FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — For the LSU men’s basketball team, nothing ever seemed better Saturday evening than the sound of silence.
For two days, the Tigers’ eardrums reverberated with the noise generated by Arkansas fans screaming at the top of their lungs in Bud Walton Arena.
It’s one of the loudest venues in the Southeastern Conference and all of Division I basketball, which is why coach Will Wade prepared his players for what was to come when LSU returned there Saturday.
Even though he’s only in his second year in the conference, Wade knows what happens when the Razorbacks get on a roll and the crowd starts calling the hogs with their “Woo Pig Sooie!” chant.
So when the crowd got into it Saturday, while Arkansas was on a 20-8 run in the final nine minutes that forced overtime, the Tigers, who were really down to five players, were able to hold it together.
They outscored the Razorbacks 13-7 in the extra five-minute session to escape with a 94-88 victory.
It marked the second year in a row LSU tripped Arkansas on its home court, where eighth-year coach Mike Anderson was 47-16 against SEC opposition going into the game.
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“Coach Wade always puts us through situations during practice, at the end of practice, while we’re dog-tired after he runs us in practice,” LSU point guard Tremont Waters said, noting their recent practice sessions included some ear-splitting racket.
“It was the hog sound and their chant and their band and stuff, and he puts it on full blast,” he said. “You can’t hide from it, you can’t block it out. So just being in that environment already, you’re knowing we trust each other.”
The preparation was important considering Wade played only two players — Waters and guard Skylar Mays — who were part of last season’s 75-54 smoking of Arkansas in Bud Walton Arena.
In that one, the Razorbacks led for all of 20 seconds at the start of the contest and the crowd was never a factor.
But on Saturday, LSU (12-3, 2-0 SEC) needed everything and everybody to take down Arkansas (10-5, 1-2).
Kavell Bigby-Williams and Ja’vonte Smart fouled out and Darius Days left with a knee injury with just more than six minutes to play in regulation.
Wade said after the game Days hurt the same knee he had issues with in high school, but didn’t know the severity of the injury.
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That left just Waters, Mays, Naz Reid, Marlon Taylor and Emmitt Williams to finish the game, with former walk-on Marshall Graves and former baseball player Will Reese on the bench since freshman Aundre Hyatt and junior-college transfer Courtese Cooper are redshirting.
But Reid was effective in helping offset Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford, finishing with 27 points and seven rebounds even though Gafford had a huge game himself with 32 points and seven rebounds.
Taylor had a career-high 21 points and seven rebounds, Waters had 17 points and 10 assists, and Mays scored 15 points to go with four rebounds.
“Everybody picked everybody up, which is what you have to do on the road,” Wade said. “It’s never going to be easy on the road, so I was really proud of our guys for how they responded.”
Being short-handed is not a comforting thought with LSU’s next game coming Tuesday night at Ole Miss, which is 3-0 in league play after toppling No. 11 Auburn and No. 14 Mississippi State in a four-day span this week.
But that would have to wait at least a day when the Tigers started their celebration as Arkansas fans quietly filed out Saturday night.
“We did a great job handling the environment,” Wade said. “They were calling the hogs there when they went on the run, but we did a good job handling it. I was very, very pleased with our poise.
“We talked about playing with some poise, making sure that we played hard and played with poise, and I thought our guys did that.”