It was pouring rain outside the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on Thursday night.
Inside the PMAC, the LSU Lady Tigers’ scoring drought continued.
LSU failed to score more than 45 points in its last three games entering Thursday’s contest against Arkansas.
Make it four. LSU’s offense went bone dry in the third quarter and Arkansas took full advantage, building a nine-point lead before holding off a late LSU rally to deepen the Lady Tigers’ misery with a 48-44 defeat.
LSU lost its fourth straight and eighth in the past nine games to fall to 7-12, 1-5 in the Southeastern Conference.
Arkansas improved to 9-10 and 4-2 in SEC play.
In a season scarred by injuries and dismissals, the Lady Tigers had even more to contend with against Arkansas.
Sophomore guard Jenna Deemer, LSU’s top 3-point shooter, missed her third straight game with an unspecified illness. Senior reserve forward Ann Jones was also sidelined with an ankle injury.
Since June, LSU has had to dismiss All-SEC guard Danielle Ballard and suffered season-ending knee injuries to All-SEC guard Raigyne Moncrief and freshman forward Ayana Mitchell.
Only six Lady Tigers saw court time Thursday. Coach Nikki Fargas said she realistically only could have fielded one more player, reserve forward Alliyah Fareo.
“We’re adjusting still,” Fargas said. “That’s maybe a good word for it. Our team is adjusting to having six players. We had a rotation of eight and were trying to find our way going into SEC play. We need everybody.”
Despite being stripped of one of its best scorers, LSU stepped out to an encouraging 14-7 first-quarter lead, capped by a jumper by Jasmine Rhodes with 29 seconds left.
Given LSU’s personnel woes, the game was played at the Lady Tigers’ preferred pace, just as Arkansas coach Jimmy Dykes feared.
“I told our kids before the game, ‘LSU wants to win it 48-47,’ like you should when you’re down on numbers like Nikki’s team is,” Dykes said. “Fortunately for us they didn’t (win).”
Arkansas started chipping away in the second, tying the score 24-24 at halftime thanks mainly to three 3-pointers from forward Jessica Jackson, the team’s leading scorer with 17.4 points per contest.
In the third quarter the Razorbacks slowly pulled away as LSU couldn’t put the ball in the basket. The Lady Tigers managed just four points in the 10-minute third, shooting just 1-of-14 from the field as they fell behind 37-28 going to the fourth.
“We can’t have those mental lapses,” Fargas said. “SEC teams will take advantage of that. That’s what Arkansas did.”
LSU rallied within 43-42 with 1:59 left when after a Rina Hill steal, Rhodes converted a three-point trip with a driving layup and a free throw after being fouled by Melissa Wolff. The Lady Tigers played good defense at the other end, but Arkansas’ Devin Cosper buried the last of her team’s six 3-pointers just before the shot clock expired to put her team up 46-42 with 1:28 left.
“We could have folded,” Fargas said. “We put ourselves in position to win. But that one three they hit with the clock winding down, that play really stood out for me.”
LSU had one last chance to get within one down 47-44 with 18.6 seconds left, but Alexis Hyder missed both ends of her free-throw opportunity.
“It’s definitely frustrating when we get so close and can’t pull out a win,” said Hyder, who led LSU with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The Lady Tigers shot 34 percent from the field (17-of-50) and just 52.6 percent at the free-throw line (10-of-19). Arkansas only shot 35.2 percent for the game itself and was 4-of-11 at the free-throw line.
“As disappointed as I am,” Dykes said of his team’s cold shooting, “to win shooting like that on the road, I feel good about that.”
Akilah also had a double-double for LSU (10 points, 11 rebounds) while Jackson led Arkansas with 15 points.
LSU plays Sunday at Georgia.