Naz Reid admitted Saturday's game was one he had circled on the calendar. And for a couple of reasons.
Reid, the 6-foot-10 LSU freshman from New Jersey, scored just seven points and fouled out of the Tigers' 88-79 win against Alabama on Tuesday, one of the few times this season he's been held under double-figures. That was probably motivation enough for the projected NBA lottery pick. The real motivation was facing Arkansas' stellar 6-11 sophomore and also projected first-round NBA Draft pick Daniel Gafford.
Both players delivered as Reid scored 27 points, including four 3-pointers, and Gafford poured in a career-high 32 points. Reid's Tigers walked out of Bud Walton Arena with a 94-88 overtime win, holding off an Arkansas team that trailed by double digits a good portion of the second half.
"I was very hyped for this game," Reid said. "I mean, he's a lottery pick, so us going at it is a great matchup. I wanted to come out with a better game today and I just wanted to win. I'm a sore loser, I never want to lose at anything so I was going to put it all on the floor today."
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Reid was ready from the opening tip. On LSU's first possession, he caught a pass on the right block and threw down a monster dunk. Perhaps the emotion of the dunk and the intensity of the matchup was a little much as he was quickly hit with a technical foul. Arkansas' Mason Jones hit a pair of free throws at the other end to tie the game, but LSU slowly took control, leading by double digits for a good portion of the second half.
Gafford, who took just four shots and scored nine points in Wednesday's 57-51 loss to Florida, was more involved in the Arkansas offense on Saturday. Gafford scored 16 points in the first half and finished 14 of 19 from the floor. In a 14-2 second-half run that saw Arkansas turn a 73-61 deficit into a 75-all tie, Gafford scored seven points and sent the game into overtime with a dunk with 30 seconds left in regulation. His layup in overtime gave Arkansas its first and only lead at 83-81.
"Playing against someone like him, that gave me a lot of motivation," Gafford said. "He's a great player, probably a one-and-done player, so I had to come out and play up on his level, because he was playing at a whole different level tonight. So I had to go to that same level.
"Lately I've been getting dominated by bigs coming in here, so I just did not want to let that happen tonight."
After Gafford powered inside for the lead in overtime, the Tigers answered with back-to-back 3-pointers, the last one from Reid who was again left open on the perimeter.
"The 3-pointers that he hit, those were some big 3s," Gafford said. "He came down, he took his time. I mean we left him wide open. That's just our fault right there. We have to rotate. But he came down, he took his time and he knocked them down and that's what hurt us."
LSU's balanced attack proved to be the difference. Marlon Taylor scored 21 for the Tigers and Tremont Waters added 17 points and 11 assists.
Jones scored 22 points for Arkansas, including a pair of 3-pointers and Reggie Chaney played big off the bench with 12 points, five rebounds and four steals.
LSU: The Tigers handed Arkansas its first Saturday home loss in eight seasons and won their fifth straight game and seventh in their last eight. LSU coach Will Wade said he prepared his team for the Arkansas crowd by blasting hog calls and loud music during practices leading up to the game.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks played much better than they did in a loss to Florida earlier this week, but with a Tuesday game on the road at No. 3 Tennessee, the schedule only gets tougher.
HE SAID IT
"I didn't intend on giving Gafford as many easy looks as we did," Wade said. "He's a great player. I knew they were going to go to Gafford, we just did not do a good job stopping him."
Arkansas' legendary guard Sydney Moncrief was honored before the game. Moncrief was a star player for the Razorbacks in the late 1970s and led the team to the Final Four in 1978. . LSU was 10 of 25 from behind the 3-point line. Arkansas was just 3 of 16. . Reid was 10 of 12 from the floor and one of those misses was on the tip-in attempt at the end of regulation. . Saturday was the eighth time this season Arkansas has played a game decided by six points or less. The Razorbacks are 4-4 in those games.
LSU: The Tigers stay on the road with a Tuesday game at Ole Miss.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks travel to No. 3 Tennessee, also on Tuesday.