No. 20 LSU 70, Arkansas 53
Courtney Jones by no means considers herself an ace from beyond the 3-point line.
She only looked like one Thursday night, surprising even herself by hitting all four 3s she attempted while scoring a career-high 22 points as No. 20 LSU cruised past Arkansas 70-53.
``The 3s, I was just shooting it. I wasn't really thinking they'll go in,'' Jones said. ``I guess I was shooting without thinking too hard.''
Jones, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, had hit only three 3-pointers all season coming in and her previous season-high in scoring was 11 points. The reserve forward said she doesn't spend much time working on shooting from beyond the arc in practice, focusing instead on her mid-range game.
However, LSU coach Van Chancellor said he'd been imploring her to relax more during games and be more aggressive about exploiting her good all-around shooting ability when she's open.
``I told her if she didn't start shooting the ball she was going to be coming over there sitting with me'' on the bench, Chancellor said. ``She has been a player I have been struggling to get to want to shoot the ball. ... I hope this is a big eye-opener for her tonight.''
The Lady Razorbacks had little reason to believe Jones would hurt them from the perimeter and seemed surprised.
``We let Courtney Jones get away from us, especially from the 3-point line,'' Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. ``She certainly wasn't an emphasis on the scouting report probably to our players, but she was certainly a player our staff respects. She can shoot it. Obviously our players didn't get that message.''
When Jones wasn't hurting Arkansas, Katherine Graham was - all over the court.
Graham had 15 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists, recording her third double-double of the season and helping the Lady Tigers (19-8, 8-7 Southeastern Conference) stay in the race for the fourth seed in the SEC tournament. The victory also guaranteed LSU a 14th-straight .500 or better league record.
Graham realized after the game that she might have had her second triple-double of the season if she'd passed a little more to Jones, who was 8 of 9 shooting overall.
``That's really good shooting, especially for us being a team that doesn't shoot that many 3s,'' Graham said. ``Those four 3s were good shots.''
Allison Hightower added 12 points for LSU, which led by 15 at halftime and by as much as 23 in the second half on its way to its 16th straight victory over Arkansas, a streak spanning a little more than seven years.
Lyndsay Harris and Charity Ford each scored 11 for Arkansas (12-16, 4-10), which lost by 27 the last time these teams met in January.
LSU shot 50 percent (29 of 58), outscored Arkansas 40-24 inside and outrebounded the Lady Razorbacks 38-25. The Lady Tigers had 13 offensive rebounds and finished with a 21-4 advantage in second-chance points.
``Our defense was pretty porous, so I give credit to LSU for stepping up and making the shots, although we gave them an awful lot of easy shots,'' Collen said.
Arkansas was down double digits the entire second half, getting no closer than 12 on Harris' 3 with 16:23 to go.
Jones and Graham then responded with back-to-back layups and Jones answered Harris' 3 with one of her own to make it 50-34. Jones' layup with 2:45 to go made it 70-47.
Chancellor pulled the starters soon after. He considered playing Graham longer so she could try to get two more assists, but decided against it because of a bad experience he had leaving a star player in a lopsided game while he was a WNBA coach in Houston.
``I got Tina Thompson hurt by putting her back in so that scared me to death,'' he said.
LSU had its first substantial run and first double-digit lead before seven minutes had elapsed, scoring 12 straight points, highlighted by Graham's jumper and driving layup as she was fouled. Hightower capped the surge with a 3 to make it 15-5.
Jones then came off the bench and scored 10 quick points, including an 8-0 run by herself on a pair of free throws and consecutive 3s to make it 25-12, and LSU led 37-22 at halftime.