One day after Will Wade complained about some inconsistent play, his team showed him what it can do when it is completely focused.
Jumping on top early for the second time in five days in hitting on all cylinders on both ends of the court, LSU crushed Arkansas on Wednesday night in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.
In a matchup of the two highest-scoring teams in the Southeastern Conference, LSU flexed its muscles with a 31-4 scoring run in the first half and easily sprinted away from Arkansas 92-76 for its third SEC win in a row.
“It was a really good win,” Wade said. “I thought from the start of the game we were ready. Our defense was tremendous and swarming, our offense was humming. It was exactly what we wanted.”
Good, but not good enough.
LSU (9-2, 4-1 SEC) trailed 7-4 just 2½ minutes into the game when Cam Thomas, who was a game-time decision after injuring his right ankle in a 75-61 blowout of Ole Miss on Saturday night, ignited the Tigers’ big run with a floater in the lane.
A short banker by Trendon Watford and a 3-point basket by Mwani Wilkinson followed on LSU’s next two possessions, putting their team up 11-7 as Arkansas (10-3, 2-3 SEC) struggled, much like Ole Miss, against the Tigers’ early defensive pressure.
From there, the rout was on.
“We started the game great ... it’s one of our things,” Watford said after scoring a game-high 23 points and pulling down 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season. “We want to start with energy on offense and lock in on defense.”
That’s what the Tigers did after the Razorbacks took a quick 4-0 lead on two putback baskets. The massive 31-4 run eventually ballooned to 40-6, giving LSU its largest lead of the night at 44-13 with 6:10 left in the first half.
In that stretch, eight different LSU players scored in a span of 11 minutes, 2 seconds with Thomas and Watford leading the way with nine each.
Wilkinson added seven, Aundre Hyatt five, Javonte Smart four, Josh LeBlanc two and Eric Gaines had one.
Arkansas coach Eric Musselman, a former LSU assistant, did everything he could to stem the tide — with little success. He exhausted all but one of his timeouts in the first half and used his final one with 12:53 still to play.
The Razorbacks tried to mount a comeback late in the game, but they never got closer than 13 points at 86-73 with 3:09 left.
“Overall, it was a very good game for us,” said Thomas, who didn’t know until Wednesday morning that he would play. “This shows that we were very locked with our prep, but we can keep improving.”
Going into the game, Arkansas was scoring 88.2 points a game to LSU’s 85.6.
But the Tigers, who shot 52.6% from the field, easily topped their average as five players scored in double figures. The Razorbacks shot just 34.2%.
Watford was 9 of 16 from the field for his 23 points and Days, who was 8 of 10, had 18. Thomas added 17 points, while Smart had 13 and Wilkinson 11.
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Days had his fourth double-double of the season with 13 rebounds in helping the Tigers to a 48-39 edge on the backboards.
“Defense and energy, everyone was having fun,” Days said of what worked early for his team. “The bench was crazy. Guys were yelling and screaming. Other guys were making plays and everybody had energy.”
Arkansas got 22 points off the bench from JD Notae, while Moses Moody had 18 and Desi Sills 14.
Arkansas outscored LSU 45-41 in the second half, but the Tigers kept the visitors at arms length down the stretch.
But Wade wasn’t as upset with his team as he was after Ole Miss scored some late points to make that game look more respectable.
“Obviously, we have some things to clean up,” he said. “The second half we turned the ball over 12 times and we gave up 12 offensive rebounds (17 total).
“We kind of lost our way a little bit, but I’m very proud of the guys. But it was one of our more complete games.”