LSU has had trouble getting into a groove on offense at Arkansas in recent years. Perhaps an outstanding individual effort in the last game at Bud Walton Arena will motivate the Tigers.
The 23rd-ranked Tigers, back in the poll for the first time in over two years, look to end their scoring woes in Fayetteville, Ark., when they face the rebuilding Razorbacks on Wednesday night.
Nine straight wins in SEC play has helped put LSU (21-4, 9-1) in the rankings this week. It’s the first time the Tigers have been in the poll since they were No. 21 in January 2007.
LSU leads the overall SEC race and has a three-game advantage over Mississippi State in the West Division.
“We are going to have to play better than we’ve played,” Tigers coach Trent Johnson said. “I don’t want to take anything away from what we have done the last two or three games, but Arkansas, in Fayetteville, is a difficult and different challenge.”
Johnson has good reason to be worried about a trip to Bud Walton Arena. LSU has lost two straight there, averaging 56.5 points and shooting 35.9 percent.
The Tigers haven’t reached 70 points in Fayetteville in seven games since an 87-70 loss on Feb. 17, 2001, and are 4-13 there all-time.
This season, though, the Razorbacks (13-10, 1-9) have been vulnerable, allowing 77.0 points per game in SEC play. They’ve allowed an average of 75.2 points in five conference home games, including a 79-63 loss to Kentucky on Saturday in which Wildcats guard Jodie Meeks set a milestone.
Meeks, the SEC’s scoring leader, set a Bud Walton Arena single-game record with 45 points. Arkansas’ Al Dillard set the previous mark of 39 in 1993, the year the arena opened.
The Razorbacks have already struggled trying to stop the Tigers this season, losing 79-69 on Jan. 31.
LSU guard Marcus Thornton and center Chris Johnson each had 18 points in that game. Arkansas had a particularly tough time contending with the 6-foot-11 Johnson, who added seven rebounds and six blocks.
The senior had 12 points and six blocks in a 73-66 win over Mississippi State on Saturday night as LSU rallied from an eight point deficit in the final seven minutes.
The Tigers haven’t lost an SEC game since dropping their opener 65-59 to Alabama on Jan. 11.
“It is an honor to be ranked and shows how hard this team is working as well as the preparation the coaches have given us,” Johnson said.
Arkansas doesn’t have the height to match up with Johnson, but it’s likely to get impressive freshman point guard Courtney Fortson back after a suspension.
Fortson didn’t play in the matchup with Kentucky, but coach John Pelphrey said he should be back in the starting lineup for this game. Pelphrey didn’t go into detail about why Fortson was suspended.
“If he does the correct things, he will play on Wednesday,” Pelphrey said. “I love Courtney Fortson. There’s not another guard in the country I want playing our point guard spot.”
Fortson has started all but two games this season, averaging 14.6 points, and ranks among the nation’s leaders with 6.5 assists a contest. He had 17 points, nine assists and seven rebounds versus LSU in January.
Arkansas leads the series 28-19.