FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Junior Rotnei Clarke was on fire all night from the floor to have 25 points and five three-pointers to lead the Razorback men’s basketball team to a 80-61 win over the LSU Tigers on Saturday afternoon at Bud Walton Arena.
The Razorbacks (15-9, 5-6) not only shot 48 percent from the field, but had one of their best defensive efforts of the season, holding LSU (10-15, 2-8) to 43 percent shooting and causing 17 turnovers and six steals. 19 of Arkansas’ points were scored off turnovers.
“I thought the first half we did a good job of rebounding and defending,” said Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey. “We had a really important final two minutes to end the half and it was good to see guys go out and make baskets. I felt all night that the defense was pretty good and alert. I thought the guys stepped up and made shots and I’m proud of our guys. I thought they competed well in the first half and to finish the way we did was inspiring.”
Even though the buckets were not falling to start the game, the Hogs came out in the first half with a strong defensive pressure going from man-to-man off the tip and then transitioning into a full court press after each basket. Because of the strong defensive effort, the Hogs were able to cause 14 LSU turnovers in the first half and score 15 of their 40 first half points off of those turnovers.
It took almost a minute and a half before the Razorbacks got their first bucket of the game, courtesy of a three-pointer by junior Rotnei Clarke to give Arkansas an early 3-1 lead. After both teams traded bucket, Clarke knocked another through the nylon from three-point land to give the Razorbacks an early five point lead through the first four minutes of play. Clarke was hot from the field for the entire first 20 minutes as he went 3-for-4 from three and compiled up a team-high 15 points.
The LSU turnovers continued as the first half hit the 10 minute mark, but the Razorback defense was still holding the Tigers to a low percentage from the field (33%). With a four point lead and 7:49 to go in the first half, senior Marcus Britt got in on the three-point action to hit his first from deep. That play was followed by a steal by sophomore Marshawn Powell which then led to a Michael Sanchez lay-up in the paint, forcing LSU head coach Trent Johnson to call a timeout. Those series of plays gave Arkansas a nine-point lead and the momentum shift they needed to finish out the half on the leading end.
Arkansas finished the final five minutes of the half on a 16-4 run, giving them the big 40-22 lead going into halftime. After Clarke, the Razorbacks were led by Powell, who finished the half with eight points and was a perfect 4-for-4 from the free throw line. The Razorbacks continued to shoot well from the field throughout the first half, going into the locker room at 54 percent.
Coming out of halftime with the huge 18 point lead, the Razorbacks went right back to work. More specifically, Clarke went back to work as he knocked down the first five points for the Hogs to give them a 19 point lead. From there the Hogs would continue to work their lead to even larger proportions, eventually hitting the 29 point margin with five minutes to go in the game.
Looking a little deeper into the box score, junior Jeff Peterson finished the game with six points and seven assists in 24 minutes of playing time. Peterson was able to do a good job in the second half of driving and dishing to Clarke and Powell to match his career high in the assist category. Throughout the entire game, the Hogs got to the free throw line frequently with their aggressive play, knocking down 25-of-29 of the freebies and continued to be on the better free throw shooting teams in the Southeastern Conference. Clarke and Powell would both finish the game a perfect 6-for-6.
The Razorbacks finished the game with two players in double figure scoring. Along with Clarke, Powell scored 14 points and was a force inside the paint. Senior Delvon Johnson rounded out the top three on the team with nine points and eight rebounds, nearly a double double.
Arkansas will return to the court next Wednesday at Bud Walton Arena to take on Florida A&M with the tip scheduled for 7 p.m. For all information regarding the Razorback men’s basketball team, log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.