AP Sports Writer
BATON ROUGE — Charles Carmouche is now in the twilight of a five-year, three-school college basketball odyssey and making every bit playing time count.
Carmouche scored a career-high 26 points, helping LSU hold on for a 65-60 victory over Arkansas after the Tigers nearly squandered a 22-point lead Wednesday night.
“With a new team and new coaching staff, I was fresh to this league,” said Carmouche, playing his first and only season at LSU after stops at the University of New Orleans and Memphis. “We are growing and showing that we want to be a tournament-caliber type of team. ... We are just going to keep fighting and coming out every night playing 40 minutes and showing everybody that we are ready.”
Carmouche was 9-of-11 shooting, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. The fifth-year senior has now surpassed 20 points in three of four games, all three of them victories for LSU (17-9, 8-7 Southeastern Conference), which has won eight of its last 11 league games to go over .500 in the SEC for the first time this season.
Marshawn Powell had 17 points and Mardracus Wade added 15 for Arkansas (17-11, 8-7), which dropped to 1-8 on the road and 1-10 outside Arkansas, including two neutral-site losses.
“You work so hard all year long that you figure you can get a couple of road wins,” said Wade, whose last of three 3-pointers cut LSU’s lead to 62-60 with 1:42 left.
“We were right there. If there is a bright side to this I think it’s that our guys fought back,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “Earlier this season that probably wouldn’t have happened.”
Johnny O’Bryant III and Carmouche then combined to make three of six free throws in the final 1:07 for the final margin.
Carmouche drew praise for his defensive play as well. He was assigned to guard BJ Young, who came in averaging 15.7 points, with eight 20-point games so far this season. Young finished with only four points on 2-of-11 shooting and six turnovers.
“He did an excellent job of containing him,” LSU head coach Johnny Jones said of Carmouche. “He gave us some great leadership tonight and played extremely well.”
With the win, LSU pulled into a tie with Arkansas for the seventh place in the SEC and would have a tie breaker over the Razorbacks. Seeds 5-10 will have a first-round bye in the 14-team league tournament.
Anthony Hickey had 10 points for the Tigers, all in the first half, but took a critical charge from Young in the final 30 seconds to force an Arkansas turnover with LSU up by only three.
Wade said it was puzzling to see Young struggle to the extent he did.
“We obviously need BJ to score for us so he can’t have games like this,” Wade said. “Obviously coach will get on him and talk about having to value the ball more.”
In the first half, LSU was in complete control for all but the opening and closing minutes.
After falling behind 4-0, the Tigers went on a 23-4 run starting with Andrew Del Piero’s inside basket and Hickey’s 3. Carmouche, who was 6-of-7 shooting for 15 points in the opening 20 minutes, hit three 3s during the surge and capped the run by snagging a turnover in the back court and hitting a short jumper as he was fouled.
After the Tigers’ lead hovered around 10 for several minutes, Shavon Coleman hit four straight free throws, marking the beginning of 13-0 LSU run, which included Carmouche’s fast-break layup and a transition 3 by Andre Stringer that made it 44-23.
Arkansas called timeout and managed to stem LSU’s momentum, closing out the final two minutes of the period with a 9-0 run during which Young hit a fast-break layup as he was fouled, but missed the free throw, only to have Powell snag the offensive rebound for a putback. Wade then added a 3, cutting LSU’s lead to 45-32 at halftime.
“When you get a lead like that, it’s important to execute on the offensive end and continue to get shutouts on defensive end, and don’t allow yourself to get into too big of a rush,” Jones said. “It was like we were trying to put them away too quick right after halftime and it kind of backfired.”
Arkansas methodically trimmed its deficit into single digits in large part because of the play of Powell. He scored while being fouled, then rebounded his own missed free throw and scored again, igniting a 9-0 run that included Wade’s 3 and Qualls’ layup, which made it 49-42.
Carmouche stemmed the run with three-point play on a tough floater off the glass to make it 52-42, but LSU was unable to keep the lead in double-digits for long and had to come up with shutout defense over the last, tense minute-and-a-half to wrap up the victory.