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.
SEC BASKETBALL ARKANSAS 73, MISSISSIPPI STATE 69:
Over ‘The Hump’
Starkville skid ends for Hogs
Arkansas' Rashad Madden (00) shoots over Mississippi State's I. J. Ready (15) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Starkville, Miss., Saturday, Feb. 22, 2014. Arkansas won 73-69.(AP Photo/Jim Lytle)
STARKVILLE, Miss. - Arkansas finally won again at Mississippi State.
It only took 13 games, 5,124 days and 3 coaching changes.
The Razorbacks’ ended their Humphrey Coliseum losing streak, beating the Bulldogs 73-69 on Saturday before an announced crowd of 6,981 that appeared to be closer to 2,500.
“This time of the year it’s just good to get a win,” Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. “I don’t care, anywhere you go. This is a different year, different team.”
Anderson, 1-1 at Mississippi State as the Razorbacks’ coach, was an assistant to Nolan Richardson when Arkansas last won at Humphrey Coliseum, 87-81, on Feb. 12, 2000.
Richardson lost his final two games at Mississippi State - including his final game as the Razorbacks’ coach in 2002 - while Stan Heath went 0-5 and John Pelphrey 0-4.
Anderson’s first game at Humphrey Coliseum as Arkansas’ head coach, two years ago, resulted in a 79-59 defeat for the Razorbacks.
“We got over the hump, no pun intended, and we got a win at ‘The Hump,’ ” Anderson said. “So maybe this team is trending in the right direction.”
The Razorbacks (18-9, 7-7 SEC) have won five of their past six games, and the loss was 86-85 at Missouri when junior guard Ky Madden had a driving attempt go off the rim with two seconds left. They have won two SEC road games - the other coming in a 77-75 victory at Vanderbilt two weeks ago - since 2011.
“We know what was at stake today to get a win,” Arkansas senior forward Coty Clarke said. “Just leaving it out there and doing the things you’ve got to do in order to be playing in March.”
Arkansas sophomore guard Anthlon Bell scored a career-high 19 points in 17 minutes off the bench, hitting 8 of 15 shots. Sophomore forward Michael Qualls scored15 points, freshman forward Bobby Portis had 13 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocked shots, and Clarke had a career-high 7 assists and 9 rebounds.
“I’m certainly proud of our guys and their effort,” Anderson said. “We were fortunate to finish with a win. The time ran out. They were charging back.”
The Razorbacks’ appeared to be in control when they took a 71-56 lead on Madden’s three-point play with 6:45 left. But Mississippi State (13-14, 3-11), which lost its ninth consecutive game, got three-point baskets from Colin Borchert and Craig Sword to pull within 73-68.
I.J. Ready, the Bulldogs’ freshman point guard from Little Rock Parkview, hit 1 of 2 free throws with 49 seconds left to cut Arkansas’ lead to 73-69.
Mississippi State Coach Rick Ray decided not to foul and put Arkansas on the free throw line.
“I thought we were playing good defense,” Ray said. “I thought if we got a stop there, then we could run out and get something in transition.”
The Bulldogs got the stop when Qualls was called for stepping out of bounds as he went to the basket, but by then the clock was down to 17.2 seconds.
Ready had to leave the game after suffering an injury on the play, and Trivante Bloodman - the Bulldogs’ other point guard - was on the bench with a leg injury.
Mississippi State botched its final possession without the services of a point guard. It took 10 seconds for the Bulldogs to get off a shot, and Tevin Moore missed a three point attempt with seven seconds left. Qualls grabbed the rebound after a scramble for the ball and the Razorbacks finally celebrated a victory on the Humphrey Coliseum court.
“It was a combination of their defense and us just not being very aware out there,” said Borchert, a senior forward who had 21 points and made 5 of 6 three-pointers. “They didn’t press. They showed it, then backed up. So we didn’t know what to do. We just kind of jumbled around.”
The Razorbacks’ didn’t finish strong, either. They scored two points in the final 6:54 - on Qualls’ 16-foot jumper at the 2:54 mark - but that was enough against the Bulldogs.
Arkansas made 1 of 9 shots with 3 turnovers on its final 10 possessions, but Clarke helped the Razorbacks run down the clock with two offensive rebounds.
“Extra possessions,” Clarke said. “It kills a defense.”
Clarke said assistant coach Matt Zimmerman told the players before the game about Arkansas’ losing streak at Mississippi State.
“We weren’t worried about it,” Clarke said. “We knew if we came in and played our style of basketball and played defense, everything would take care of itself.
“We’re pretty happy we ended the streak, but this is a whole new team. This isn’t the past.”
While the Bulldogs continued to mount rallies against the Razorbacks in the second half, Arkansas led for the game’s final 38:54 after going ahead 5-4 on Portis’ three-pointer.
The Razorbacks started 5 of 6 from the field - 4 of 5 on three-pointers - to jump out to a 14-8 lead.
“On the road you’ve got to hit shots,” Bell said. “If you’re not hitting shots on the road, it’s going to be hard, so that was a big boost for us.”
Ray, in his second season at Mississippi State, said he didn’t give any thought to the Razorbacks’ losing streak at Humphrey Coliseum.
“To me, that’s for Arkansas to figure out,” Ray said. “I think they’re a good team and they put you in some unusual binds because of the way they press and attack.”
Game sketch RECORDS Arkansas 18-9, 7-7 SEC.
Mississippi State 13-14, 3-11.
STARS Arkansas sophomore guard Anthlon Bell (career-high 19 points), sophomore guard Michael Qualls (15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals) and freshman forward Bobby Portis (15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 blocked shots).
Mississippi State senior forward Colin Borchert (21 points, 7 rebounds).
TURNING POINT The Razorbacks outscored the Bulldogs 25-12 over a 10:07 stretch to move ahead 71-56 with 6:45 left.
KEY STAT Arkansas had a 19-9 edge in points off of turnovers.
Sports, Pages 21 on 02/23/2014