FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas’ comeback bid fell a minute short Saturday.
The 18th-rannked Razorbacks overcame a double-digit first-half deficit to take a late lead against LSU, but the Tigers made two 3-pointers in the final 58 seconds – including one at the buzzer – for an 81-78 victory.
Keith Hornsby’s 3-pointer as time expired deflated a sold-out crowd at Bud Walton Arena. Two days after overcoming an 11-point second-half deficit at South Carolina, the Razorbacks couldn’t overcome being down 12 against the Tigers.
”It seemed like we were a step slow, especially in that first half,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ”In the second half I thought we did a better job of defending. Give credit to Johnny Jones and his LSU team – a very good basketball team. I thought they made shots and made plays when they needed to.”
Arkansas (24-7, 13-5 Southeastern Conference) chipped away at the lead for most of the second half before taking a one-point lead on two free throws by Alandise Harris with 3:32 remaining.
Harris made six free throws in the closing minutes and Anthlon Bell added a 3-pointer to help the Razorbacks extend their lead to three points. Harris, who scored 10 points in his final home game, didn’t practice with the team Friday and didn’t return to Fayetteville until after midnight Saturday after attending a family funeral.
”You can imagine his emotion and you could see it in the first half, it wasn’t the same Alandise Harris,” Anderson said. ”I was proud of him in the second half when he started to settle down and got to the free throw line and made plays for us.”
But Arkansas couldn’t slow down LSU from beyond the arc. The Tigers made 9 of 21 attempts, including six 3s by Jalyn Patterson. His 3-pointer with 57.8 seconds remaining tied the game 78-78.
Arkansas had a chance to retake the lead, but LSU forward Jarell Martin blocked Harris on a drive with 22.9 seconds remaining to give the Tigers the ball.
Jones took a timeout to set up the last play. Josh Gray penetrated and kicked the ball to Hornsby, who made the game-winner from the corner over the outstretched arms of Arkansas defender Michael Qualls.
”I tipped it,” Qualls said. ”I don’t know, maybe I gave it the right spin when I tipped it. He made a big shot for them.”
Martin scored 27 points while playing all 40 minutes for LSU. He continually got near the basket, often making off-balance shots to answer Arkansas runs.
”That’s an ironman performance right there,” Anderson said. ”He played the whole game and played well.”
Patterson added 20 points for the Tigers. LSU was playing without its second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, Jordan Mickey, who injured his shoulder in the Tennessee game.
”We knew coming into the day, coming into this type of environment and atmosphere that we were going to have to play every second, every play against a great basketball team, one of the top 16 teams in the country,” Jones said. ”We knew it was going to take a great effort and that’s exactly what it took for us today, playing every second of every play and it ended with Hornsby hitting a huge shot for us.”
LSU led 41-35 at halftime. The Tigers (22-9, 11-7) picked up a big win for its NCAA Tournament hopes after the surprising loss to Tennessee on Wednesday.
Bobby Portis scored 21 points and had a career-high 15 rebounds for the Razorbacks. Qualls added 15 points.
Arkansas, which finished second in the SEC standings, has lost two of three games entering next week’s conference tournament.
”I still don’t believe we’ve played our best basketball for a full game,” Anderson said.
LSU: The Tigers snapped a four-game losing streak in games played at Bud Walton Arena. The Tigers hadn’t won in Fayetteville since 2009.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks finished one win shy of tying the program record for SEC wins in a season. Arkansas won 14 SEC games during its NCAA championship season in 1994 while playing two fewer conference games.
Both teams will play next week at the SEC Tournament in Nashville, Tennessee. Arkansas will be the No. 2 seed in the tournament, while LSU’s seeding has yet to be determined.