There were two teams that Will Wade felt got the better of LSU during the course of the 2019-20 season. Though the Tigers split games with Arkansas during that year, the Razorbacks were one of those teams that Wade said just had LSU's number in both outings.
For that reason, the LSU staff spent seven to 10 days during the offseason re-watching film on Arkansas from the year before, even going back to coach Eric Musselman's days at Nevada and studying tendencies to see how his team can better perform against the Razorbacks Wednesday evening.
"I thought they got the best of us both times last season," Wade said. "There's some different things that I felt like we were trading water against them. It's been a good matchup, he's a great coach. He's got older, experienced, great players and their staff does a very good job in game prep."
LSU (8-2, 2-1) split the series in 2019-20 and have historically played the Razorbacks (10-2, 2-2) pretty close during the Wade era. This season, both programs feature two of the top offenses in the conference. Arkansas averages a league high 88.6 points per game while LSU ranks just behind the Razorbacks with 85.6 points a contest, head and shoulders above the rest of the SEC.
What separates the two clubs is not just the efficiency with which they score the basketball in the paint and from three, but also at the free throw line. The Tigers lead the conference in free throw percentage at 77.8%, thanks in large part to Cam Thomas and his 91% free throw percentage.
Through 10 games, the Tigers are averaging 18.6 made free throws a game, which also ranks top-10 nationally. On the other hand, the Razorbacks are No. 4 in the SEC when it comes to free throw percentage, averaging 16 makes per contest.
"When you can get to the free throw line, that's a huge advantage," Wade said. "It's very difficult to be a high volume three-point shooting team and a high volume free throw shooting team which is what they are. Getting to the free throw line is a staple of having a good offense."
Arkansas is also a dramatically improved rebounding team, leading the SEC with 43 rebounds a contest and 13.5 offensive rebounds a game as well, which is also No. 1 in the conference. LSU has struggled at times grabbing defensive rebounds but did show improvement in the win over the Rebels.
"They're going to put bodies on Mwani, they'll put bodies on Days. They've been a much better defensive rebounding team than they were last year," Wade said. "I think that's an area they wanted to shore up through recruiting, through transfers and that sort of thing. They've addressed that and their rebounding numbers are pretty good. They're a tremendous offensive rebounding team."
LSU will be down Shareef O'Neal for a third straight contest while the freshman super scorer Thomas will be a game time decision after turning his ankle in the opening minutes of the win over Ole Miss. Thomas has been able to do some light shooting but if he's ultimately unable to go against the Razorbacks, expect an increased load of minutes for Eric Gaines, Aundre Hyatt and Jalen Cook.
"Gaines, Cook, Aundre Hyatt. We'll lean on those guys. Those guys have shown they can do it at different points of the season and we've got to have guys step up," Wade said. "I give Arkansas a ton of credit. They've been losing some guys and had some bodies down, but they've had different guys step up all the time. They've had some different guys step up and so you've got to have guys step up, you've got to have guys ready to go. Next man up, we'll figure it out."