FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — LSU men's basketball coach Will Wade might think about asking the Southeastern Conference to schedule more of his team’s road games in one of the nation’s toughest venues for visiting teams.
For the second time in 367 days, LSU strolled into Bud Walton Arena and shocked Arkansas and its boisterous fans Saturday.
A gritty 94-88 overtime win against Arkansas snapped a nine-game road losing streak for LSU, which started after the Tigers humiliated the Razorbacks by 21 points on Jan. 10, 2018.
This time, however, LSU had to sweat it out and then work extra hard to slip out into the bitterly cold evening with a satisfying victory.
After holding a 12-point lead with 9:17 remaining, LSU let Arkansas get back in it and tie the game four times in the final five minutes — the last coming on a Daniel Gafford dunk with 30.7 seconds left.
That basket capped a 20-8 run and had Arkansas fans on their feet sensing a comeback win that seemed impossible just a few minutes earlier.
LSU still had a chance to win in regulation, but a shot by Tremont Waters failed to find the mark and Naz Reid’s attempt at a game-winning tip-in rimmed out at the buzzer.
Undaunted, LSU (12-3, 2-0 SEC) dug deep and prevailed in the overtime session even though they were down to just five players from the eight-man rotation Wade usually goes with.
Kavell Bigby-Williams fouled out with 5:38 to play in regulation and Ja’vonte Smart picked up his fifth foul in overtime. Also, Darius Days left the contest with a left knee injury at the 6:17 mark of the second half.
Reid played most of the second half and five-minute overtime with four fouls, but still scored 27 points in going 10 of 12 from the floor — connecting on all four of his shots from beyond the 3-point arc as LSU went 10 of 25 from deep.
He also pulled down seven rebounds to help topple Arkansas (10-5, 1-2).
“We’ve got good character … we’ve got a lot of guys who can help us win,” Wade said. “We had those guys step up. It’s kind of the next man up and we just keep it moving.”
Reid, whose efforts helped offset a monster 32-point, seven-rebound night for the 6-foot-11 Gafford, was one of four Tigers in double figures.
Marlon Taylor connected for a career-high 21 points and had seven rebounds, while Waters finished with 17 points and 11 assists. Skylar Mays added 15 points for the Tigers.
“It was just being in that environment,” Waters said of holding on during Arkansas’ big run. “We already know that we trust each other and we come together knowing our family will be there.”
“It was a good win for us,” said Wade, who is now 3-0 against Arkansas counting the win the Tigers’ win at home last February. “Naz played great, I thought Marlon played great; he came up some huge offensive rebounds.
“Tremont really controlled the game and Skylar had some good moments in first half. It was just one of those total team wins.”
Reid quickly downplayed talk about the duel down low with Gafford, who is projected to be a lottery pick in the NBA draft this summer.
“That was way more hype,” Reid said. “He’s a lottery pick and we were just going at it. It was a great matchup.”
In addition to Gafford, Arkansas’ Mason Jones had 22 points and six rebounds and Reggie Chaney came off the bench for 12 points and five rebounds.
Once again though, LSU left the cavernous Bud Walton Arena with a win.
Arkansas, which fell to Florida 57-51 on Wednesday night, dropped back-to-back games on its home floor for the first time since the 2011-12 season —coach Mike Anderson’s first at the school.
In Anderson’s eight-year tenure, Arkansas had been 117-20 overall going into Saturday’s game and 47-16 against SEC opposition.
Wade could only chuckle when asked about his magic in the arena.
“I don’t know if there’s any of that,” he said, “and I don’t want to test it.”