FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In LSU’s first ranked matchup of the season, the No. 9 Tigers (13-0, 1-0) opened SEC play with a dominating 69-45 win over No. 24 Arkansas (13-3, 0-1) Thursday night in Bud Walton Arena.
“I thought we kept the crowd out of the game,” Coach Kim Mulkey said. “I thought we controlled the game. It wasn’t pretty, but I thought we controlled the game from the tip.”
LSU maintained a 10-point lead through much of the game before pulling away in the final quarter to earn the 24-point victory. After Thursday’s action, LSU is one of five remaining undefeated teams in the country.
Angel Reese continued to play as one of the best players in the nation, recording her 13th double-double in as many games this season. She had 19 points and 16 rebounds. Freshman Flau’jae Johnson recorded her third double-double and first in SEC play with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Alexis Morris finished with 19 points and LaDazhia Williams collected 15 boards as the Tigers passed their first ranked test with flying colors.
“I thought LaDazhia Williams set the tone for us defensively,” Coach Mulkey said. “She had 15 big rebounds. She scored only four but it’s what she did on helping, on covers, on drives. It’s what you hope a senior will do that’s been in this league and that’s played a lot of basketball.”
LSU grabbed a season-high 62 rebounds and limited Arkansas to 30 boards. The Tigers also held Arkansas to season-lows in points and field-goal percentage (.279).
Samara Spencer led the Razorbacks with 17 points and Makayla Daniels had 10. Jersey Wolfenbarger led Arkansas with 6 rebounds.
LSU will have its SEC home opener on Sunday, New Year’s Day, at 2 p.m. against Vanderbilt. The game will serve as LSU’s post game autograph game.
After LSU missed its first four shots, Johnson got the Tigers on the board to take an early lead, but after the teams traded buckets and Reese got on the board, Arkansas took a 5-4 lead off a three-pointer. Reese scored again to give the Tigers back the lead, but Arkansas responded with another bucket to go up 7-6 at the first media timeout. Reese scored again out of the timeout to give the Tigers the lead back and then Johnson made two free-throws and L. Williams made one to give LSU a 7-0 run as the Tigers forced nine consecutive Razorback misses. Johnson went to the line once again and made one of two. Arkansas made its first buck in 10 attempts on a fastbreak layup by Daniels to bring the score within five, 14-9 LSU at the end of the quarter.
Morris made the first shot of the second quarter, a three from the left wing, and Jasmine Carson got on the board with a pair of free throws to give LSU a 18-9 lead. LSU took an 11-point lead when Morris fired a halfcourt pass to Johnson who finished the play with a layup, forcing an Arkansas timeout. LSU extended the lead to 21-7 before Arkansas ended LSU’s early quarter run. Morris ended Arkansas’ 7-0 run with her second three of the quarter as LSU went up 26-14. With 4:33 left in the second quarter, Arkansas (who is No. 2 in the nation in free-throw attempts) got to the line for the first time, but Spencer missed the pair. Nonetheless, Arkansas scored the next four to bring it back to single digits. Morris hit her third three though to reclaim the double-digit lead. Carson hit a three on LSU’s next possession as LSU took a 32-18 lead with 3:00 left in the half.
With Reese on the bench over the final three minutes with two fouls, LSU maintained a double-digit lead as LSU scored the final four points of the quarter. Amani Bartlett, who came in late in the half to relieve L. Williams after she picked up her second foul, scored her first bucket of the game that came as the clock expired for LSU to take a 38-25 lead into the break.
Arkansas got on the board first in the second half as Spencer made her second three of the game. Reese secured her 13th double-double of the season as she grabbed two quick boards in the third quarter to give her 11 and made two free throws to give her 10 points. Spencer hit another three to make it 40-31, but Reese went isolation to give LSU its double-digit lead back. Arkansas’ three-point shooting kept them in the game as Daniels made the third for the Razorbacks to end a LSU spurt. LSU’s lead continued to hover around 10 though as the Tigers limited any major Razorback runs, taking a 46-36 lead into the media timeout.
LSU took its largest lead, a 16-point lead, with 2:30 left in the third when Morris recorded a steal at the top of the key and dished the ball to Kateri Poole running to floor. The Tigers went into the fourth quarter with a 55-38 lead.
LSU scored the first three points of the quarter to go up 20 after Morris made one free throw and then L. Williams got a block and three it down the court to Reese who finished the fastbreak. On another fastbreak, Johnson bounced a pass to Morris cutting down the left line as LSU went up 61-38 and began to pull away from Arkansas. LSU slowed the pace down throughout the fourth quarter, cruising to an SEC opener win.