FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas – Taking care of business will be enough to get Arkansas basketball to the NCAA Tournament. The Razorbacks took care of business Saturday night.
SEC bottom-feeder LSU visited Bud Walton Arena outmatched and unlikely to win. They left outmatched and with a loss. Arkansas was sharp most of the night, at times even dominating, other than some sleepiness in the final six or seven minutes. By the 9:30 p.m., though, the last SEC game of the day had Arkansas 99, LSU 86.
Arkansas (15-4, 4-3) is in a tricky, tenuous spot right now. They’re still in the NCAA Tournament as of today, per ESPN’s Bracketology, but only barely. A win against a bottom-of-the-league team isn’t going to help the Razorbacks’ RPI, either. But Arkansas also has more total wins than all but two teams – Kentucky and South Carolina, the top two teams – in the SEC. Continuing to add to that total should be enough to overcome the RPI knock.
LSU (1-6, 9-9) tried to cause panic to Arkansas’ chances. The Tigers shot 52 percent, had four players in double figures. They were good offensively. They were just brutal on the other end.
Arkansas shot 53 percent and had five players in double figures. All the complaints, which are common, about its dysfunctional halfcourt offense disappeared, if only for a night. The truth is Arkansas was the superior team and played like it, a bit more than the Razorbacks did last time out, in a win against Texas A&M in College Station.
For the first time in a while Arkansas received a complete game from Moses Kingsley. The 6-foot-10 SEC Preseason Player of the Year had been good, not great, most of the year, his offense lacking to expectation or, even what was achieved last year. Saturday was glimmering, close to POTY type numbers.
Kingsley was damaging from the outside, especially. The shot that drew groans for most of the nonconference season has begun falling. Seventeen-footers still aren’t probably the best shots in the world for a center, but to the tune of 10 of 18 shooting from the field, they work. The field goal attempts and makes were both a season high. So, too, were his points (24) and he had another seven rebounds, as well.
More important than “Arkansas beat LSU,” though is Arkansas kept itself among the “haves” of the SEC. On a day teams above the Razorbacks in the standings lost – South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida all went down – Arkansas won. It didn’t totally negate the team’s loss to Mississippi State (which also lost Saturday, which doesn’t do the Razorbacks any favors) here while back, but softens it. Mike Anderson’s team is now tied for fifth in the SEC seven games in.
Stat line of the game
Kingsley’s final points of the game, a pair of free throws with under five minutes left, put him in the 1,000-point club for his career. He’s the 40th player in school history to reach that mark.
LSU had pulled within four points late in the first half, 32-28, and taken some energy out of the building. Then they did what LSU has tended to do over the last two years – mess up.
Dusty Hannahs was fouled shooting a 3 and he canned all three free throws. LSU failed to score on its ensuing possession and Kingsley spotted up a 3-pointer from the field on the Razorbacks’.
That was that.
Tuesday, January 24
This is the most important game of Arkansas’ season. The Commodores are just a game back of Arkansas in the SEC standings and another Arkansas loss, road or not, might mean they can have just two more all year and still make the Dance.
For good measure, Vanderbilt freshman guard Payton Willis is a Fayetteville High graduate.