Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
In the lane:
Bell big off bench for Hogs
Arkansas' Anthlon Bell (5) celebrates after scoring during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. (AP Photo/Jim Lytle)
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State wasn’t focused on stopping Arkansas guard Anthlon Bell going into Saturday’s game at Humphrey Coliseum.
“He wasn’t on the scouting report,” Bulldogs Coach Rick Ray said, managing a smile. “But obviously he came off the bench and gave those guys a huge lift.”
Bell scored a career-high 19 points in 17 minutes to help the Razorbacks win 73-69 after having a combined four points and shooting 2 of 16 from the field in the previous seven games, including two he didn’t play in against Vanderbilt and LSU
“I knew the slump wasn’t going to last forever, so I just stayed with it,” Bell said. “I stayed positive and made sure I got up a lot of shots before and after practice.”
Bell scored for the first time in three weeks, since having two points in the Razorbacks’ 88-74 loss at LSU on Feb. 1.
“He was a big shock,” Mississippi State sophomore guard Craig Sword said.
“When he started hitting shots, we were like, ‘Man, we’re going to have to try and stay on him now.’ He hit big shots.”
Bell started 1 of 5 from the field after entering the game with 12:29 left in the first half, but he made 4 of 5 shots the rest of the half - including 2 of 3 on three pointers - for 12 points. He was 3 of 5 in the second half to finish 8 of 15.
“It feels good,” Bell said.
“It’s a big confidence boost.”
Bell had been averaging 3.1 points per game in SEC play.
“It was just a matter of time,” Arkansas forward Coty Clarke said of Bell breaking out. “Today was one of those games where he was able to put it on display. He came in and changed the game.” Ready to go
Mississippi State point guard I.J. Ready, a freshman from Little Rock Parkview, started and had 7 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists in 35 minutes. He started 0 of 5 from the field but finished 3 of 11 and made 4 of 6 free throws.
“Any time you’re playing your home state, you get a little bit too jacked up at times,” Bulldogs Coach Rick Ray said. “I think he kind of rushed some shots.
He usually makes those shots that he took early in the game.
“I think he got himself calmed down a little bit more in the second half.”
Ready sustained an apparent blow to the face in the final seconds and left the game. Ray said he wasn’t sure about Ready’s health situation and was waiting on a report from the training staff.
Other ways to help
Arkansas senior forward Coty Clarke had his lowest scoring total in the past 9 games with 2 points, but he had a career-high 7 assists and 9 rebounds.
“That’s what I do,” Clarke said of helping in areas other than scoring. “If I don’t score, I’m chipping in somewhere else. On the defensive end, I’m making sure I get my teammates involved.
“I’m not worried about scoring. Scoring will take care of itself.”
Mississippi State Coach Rick Ray credited Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson for switching up the Razorbacks’ zone in the second half to a softer zone that limited the Bulldogs’ opportunities to get to the basket.
“I thought that’s where the momentum changed, because we weren’t getting to attack at that point in time,” Ray said. “That really put the breaks on us offensively.” Quick strike
Arkansas scored seven points in a 20-second span in the first half from 12:19 to 11:59 to take a 21-15 lead.
After Mardracus Wade hit a three-pointer, he stole the ball and passed to Anthlon Bell, who missed a short jumper, grabbed the rebound and scored.
Alandise Harris then had a steal and layup.
Mississippi State made 10 of 21 free throws, including missing the front end of two 1-and-1 opportunities.
“We did a good job of getting to the free-throw line, but we didn’t make them,” Bulldogs Coach Rick Ray said.
Arkansas wasn’t much better at the line, going 9 of 17.
Moses on move
Arkansas 6-10 center Moses Kingsley, who has been slowed by a hip injury, apparently is back to full speed. He had a steal at midcourt in the second half, then quickly got the basket for a dunk.
Kingsley is from Nigeria, but he lived in Mississippi after moving to the United States as a high school sophomore.
“I was happy for Moses,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “He had about 20 of his close friends and people that are dear to him here in attendance.”Back in red
Arkansas was back in its traditional red uniforms after wearing Anthracite at Vanderbilt and Missouri.
The Razorbacks went 1-1 in the grayish uniforms, beating the Commodores 77-75 and losing to the Tigers 86-85.
Mississippi State fell to 0-15 in February games under second-year Coach Rick Ray, and the Bulldogs are 1-19 in their past 20 games in the month.
Sports, Pages 30 on 02/23/2014