LSU stops Arkansas; win 78-71

LSU knocked of No. 8-ranked Arkansas, 78-71, on to earn its first SEC Tournament final berth since 1993. The Tigers are looking for the program’s second SEC Tournament title.

Freshman guard Cameron Thomas led the Tigers with 21 points including four three pointers, while guard Javonte Smart added 19 and Darius Days had 13 with eight rebounds. LSU shot 42.4 percent from the field (28 of 66), while Arkansas shot 41.5 percent (27 of 65).

After scoring 20 points in the first half, Arkansas freshman Moses Moody managed only eight in the second half to finish with a game-high 28 on 8-of-16 shooting. Forward Justin Smith was the only other Razorbacks player in double figures scoring with 21 points on 10-of-13 from the field.

Arkansas fell to 22-6, as its school-record 12-game winning streak against league opponents dating to Jan. 20 was snapped.

In an exciting first 20 minutes, the Tigers used a 14-1 run to overcame an eight-point deficit and lead 38-32 with 5:35 remaining. Thomas hit a pair of three pointers, Days added another, and Smart’s dunk after Thomas’ steal capped the rally, as LSU made seven three pointers in the opening stanza.

Neither team led by more than three points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, though Arkansas was held without a field goal for more than seven minutes.

Meanwhile, Watford made a step-back three pointer from the top of the key and converted a steal into a layup to give LSU a 59-52 advantage with 9:58 to play. Days’ three-point play and a layup by Eric Gaines pushed the Tigers’ advantage to 12. However, the Razorbacks scored the next six points to cut the LSU lead to 64-58 with 6:03 to play to keep the game in reach.

After Gaines’ three pointer and a pair of free throws by Smart put LSU ahead 10 with 2:28 to play, Moody and Smith rolled off nine-straight points for Arkansas to cut LSU’s lead to one, 72-71, with 37 seconds to play.

Smart made a jumper to put LSU up by three, and Gaines’ steal with 18 seconds left would send Smart to the free throw line to clinch the victory.