In the two most impactful SEC games from Tuesday, Arkansas outlasted Texas A&M 81-75 and LSU blew past Auburn 84-61.
The game between the Razorbacks and Aggies was a contest of two halves. The Hogs, perhaps inspired by a pregame tribute to Nolan Richardson, ran out to a 49-26 halftime lead. The Aggies were able to answer with 49 second half points of their own, this despite Arkansas blocking seven shots and dominating the boards after intermission. The Hogs' combination of an efficient offense—they hit 51% of shots, including 41.7% from three—and a defense that had an amazing 12 total blocks won them the game.
The Razorbacks' defense really held the day when it really mattered, preventing A&M from scoring in the final 1:30 of the game until a meaningless three pointer with three seconds to go. They also hit their free throws, making five-of-six in that span to extend a two-point lead into an insurmountable seven-point lead with 12 seconds to go. A&M made over half of its threes, going 9-16 on the game, but all those blocks and missed layups took their toll on the team's chances of winning.
Arkansas now gets a few days to prepare for Saturday's showdown with Kentucky, who has to go through the formality of playing Mississippi State tonight. Texas A&M can only shake its head at the missed opportunity and try not to let the disappointment bleed through to Saturday's game with Auburn.
In the other key game, LSU finally had a drama-free game against one of the conference's lower tier teams. It wasn't a true route from the beginning, as the Plainsmen were able to hang tough and not let the Bayou Bengals go up by double digits before the half. Jarell Martin, who had 25 points and 12 boards, and his teammates were just too much in the second half, where they enjoyed a 43-27 edge in points.
Auburn might not have given up, but Bruce Pearl's team just doesn't have the horses this year. LSU being on fire from the field, nailing 58% of shots from the floor, certainly didn't help either.
In any event, this was the kind of game that Johnny Jones and his team need. They've done far too much dithering around with bad teams to very bad results this season. A big test of the team's standing looms with a home game against Ole Miss on Saturday. Winning there would go a long way to shoring up the team's March Madness ambitions.
In other action, Alabama held off South Carolina for a 59-51 win. I didn't watch the game, but the fact that the halftime score was a tie at 22 tells me I didn't miss a whole lot. Missouri finally snapped its 13-game losing streak by beating shorthanded Florida 64-52. UF's top two scorers were out injured (Michael Frazier II) and suspended (Dorian Finney-Smith) for the game.