GAME NOTES: The Mississippi State Bulldogs will try to put an end to their season-long losing streak on Saturday afternoon when they welcome the Arkansas Razorbacks to Humphrey Coliseum for an SEC showdown.
Arkansas has been trending in the right direction as the regular season begins to wind down, as it has won four of its last five games to improve to 17-9 overall and 6-7 in the SEC. The Razorbacks most recently downed South Carolina at home on Wednesday night, 71-64, but they have not encountered much success on the road (1-5).
Mississippi State has been stuck in a prolonged tailspin with losses in eight straight matchups to fall into a tie for last place in the SEC with South Carolina at 3-10. The Bulldogs dropped a 92-81 decision at LSU on Wednesday to dip to 13-13 overall. They are an impressive 11-4 at home, but they've lost three straight in Starkville.
In regards to the all-time series, Mississippi State holds a 29-25 advantage, although Arkansas won the most recent meeting on Jan. 23, 2013, 72-57 in Fayetteville.
The Razorbacks ran out to an 11-point halftime lead over South Carolina earlier in the week and never broke a sweat in the second half, extending their lead to as many as 17 points before it was all said and done. Although they shot just 37.9 percent from the field on the evening, they held the Gamecocks into just 37.3 percent shooting and forced 19 turnovers. Michael Qualls was the pace setter, shoot 4-of-7 from 3-point range for 20 points to go with eight rebounds. Coty Clarke notched a true double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds while adding four assists and four steals for good measure.
Arkansas boasts the SEC's top scoring offense this season (80.8 ppg), shooting 44.7 percent from the field, 36.3 percent from 3-point range and 71.4 percent at the free-throw line. Its scoring defense (70.5 ppg) has been less than impressive, but it is aided by an outstanding +5.8 turnover margin, which ranks fourth-best in the nation. Bobby Portis mans the frontcourt and puts up 13.1 ppg (on 54.1 percent field goal shooting), 6.6 rpg, 1.5 bpg and 1.1 spg. Rashad Madden (12.8 ppg), Qualls (11.8 ppg), Clarke (9.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg) and Alandise Harris (8.9 ppg) are all regular contributors as well.
The Bulldogs stumbled out of the gate at LSU in their most recent game, as they faced a 14-0 deficit less than four minutes in and never threatened the lead from that point forward. Although they finished with impressive showings from the floor (.500) and at the free-throw line (26-of-36), they made only 3- of-8 from beyond the arc and allowed LSU to shoot 50.8 percent from the floor. Craig Sword was outstanding in the loss with a career-high 33 points on 11- of-16 from the field and 10-of-14 at the line. Gavin Ware tallied a double- double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, while Trivante Bloodman and Roquez Johnson each scored 11.
It's no surprise that Mississippi State has underwhelmed on both ends of the court this season, as it shoots 44.4 percent from the field for 68.3 ppg while yielding 70.5 ppg on 45.1 percent shooting. It has also been a non-factor from long range (4.5 3-pointers per game at a 30 percent clip) and struggles at the stripe (.663). Sword is the go-to scoring option with 13.6 ppg, Ware (10.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg) shoots greater than 60 percent from the field and Johnson (9.3 ppg) and Colin Borchert (9.0 ppg) have also been solid.
Although Mississippi State appears to be outmatched on paper, the Razorbacks' road struggles this season have been well-documented, meaning the Bulldogs will have a decent chance at ending their losing streak. In the end though, Arkansas' superior scoring talent will step up down the stretch.
Game Date and Time