FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Mike Anderson didn’t like what he saw in the first half in the least against LSU.
The Arkansas coach did like the effort and energy in the second half — with the Razorbacks pulling away for a 69-60 win over the Tigers on Saturday night.
BJ Young scored 19 points off the bench, and Julysses Nobles scored 13 of his 15 in the second half as Arkansas improved to 13-0 at home in Bud Walton Arena this season. The Razorbacks (13-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) shot just 36 percent in the first half before heating up in the second, connecting on 13 of 24 shots (54 percent) in front of a season-high crowd of 14,800.
“I thought we were pressing a little bit in the first half,” Anderson said. “I’m not talking about literally pressing, just talking about wanting to do something so bad. … I thought in the second half, it was a better flow, a better rhythm to the game.”
Mardracus Wade added 14 points for Arkansas, which finished 9 of 18 on 3-pointers. Wade was 3 of 4 from behind the arc, while Nobles was 3 of 5.
Justin Hamilton led LSU (11-6, 1-2) with 20 points, while Anthony Hicks added 12. The Tigers outrebounded the Razorbacks 46-38 but finished just 24 of 69 (35 percent) from the field.
The loss is the third in four games for LSU, which hit just 3 of 18 3-pointers.
“I thought we did a really good job of competing at a high level,” LSU coach Trent Johnson said. “But against a team like this, that puts a lot of pressure on you both offensively and defensively, and (when) you have an opportunity to get open shots and don’t hit them, it’s tough.”
The win helps Arkansas ease the sting of a loss at Mississippi on Wednesday. That defeat followed the Razorbacks’ stunning 98-88 win over then-No. 15 Mississippi State at home last week, and dropped them to 0-4 away from home this season.
Arkansas didn’t shoot as well against the Tigers as it did in last week’s 57 percent performance against the Bulldogs, finishing 22 of 52 (42 percent). However, the Razorbacks continued to thrive off of forcing turnovers.
They entered Saturday leading the SEC in that category, forcing an average of 18.5 turnovers per game, and they led 30-29 at halftime against LSU after forcing 10 in the first half.
“It helps a lot,” Young said. “We put (the Ole Miss) loss behind us after we couldn’t do anything about it but look forward to the next game. We wanted to come out in this game with a lot of energy.”
The two teams exchanged the lead six times in the half, with Arkansas’ largest lead coming after a 3-pointer by Young put it up 26-21. The freshman, Arkansas’ leading scorer, had nine points off the bench in the half and hit a free throw with four-tenths of a second left in the half to give the Razorbacks the 30-29 lead.
The Tigers overcame the turnovers in the first half and remained close thanks to a 28-17 rebounding advantage. They then briefly took a 33-32 lead to open the second half on Andre Stringer’s 3-pointer.
Ky Madden then hit a jumper to give Arkansas the lead back at 34-32, starting the 9-0 run that gave the Razorbacks the lead for good. They led by as many as nine, and LSU was unable to cut the lead to fewer than four points the rest of the way.
The Tigers shot 36 percent in the first half and 33 percent in the second, unable to find a rhythm against an Arkansas defense that had 12 steals — including five by Wade. Also, Razorbacks freshman Hunter Mickelson blocked seven shots.
“I don’t know if it was the crowd or pressure,” Hamilton said. “We just didn’t make shots that were open.”