FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – No. 9 LSU (12-0) will face its first ranked opponent of the season Thursday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2 at No. 24 Arkansas (13-2) in Bud Walton Arena to begin SEC play.
“We’re going to have to have tremendous focus,” Coach Kim Mulkey said. “They’re just so well coached in what they do. They are unique in what they do offensively and it’s the first game of the year.”
The game will tipoff in primetime for a national television audience on ESPN2 with Courtney Lyle and Carolyn Peck. The game will also be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network, 107.3 FM in Baton Rouge, with Patrick Wright and Jeff Palermo.
“It should be a game that if you love women’s basketball, you want to watch,” Coach Mulkey said.
LSU got back on the practice floor on Monday after having a week off and at home for the holidays. The Tigers were dominant through 12 non-conference games, leading the country in multiple stat categories that include scoring offense (94.8 ppg) and scoring margin (+44.0). With a new calendar year approaching and conference play beginning, LSU will look to continue its impressive play against better competition.
“I know that we have talent,” Coach Mulkey said. “I know that we got kids out of the transfer portal late after the schedule was done. I know that we’ve handled our schedule pretty darn good. And now we play the games that matter. There’s a lot of basketball left to be played. We will play hard and hopefully win enough games to make the NCAA Tournament.”
LSU went 13-3 in conference play last year during Coach Mulkey’s first season at LSU. One of the three losses suffered came in a game at Arkansas in Bud Walton Walton Arena, the Tigers’ and Razorbacks’ only matchup last season. This year Arkansas will make a return trip to LSU on January 19.
LSU’s play has been led by Angel Reese who has played as one of the top players in the nation, averaging 24.6 ppg (1st SEC, 6th NCAA) and 14.7 rpg (1st SEC, 1st NCAA). She has 12 double-doubles through 12 games and was named ESPN’s National Player of the Week prior to the holiday break. In LSU’s final non-conference game against Oregon State in Maui, Reese had 25 points and 20 rebounds, LSU’s 20th 20/20 game of all-time.
Flau’jae Johnson has scored 13.2 points per game as a freshman and Alexis Morris has averaged 12.8 this year, going over 1,000 career points in Maui. Jasmine Carson has shot the ball at a high clip from deep and is scoring 12.2 points per game.
Arkansas started the season with 13 consecutive victories, but the Razorbacks suffered losses in San Diego against Oregon and South Florida to finish up non-conference play. The Razorbacks spread the floor and shoot the three, but they also attack the rim and get to the foul line the second most in the NCAA.
“They get downhill as quick as anybody we’ve played and you’re just going to have to keep them away from the foul line as much as possible and keep them from hitting as many threes,” Coach Mulkey said.
Saylor Poffenbarger has made an immediate impact as a freshman for Arkansas. She has three SEC Player of the Week honors to lead the conference. She scores 8.5 ppg and leads the team with 8.4 rpg. Samara Spencer leads the Razorbacks with 16.3 ppg and Erynn Barnum, Makayla Daniels and Chrissy Carr all average double figures scoring.
Arkansas likes to shoot the three ball as the Razorbacks lead the SEC with 26.9 three point attempts per game and they make 8.5 per game to rank No. 2 in the SEC. Spencer, Daniels, Carr and Poffenbarger are all willing to shoot the three ball on a regular basis.
Barnum, a forward, will occasionally shoot the three ball, but prefers to do her work within the arc, giving the Razorback a presence inside the paint leading the SEC and ranking No. 11 nationally with a .639 shooting percentage, just ahead of LSU’s Reese with a .635 shooting percentage.
Thursday’s game will be LSU’s final of 2022 with the Tigers set to tipoff the New Year on January 1 at home against Vanderbilt.
(Release via LSU Athletics)