Hogs’ Starkville skid dates back to Richardson

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, February 21, 2014
Arkansas' assistant coach Mike Anderson calls a play to the team as head coach Nolan Richardson sits on the bench during the second half of their loss to Mississippi State on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2002 in Starkville, Miss.
Photo by Jeremy Scott
Arkansas' assistant coach Mike Anderson calls a play to the team as head coach Nolan Richardson sits on the bench during the second half of their loss to Mississippi State on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2002 in Starkville, Miss.

FAYETTEVILLE - Mississippi State has lost eight consecutive games. Arkansas has lost 12 in a row at Mississippi State.

Somebody has to win when the Razorbacks play the Bulldogs at 3 p.m. Saturday in Humphrey Coliseum.

Mississippi State (13-13, 3-10) is either going to win for the first since beating Auburn 82-74 on Jan. 22, or Arkansas (17-9, 6-7) is going to win at Humphrey Coliseum for the first time since Feb. 12, 2000, when the Razorbacks beat the Bulldogs 87-81.

Saturday's Ticket

Arkansas at Mississippi State

WHEN 3 p.m. Saturday

WHERE Humphrey Coliseum, Starkville, Miss.

RECORDS Arkansas 17-9, 6-7 SEC; Mississippi State 13-13, 3-10

SERIES Arkansas leads 29-25

RADIO Razorback Sports Network

TELEVISION SEC TV on KATV, Channel 7, in Little Rock; KHOG/KHBS, Channels 40/29, in Fayetteville and Fort Smith; and KAIT, Channel 8, in Jonesboro.

Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson was an assistant to Nolan Richardson when the Razorbacks last won at Starkville 14 years ago.

“I think they have something to do with that, too,” Anderson said of the Bulldogs. “They’ve played well.”

The Razorbacks lost to Mississippi State two years ago in their most recent visit to Humphrey Coliseum, a 79-59 defeat during Anderson’s first season as Arkansas’ coach.

“It’s life on the road, and you’ve got to be able to impose your will,” Anderson said. “Evidently, we haven’t done that in the past.”

Among Arkansas’ top eight scorers, junior guard Ky Madden is the only one who has played a game at Mississippi State.

“The guys that are playing the game, they really don’t have any idea about the history,” said Rick Ray, the Bulldogs’ second-year coach. “All they really concern themselves with is what they’ve been doing since they’ve gotten there.

“I can’t imagine any of those guys are even cognizant of the fact they haven’t won here in the last 12 times.”

Arkansas will be looking for win three consecutive SEC games for the first time since late last season, when the Razorbacks beat Auburn, Missouri and Georgia. They have won four of their past five games, including a 71-64 victory over South Carolina on Wednesday night.

“It’s been a learning year,” said Arkansas senior forward Coty Clarke, who had 12 points and 12 rebounds against the Gamecocks. “We’re just learning to win close games and knowing what to get into at the end and getting defensive stops and rebounding.

“That’s been the difference with us winning close games, on the road and at home. We just learned from our mistakes and we’ve been able to capitalize.”

Ray said turnovers have been an issue for the Bulldogs, a problem magnified by Arkansas’ pressure defense. Mississippi State had 29 turnovers when it lost at Arkansas 96-70 last season while being outscored 40-8 in points off of turnovers.

Yielding points off turnovers has been a continuing problem for the Bulldogs during their eight-game losing streak: They were outscored 30-11 in points off turnovers at Auburn and 22-1 at Texas A&M. They had five turnovers on their first eight possessions in a 92-81 at LSU on Wednesday night, falling behind 16-1.

“We’re just not giving ourselves a chance to be productive on the offensive end when we don’t take care of the basketball,” Ray said.“We can’t set ourselves up for failure by turning the basketball over, especially playing a team like Arkansas that thrives on that pressure defense.

“We’ve got to make sure that’s the No. 1 thing that we do, is don’t give them offense by turning the ball over.”

Mississippi State sophomore guard Craig Sword is averaging a team-high 13.6 points and scored 33 at LSU, hitting 11 of 16 shots and 10 of 14 free throws. Sophomore forward Gavin Ware, 6-9, is averaging 10.6 points and 7.5 rebounds. The Bulldogs’ playing rotation includes point guard I.J. Ready, a freshman from Little Rock Parkview averaging 6.6 points.

“They have got some athletes, and they play well at home,” Anderson said. “You’re going to see a hungry team. We’re going to get their best shot.”

Arkansas will be looking for a bounce-back game from Madden, who is averaging 15.2 points in SEC games but scored 3 points against South Carolina while making 0 of 8 from the field with 4 turnovers.

“Ky just never got in a rhythm,” Anderson said. “It may have been one of those deals where he kind of got tired and hit the wall.

“We need a guy like Ky to have energy out on the floor.”

Sports, Pages 23 on 02/21/2014