LSU has gotten in the habit of learning positive lessons on its way to three straight SEC wins.
But on Saturday the Tigers learned a tough one as their offense failed during the crucial moments of the game, dropping its second conference game 65-58.
Leading 56-48 with just under seven minutes to go, Arkansas would outscore LSU 17-2 the rest of the way as the purple and gold dropped a heartbreaker in the PMAC.
As is with any good conference game, this one came down to the final minutes. Carrying a 56-48 lead with 9:01 to play, LSU would fall into a horrendous offensive funk, missing eight of its final nine shots and not finding any rhythm to its offense, a constant theme throughout the game.
LSU put the ball in the hands of its best players down the stretch and it was a game they just couldn't make the plays at the end. The Tigers would commit 16 turnovers which the Razorbacks would convert into 20 points the other way, a deadly combination for a team that's been able to generate so much offense off its own defense.
"We had some different lineups out there. We got great players and we expect those guys to make plays," Will Wade said. "We've got to execute better. They picked Gaines up full court which made it tougher on us to get into our offense. They did a nice job."
Lack of communication on defense and grabbing rebounds was something Alex Fudge and Eric Gaines both pointed to after the game as to why the Tigers couldn't get stops. Arkansas won the rebounding battle 41-31 and would grab 13 offensive rebounds that led to 13 second chance points.
"We made a lot of aggressive plays at the end of the game trying to go to the basket and it just didn't go our way," Wade said. "We've got to be cleaner. We weren't at our best today."
The first half could best be summed up by missed opportunities on offense and suboptimal results on defense by LSU's standards. LSU would jump out to an early seven point lead but the offense would really have a hard time finding clean looks the rest of the half
A bigger story early in the game was once again the free throw shooting as the Razorbacks doubled up the Tigers in attempts in the first half. LSU would commit 12 fouls to Arkansas' nine in the first half but it took 12 minutes for the Razorbacks to finally get a whistle called against them.
As a result, Arkansas was in the bonus way sooner than the Tigers knocking in 11 free throws to LSU's four going into the break. The whistle has really not been in LSU's favor to start conference play, an issue that can crop up with aggressive defensive teams like the Tigers. Being physical without fouling for the post players is something that Fudge said has been difficult on the post players to adjust too but must happen for LSU to stay out of trouble.
"Lack of communication and defensive rebounding was critical," Fudge said. "We just gotta pick it up, coming back to the drawing board. If we're being real, defensive rebounding is going to hurt us if we don't pick it up."
LSU had strong play from Fudge and Gaines but it wasn't enough with so many of the other top players struggling and in foul trouble. The freshman Fudge really showed off his athletic ability on defense, even knocking down two critical threes en route to 13 points. Eason and Gaines helped carry the load with Brandon Murray and Efton Reid getting into foul trouble.
Gaines would add 14 points, six rebounds and four assists in one of his more complete performances as a Tiger but the game was lost due to a lack of execution down the stretch.
LSU will now prepare for a two game road slate with Alabama and Tennessee starting on Jan. 19 in Tuscaloosa.