BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Craig Victor was simply in the right place at the right time as his put-back basket with 4.2 seconds remaining gave LSU a 76-74 win against Arkansas in a Southeastern Conference game Saturday.
With the score tied, the Tigers' Antonio Blakeney came up with a steal with 35 seconds remaining. Blakeney's ensuing 3-point shot was an air ball, but Victor rebounded the ball and scored.
Anton Beard missed a 3-point shot at the buzzer for Arkansas.
Victor, who became eligible one month ago after transferring from Arizona, was the perfect complement for Simmons. Victor scored 16 points and matched his season-high with 12 rebounds. He was 6 of 14 from the field and blocked a season-high three shots.
"I was pretty much trying to get in position for an offensive rebound," Victor said. "The ball fell in my lap and I was able to make it. That wasn't our best game. We were fortunate to pull off the win."
Arkansas (9-8, 3-2) tied it at 69-all on a basket by Beard with 3:28 remaining. Moments later, LSU (11-6, 4-1) had a five-point possession. Blakeney made a layup after a Razorbacks turnover and was fouled.
Blakeney missed the free throw attempt, but Simmons grabbed the rebound. Simmons scored and was fouled. He made the foul shot to give the Tigers a 74-69 lead with three minutes to play. The only points in the next two minutes came on a 3-pointer by Arkansas' Dusty Hannahs.
The Razorbacks tied the score at 74-74 on a layup by Beard with 37 seconds to play. Beard was fouled by Simmons, but missed the foul shot. The ball went out of bounds to Arkansas. Blakeney made his steal after the ball was inbounded.
Simmons led LSU with 16 points and 18 rebounds. Josh Gray added 15 points, while Blakeney scored 10.
"I didn't think we hit on all cylinders," LSU coach Johnny Jones said. "We dint play our best, but we were able to get a victory against a tough opponent. When that happens, that's a great sign of a team growing. I am pleased with the effort and pleased with the closing."
"Our effort was there, but our execution wasn't there at the end," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "We were in position to steal one. Unfortunately, we had some mishaps whether it be a turnover or (giving up) an offensive rebound. They had some guys who made plays for them."
Neither team generated consistent offense in the first half. Each team's top scorer provided little scoring. Simmons had four points, while Kingsley had three points. Simmons did grab 11 first-half rebounds.
The Razorbacks, who trailed by six points six minutes into the game, then went on a 16-5 run. Beard had half of his 14 first-half points during this stretch. A 3-point play by Bell put Arkansas in front 24-19 with 7:57 remaining in the first half.
The Hogs took a seven-point advantage at 38-31 when Bell made a 3-pointer with 2:38 before halftime. The Tigers reduced their deficit to four points by the end of the half at 40-36 thanks to a basket by Gray and a 3-pointer by Blakeney.
LSU made the commitment to get the ball inside at the outset of the second half as Victor and Simmons scored all but two of the Tigers' first 12 points. Two Simmons free throws gave LSU its first second-half lead at 44-42. Twice, Victor made baskets to give the Tigers a two-point advantage.
A pair of 3-pointers by Jalyn Patterson enabled LSU to go ahead 54-50 with 14:02 remaining in the game. Arkansas battled back to tie the score at 56-56 on a tip-in by Kingsley with 10:53 to play. A 3-pointer by Bell then gave the Razorbacks the lead inside the nine-minute mark.
Arkansas extended its lead to five points at 65-60 when Willy Kouassi was awarded a basket on a goal-tending call against Simmons with 6:27 to play. The Tigers then outscored the Razorbacks 9-2 to regain the lead. A three-point play by Simmons tied the score, while two foul shots by Gray put LSU ahead.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks, who were making 52 percent of their 3-point shots in SEC games, were 7-of-17 behind the arc (41 percent) against LSU. Arkansas had made 24 3-pointers in its two previous games.
LSU: The Tigers won their first game of the season decided by fewer than eight points. Prior to Saturday, LSU was 0-5 in games decided by less than eight points or in overtime.
For the second time this season, both Ben Simmons and Craig Victor reached double figures in points and rebounds. In LSU's 85-67 victory against Kentucky, Simmons accounted for 14 points and 10 rebounds and Victor totaled 15 points and 12 rebounds. Both players had better numbers against Arkansas - 16 points and 18 rebounds for Simmons and 16 points and 12 rebounds for Victor.
Arkansas center Moses Kingsley was held below his season average in both points (17.3) and rebounds (9.5). Kingsley, who was defended primarily by Victor, had 11 points and eight rebounds. His only less-productive game came at Texas A&M where he had 11 points and seven rebounds.
BIG GAME FOR GRAY
Starting at point guard instead of Tim Quarterman for the second straight game, Josh Gray was instrumental in the LSU victory. Gray, who was 6 of 8 from the field, matched his career-high for points in a SEC game with 15. He scored 15 points against Georgia last season. Gray also had three assists with only one turnover in 30 minutes.
Arkansas plays Kentucky at home on Thursday.
LSU plays at Texas A&M on Tuesday.