Following a dreadful showing at Tennessee on Wednesday night, Will Wade called out his guards Friday.
They certainly got the message.
After his guards went just 9 of 32 from the floor in an 84-61 loss to Tennessee, Wade challenged them to step up and hit open shots against a guard-oriented Arkansas lineup Saturday afternoon.
The results were like night and day when Tremont Waters, Skylar Mays, Daryl Edwards and Brandon Sampson got hot at the same time and carried LSU to a 94-86 victory in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
There was no hesitation when they were asked whether Wade had been more emphatic in practice about their poor shooting.
“Most definitely,” Sampson said.
“Without question … no question about it,” Edwards chimed in.
“(Wade) just emphasized how we didn’t do our jobs,” Mays said. “We all had to try and come out and be aggressive and bring more to the table.”
They did, early and often, in keeping the offensive pressure on all day.
It was the first time LSU, which struggled from the field in losing five of its previous six games, reached the 80-point mark in Southeastern Conference play. Its previous high came in a 77-65 win over Texas A&M on Jan. 23.
Arkansas dared LSU’s guards to beat them and clamped down on forward Duop Reath, who averaged 22.8 points in the past four games. He provided nearly one-third of the team's offensive output of 69.8 points per game in that stretch.
Led by Waters, Wade’s guards made Arkansas pay.
They combined for 69 points and connected on 19 of 35 shots from the field in helping LSU (13-9, 4-6 SEC) snap a two-game losing streak and hand Arkansas (15-8, 4-6) its second consecutive setback.
“We have good shooters; you have to give them a little bit of confidence,” Wade said. “They all laugh at me because whenever they’re open, I say, ‘Stick it! Stick it! Stick it!’ That’s kind of my thing.
“I let them know what their shooting numbers were,” he said. "I let them know that they’re very good shooters, and we’re in a slump and need to get out of it.”
The Tigers did in an explosive way, burying a season-high 15 3-point baskets in 30 attempts and finishing 29 of 55 overall for 52.7 percent.
“We were saving up our makes for that game,” said Wade, whose team was also 21 of 23 on free throws. “Anytime you shoot it well like that, you should win.
"We shot it well from 3. We shot it well from the free-throw line. … You can win a lot of games when that happens.”
Interestingly enough, the 52.7 percent from the field matched exactly what LSU shot in a 75-54 romp over Arkansas on Jan. 10 in Fayetteville.
But in the six games that followed, the Tigers never were better than 45 percent. That stretch was capped by the loss to Tennessee when LSU hit just 39.3 percent, its second-worst shooting night of the season.
“I spent some one-on-one time with a couple of those guys,” Wade said. “I tried to inject a little bit of confidence in them the last couple of days.”
Pointing out the numbers and backing it up with a dose of confidence worked.
Waters poured in 27 points and had 11 assists for his fourth double-double, while Mays had 15 points — all in the second half. Edwards dropped in 14 and Sampson 13.
Forward Aaron Epps had 16 points in picking up the slack for Reath, who was held to five points in 19 minutes.
It was the best game in nearly a month for Waters, who was 21 of 72 from the floor in the past seven games. On Saturday, he was 7 of 14 — 4 of 9 from beyond the 3-point arc — and 9 of 10 on his free throws.
Waters' 27 points matched his second-highest scoring game of the season.
“Lately, I haven’t been making my shots, and I turned the ball over a little too much the last few games,” Waters said. “We can’t look at the past. We have to learn from it and keep moving.”
Arkansas, which shot 55.0 percent on the road and lost by eight, also had five players in double figures with guards Daryl Macon and Jaylen Barford leading the way with 22 and 15, respectively.
“I guess it wasn’t a defensive game,” Razorbacks coach Mike Anderson said. “It was more of an offensive showcase. LSU shot the ball extremely well … shot well from the free-throw line, and Waters did a good job getting the ball to the right people.”
Forward Wayde Sims, who served a one-game suspension for violating team policies, returned Saturday and scored four points to go with six rebounds.
Guard Brandon Rachal, who also was suspended for the Tennessee game, didn’t play. Wade said he was held out after rolling his ankle early in Thursday’s practice.
Also, Reath hurt his left ankle after colliding with forward Daniel Gafford. Reath limped for much of the second half and left the game with 1:45 to play.