Hogs seek revival against rivals

While Trey Thompson probably played both ends of the floor better and any of his teammates for his minutes, he best described the Arkansas Razorbacks' pitiful performance in Wednesday's 75-54 Southeastern Conference loss at Bud Walton Arena to LSU.

"We just couldn't make shots," the 6-9 senior reserve forward and Forrest City graduate said. "We didn't play no defense, either. So we helped them a lot. When you're not making shots, you've got to play defense to keep it close. We got in a hole, and we couldn't dig ourselves out."

That is how Arkansas coach Mike Anderson saw it at the time, on tape and even during what apparently passed for a very brief night's slumber.

"Obviously coming off a long night," Anderson said Thursday. "Didn't get much sleep."

Just what happened to Arkansas (11-5, 1-3) upon review of the game tape? The Razorbacks started last week ranked No. 22 in the country before losing 78-75 at Mississippi State (13-3, 1-2), 88-77 at Auburn (15-1, 3-0), blown out by LSU (11-4, 2-1) and now await the Missouri Tigers (12-4, 2-1) today for a 5 p.m. game at Bud Walton. The game will be televised on ESPN2 (Resort Channel 29).

"I think it started off that we didn't make shots early on," Anderson said. "I thought we rushed shots. And when you don't make shots and you are rushing them also, that puts a lot of pressure on your defense. We had stops early in the game, but since LSU started attacking us and getting easy opportunities I thought our guys started pressing and it seemed like it was an uphill battle."

Arkansas is a team known for its energy, particularly at home, but appeared mired in advanced energy crisis. The 11,818 fans in attendance did their best to revive the Razorbacks during whatever slim rallies they mustered before and after Arkansas trailed 41-21 at the half.

"I kept trying to get combinations out there to give us that energy level you've got to play with," Anderson said. "Our energy level was not typical of how we play."

After the disastrous 47-30 deficit at halftime against Auburn, Anderson preached the one hand helps the other aspects of defense on one end and offensively attacking inside-out. That sermon seemed to fall on deaf ears Wednesday night.

LSU freshman point guard Tremont Waters, eight assists against two turnovers, seemed to penetrate Arkansas' defense at will in the first half. Arkansas freshman big man Daniel Gafford seldom touched the ball against LSU's defense, which closed on him inside while other Razorbacks impatiently fired up first-half threes and missed their first nine.

The last two meltdowns during the three-game streak of SEC sorrow likely haunts those Arkansas fans remembering John Pelphrey's 2008--09 Razorbacks closing their non-conference campaign with huge wins at a packed Bud Walton over No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 7 Texas before laying a 2-14 egg for its SEC season.

However, do recall last season's Razorbacks started 1-3 in the SEC and later lost successively at a Missouri team that went 2-16 in the SEC and then at home to Vanderbilt.

Those 26-10 Hogs ultimately finished 12-6 in the SEC and, as SEC Tournament finalists, went two rounds deep into the NCAA Tournament. They had eventual national champion North Carolina on the ropes until the final minutes. No guarantees of a similar resurgence are forthcoming, but Anderson does have six seniors who were a part of that revival.

"I think you can try and draw from those experiences," Anderson said. "I'm looking forward to our guys really improving upon the performance we had the other night. That was not a typical Razorback performance, and we vow to make sure that people see the real Razorbacks play when we play Saturday."

Sports on 01/13/2018

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