Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: No surprise Hogs found a way at the end

LSU did everything it set out to do.

The Tigers controlled the boards, played smothering defense and was the first team to not let the Razorback responders get in their head.

In the end -- as they have done so often this season -- the Arkansas Razorbacks looked defeat in the eye and spit, then took a deep breath and found a way to win 77-76.

When JD Notae made two free throws with 8.6 seconds left, it was the first time the Razorbacks led in the second half.

Just getting shots against LSU's defense was the problem for the Razorbacks. The always aggressive Hogs shot 54 field goals, while LSU attempted 72.

LSU is very athletic and Will Wade is a good coach. He knows the game and his plan Wednesday night was simple: Notae couldn't score without the ball, so the eye of the Tigers was to deny Arkansas' leading scorer the ball.

They did a good job, but with the game on the line, they made the mistake of fouling Notae. Once again, he was deadly from the free-throw line.

A lot of basketball fans have wondered how Wade is still the head coach at LSU after an FBI investigation into wrongdoing in college basketball in 2017.

Wade, along with Auburn's Bruce Pearl, Kansas' Bill Self and others, drew scrutiny from their dealings with Adidas and recruiting.

On an FBI wire tap, Wade was recorded saying, "Dude, I went to him with a [expletive] strong-ass offer about a month ago. [Expletive] strong.

"The problem was, I know why he didn't take it now, it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit," Wade continued. "It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn't explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn't get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal."

Only assistant coaches and some Adidas officials were fired.

The guess here is when the schools were contacted by the FBI, what they knew or didn't know, all were advised to say they knew something was going on.

That probably kept the school from being hit with the dreaded lack of institutional control.

The whole thing has raised its head again as Christian Dawkins, an aspiring agent who was found guilty of connections to bribing players, families and college coaches, asked a judge for a new trial.

It seems one of the FBI agents in the sting in Las Vegas has confessed to using $13,500 of sting money to gamble with. He is being sentenced in May.

Wednesday night, though, it wasn't about recruiting but about the Tigers switching roles on the Razorbacks who had won 13 of their previous 14 games.

While Joe Lundardi was at halftime of the ESPN broadcast talking about the Razorbacks being a No. 4 seed, the Hogs were trying to find an answer for the bad matchup on the court.

Where Arkansas usually haunts teams with steals, the Tigers were like a veteran pick-pocket at Mardi Gras, getting nine steals to go with 21 second-chance points.

Yet these Razorbacks take heavyweight uppercuts and come back swinging.

Stanley Umude hit a three with 2:10 to play to pull the Hogs to within 71-70, and Eric Musselman's sixth man was on its feet screaming its hearts out.

A three-point play put the Tigers ahead 74-70 but the Hogs got two free throws, Kamani Johnson got one back only for Notae to get his fourth turnover, but it wasn't over.

LSU missed and Notae was fouled with 8.6 seconds to play. He made them both and Arkansas' reputation grew a little more.

Arkansas is still in the hunt for the league title and LSU is still talented and underachieving.

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