TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Au’Diese Toney scored 22 points, JD Notae added 19 and No. 15 Arkansas beat LSU 79-67 in the Southeastern Conference quarterfinals Friday.
Toney’s final basket was a dunk in the waning seconds, with coaches Eric Musselman and Will Wade already nearing the handshake line. Note then stole LSU’s final inbound pass and missed a layup just after the buzzer.
The plays infuriated Wade, who threw up both hands and exchanged words with Musselman and then the officials.
Chris Lykes chipped in 18 points as the fourth-seeded Razorbacks (25-7) won for the 15th time in their last 17 games and advanced to face red-hot Texas A&M in the first of two semifinal games Saturday.
No one would be surprised to see Arkansas make the tournament final for the first time since 2017. The Hogs have the talent, depth and balance to beat any opponent on any day. The Tigers (22-11) know that as well anyone, going 0-3 against the Razorbacks in the last two months.
This one was close early — until Arkansas used a 19-0 run that spanned halftime and turned a tight game in a lopsided lead.
The Razorbacks scored the final six points of the first half, all by 5-foot-7 guard Lykes, and opened the final 20 minutes with a 13-0 spurt that was the difference in the game. Lykes made three free throws, including one because of a technical foul called on LSU’s Wade, and then hit a jumper at the buzzer to give Arkansas a little breathing room headed into the locker room.
Arkansas was even better after the break. Trey Wade’s dunk got the big run started, but it was fueled on the other end. Defensive stalwart Jaylin Williams had two blocks, and the Hogs forced a shot-clock violation. Arkansas also scored off an offensive rebound.
The Tigers missed their first five shots and couldn’t stop the run despite Wade calling two timeouts. The Razorbacks led 42-26 with a little more than 16 minutes to play and never let up down the stretch.
LSU cut the lead to single digits twice in the closing minutes, but the Hogs answered both times with Lykes—once with a 3 and in the paint on the ensuing possession.
Williams finished with six points and 11 rebounds.
Darius Days led the Tigers with 14 points and 10 boards. Tari Eason, the league’s sixth man of the year, had 15 points.
LSU: The Tigers have been less than impressive since mid-January. They are 7-10 in their last 17 games, a head-scratching stretch for a team with enough talent to compete with anybody in the league. Three of those 10 losses came to Arkansas.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks have been the league’s hottest team for the last two months, thanks mostly to Notae and Williams. The duo gives the Hogs an inside-out combination on both ends that’s hard to match up with for 40 minutes and seemingly has them poised to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament that begins next week.
LSU awaits its NCAA Tournament seeding and first-round pairing.
Arkansas plays eight-seeded Texas A&M on Saturday. It will be the third game in as many days for the Aggies and the third meeting this season between the teams. They split the first two meetings.
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism