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LSU Triumphs Over No. 9 Arkansas to Open SEC Play

Trae Hannibal led LSU in the upset win with 19 points.

by Kent Lowe
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LSU Triumphs Over No. 9 Arkansas to Open SEC Play

BATON ROUGE – The LSU Tigers held off the No. 9 Arkansas Razorbacks at every opportunity and answered every challenge in the final minutes to score a 60-57 win Wednesday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in the SEC opener for both teams.

The Tigers are now 12-1 and 1-0 in the SEC after the win while Arkansas dropped to 11-2 and 0-1 in the league.

LSU won for the second time in school history in its SEC opener against a ranked team. LSU best No. 13 Florida to open the 1995 conference slate, 70-66. LSU is now 2-12 in SEC openers against an AP-ranked team.

The game was tied for the ninth time in the half at 51-51 when Trae Hannibal got a layup with 2:53 to play. Anthony Black made one free throw to give Arkansas a 52-51 advantage before the Tigers scored on the ensuing possession to take the lead back 53-52 on a layup in the paint to make it 53-52. Fountain was fouled and made the free throw to make it a 54-52 LSU lead.

After Arkansas again went 1-of-2 at the line to cut the lead to 54-53, the teams traded baskets and LSU led, 56-55, with 54 seconds to play. Out of an LSU timeout, Hannibal again found the way to the bucket for a layup and a 58-55 advantage with 32 seconds left. Arkansas missed a three-pointer, but the Razorbacks got the offensive rebound and scored to make it 58-57 in favor of the Tigers with 21 seconds to play.

LSU broke backcourt pressure on its possession and tried to expand its lead, but Derek Fountain’s layup was blocked. Arkansas got the ball and came down looking to tie or get the lead but Cam Hayes stripped the ball from Arkansas’ Ricky Council IV and KJ Williams came up with the loose ball with 2.4 seconds to play.

LSU used a timeout to get the ball inbounds, then Adam Miller was fouled with 1.8 to play. On a night when LSU was struggling at the free throw line, Miller made both free throws to put LSU up by three. An Arkansas three-pointer from just inside half court was off the mark sending a crowd of 10,428 into a frenzy.

Leading the way for LSU was Hannibal who came off the bench for 19 points on 9-of-14 from the field with one three-pointer, six boards, two assists. Derek Fountain had his second double double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. Fountain was 5-of-9 from the field and 4-of-5 at the line.

Davonte Davis led Arkansas with 16 points, while Ricky Council IV and Jordan Welsh each had 13 points. Makhi Mitchell had eight points and 12 rebounds.

Neither team played its best basketball in the opening 20 minutes as defense dominated. Both teams shot less then 30 percent from the floor in the first half as LSU posted a 24-19 advantage. But in the second half, Arkansas made 15-of-32 from the field (46.9 percent) with four treys but 4-of-7 from the free throw stripe.

LSU would shot 15-of-28 in the final half (53.6 percent) with just one trey and 5-of-9 at the line. For the game, LSU would shoot 40.3 percent (25-of-62) with four treys and 6-of-12 at the stripe.

Both teams turned the ball over 10 times, but LSU had a 13-4 advantage in points off turnovers. The Tigers also had a 40-36 advantage in points in the paint. Arkansas out rebounded LSU, 44-39.

Postgame Presser


LSU v No. 9 Arkansas
December 28, 2022

LSU Head Coach Matt McMahon

Opening Statement
“A couple of things stand out. Number one, I’m proud of our players. I thought that they played with great toughness and effort and sustained it for 40 minutes. They deserve all the credit for gutting out a tough and nasty win here. The second thing: just walking out of the tunnel and seeing the crowd and atmosphere. The energy in the building on December 28th with a top-10 team in the country on our court was awesome. We’re really thankful to the great Tiger fans who came out tonight and we’re really proud of our players for beating an outstanding basketball team.”

On how much of a building block the win could be…
“I’m not sure. We always just go one game at a time, as boring and cliché as that is. The goal is to go 1-0 and for us, we’re such a work in progress that we’re just trying to get better every day in practice and in games. Obviously, the goal is to win while doing it so I hope it’s something we can continue to build on. There’s a lot of things that went into winning tonight. I thought our defensive effort and ability to defend the paint was much improved. I was really concerned coming in because Arkansas is probably the best team in America in forcing turnovers and then converting those turnovers into points in transition. There were a couple of brutal turnovers late, but we had 10 turnovers and they only scored four points off those turnovers. I believed they were averaging around 25 points off turnovers coming in, so I thought that was really key. Of course, we had huge individual performances such as Trae Hannibal, who was a monster. The first half, we didn’t finish well at the basket while the second half we went 14-for-22 on two pointers. We got to the rim and finished. Derek Fountain had a 14-10 (14 points and 10 rebounds) double-double, but now you’re going down the line. We had great bench play and KJ (Williams), who has been such a great scorer for us. It speaks to his game that he’s just about winning and how unselfish he is. He was the screener on a lot of those downhill drives where Trae (Hannibal), Justice (Hill) and some of our guys got to the basket and finished. A lot of positives to take from it. Obviously, it wasn’t an offensive masterpiece for anybody. Winning is winning and we’ll take it. We’re just really proud of our players.”

Senior Guard Trae Hannibal
On developing the ability to get to the rim no matter what…
“Really, it’s from being aggressive and playing other sports is all I would say. My main thing is just never let anyone stop me from getting where I want to go, staying consistent with that and working on my three ball. Everything else outside of that, staying consistent with work and it’ll pay off. Staying locked in and taking what the defense gives me, I keep working on that.”

On Coach McMahon’s message during timeouts…
“All he was saying was converting and getting stops was really the main thing. In the first half we missed a couple layups and free throws. This game could have been completely different if we would have capitalized on things like that. He told us to stay locked in, and key into one another and trust one another and everything will take care of itself.”

Junior Forward Derek Fountain
On the momentum and confidence a win like this gives the team…
“We were already talking to each other, giving each other confidence before the game. We were letting the freshman and new people know the game is going to be different effort wise. It’s going to be a gritty game just about every game. I was letting them know that there was nothing to panic about, just come out and do what coach said.”

On holding Arkansas to 37% shooting from the field and being locked in defensively…
“We have always been preaching ‘stay locked’. We have probably said ‘stay locked’ over a hundred times tonight in the huddles and the timeouts. All we were trying to say was stay focused, stay locked and that’s what happened. The team fed off of it.”

Arkansas Head Coach Eric Musselman
On the final stretch …
“I thought defensively we did a great job creating the turnover, which is obviously what we wanted instead of a foul. We have one of the best open-court finishers in college basketball, Ricky (Council), and the flow of the game before the defense got set. We tried to take the ball to the rack. I haven’t looked at it on video yet, but Ricky Council trying to get downhill out of broken plays usually something good happens for us, but he struggled tonight offensively as did many of our guys, especially from three-point land and the foul line.”

On the game plan with LSU’s KJ Williams and Trae Hannibal …
“I thought Hannibal and (Derek) Fountain, two guys that have played in the SEC prior to playing at LSU, I thought both of those guys’ experience in the SEC showed tonight. They were their two leading scorers. I thought we did a great job on the two players that we really focused on defensively, which was KJ Williams, their leading scorer, one of the highest scorers in the league. I thought we did a great job on Adam Miller, as well. So, their two leading scorers. I don’t know if we could do, or if anybody could do a much better job than the way we defended those two. The other three defenders have got to be able to keep Hannibal in front. I thought his attacking relentlessly to the basket, physicality contact, finishing was phenomenal.”

On lessons learned…
“I think everybody understands how hard this league is and how many games come down to the last minute and a half. We’ve talked about that since we got together way early in the summer. We got two guys that have SEC experience. There’s going to be a lot of learning lessons for this team early on, for sure. I think our ball club tonight learned how hard it is to win on the road. LSU had a phenomenal crowd with no class being in, I was actually surprised on how good and how loud, how energetic their crowd was.”