Mickey leads LSU past Arkansas
Jordan Mickey soared to the rim from seemingly out of nowhere, swatting down a fast-break layup attempt by Arkansas guard Fred Gulley III.
As the ball smacked off the baseline and into the stands, the 6-foot-8 Mickey stood under the basket, waving his arms and yelling, “Let’s go!” The LSU student section shook from the frenzy fomented by Mickey’s latest highlight-reel play.
Mickey had 22 points, 11 rebounds and six blocks, and LSU led throughout in an 88-74 victory over Arkansas on Saturday night.
“I just wanted to give the fans something to get excited about,” Mickey said. “I’m excited about being on the court every day. It’s something I don’t want to take for granted and want to enjoy every day I can.”
The freshman from Dallas and his LSU teammates have certainly enjoyed this week. They beat No. 11 Kentucky on Tuesday night, the first of what is now two straight wire-to-wire wins for LSU (14-6, 5-3 Southeastern Conference).
The victory over Arkansas was the Tigers’ fourth in five games.
Johnny O’Bryant III had 23 points and nine rebounds, and Jarell Martin added 15 points. Martin’s baskets ranged from a double-pump, two-handed dunk in transition to his clutch 3 that seemed to deflate Arkansas after the Hogs had used a desperate 18-4 run to trim a 20-point deficit down to six with 4:43 left.
“Our post guys did an excellent job finishing at the rim,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said, referring to Mickey, the 6-9 O’Bryant and 6-9 Martin. “They feed off each other, look for each other. They have the ability to play away from basket. They’re good ball handlers, good passers.”
Rashad Madden scored 17 points for Arkansas (13-8, 2-6), which has lost four of its last five games. Bobby Portis and Kikko Haydar each added 15 points for the Razorbacks.
Arkansas was without junior Alandise Harris and sophomore Michael Qualls, who were suspended indefinitely for conduct detrimental to the team and did not accompany the Razorbacks to Baton Rouge. Together, the two reserve swing players have averaged about 21 points per game this season.
Still, after falling behind by their largest deficit this season, the Hogs managed to make the Pete Maravich Assembly Center crowd nervous before LSU sealed it up with Martin’s 3 and back-to-back dunks by O’Bryant and Mickey, the latter on an alley-oop feed from Andre Stringer that had the fans celebrating again for the final 2:33.
“We had some adversity before the game, not having two of our guys that we count on,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “What I found out tonight is that our guys won’t quit. They had a chance to really get buried, and they came out in the second half and really fought.”
Portis said the Hogs also had their hands full with Mickey.
“He was blocking everything,” Portis said. “He was active on the glass ... and running the floor, too.”
Arkansas had not trailed by more than 19 previously this season, but were down 70-50 on Malik Morgan’s jumper with 9:09 to go.
The Razorbacks responded with an 11-0 run that included 3s by Coty Clarke and Haydar, and got as close as six, at 74-68, on Mardracus Wade’s 3.
On LSU’s next possession, O’Bryant passed out of a double-team for Martin’s clutch left-wing 3.
“We are a confident team,” O’Bryant said. “When teams make runs on us we feel like we can execute on the offensive end to stop the run.”
Shooting nearly 55 percent, the Tigers were in control most of the game, responding twice in the second half when Arkansas drew within single digits.
When the Hogs went on a 12-3 run, powered by Haydar’s two 3s, to pull to 51-43, LSU responded with eight straight points, starting with Morgan’s 3. Stringer added another 3, wide open from the right wing after Hickey burst through Arkansas’ full-court press with a sprinting dribble up the middle. Stringer’s layup completed the spurt.
Stringer finished with 10 points for the Tigers, who also outrebounded Arkansas 45-33. Clarke scored 10 for the Razorbacks.
LSU made nine of its first 12 shots — four from 3-point range — while racing to a 22-7 lead.
By contrast, the Hogs did not make consecutive baskets the entire first half, during which they shot 26 percent (8 of 31) — a season low for a first half — and only 2 of 14 from 3-point range.
It added up to a 40-24 LSU lead at halftime, a score which represented Arkansas’ lowest first-half scoring of the season, and its largest halftime deficit.