point line in the first half, but 0-for-6 in the second.
Despite the loss, Coach Anderson applauded the effort of his players after the game and for their fight all season long.
"They are going through the process and it is painful," Anderson said. "But these guys gave me everything they had the entire year. I am proud of what they were able to accomplish."