Matt Jones is the online sports director for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A double graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy and Biletnikoff Award.
Bulldogs hand Hogs second straight SEC loss
Arkansas forward Dustin Thomas (13) defends Mississippi State guard I.J. Ready (15) in the first half Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2017 at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE Arkansas' once-promising basketball season is at a crossroads.
The Razorbacks lost 84-78 to Mississippi State on Tuesday in front of 8,007 at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas fell to 12-4 overall and 1-3 in Southeastern Conference play.
It was Arkansas' second consecutive conference home loss, marking the first time the Razorbacks have lost two straight SEC home games since coach Mike Anderson's first season in 2012. The Bulldogs won for the second consecutive game on the road, following a win at LSU last weekend.
"That was a phenomenal win for us tonight," Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said. "... This is obviously our best win of the year, to get a road win against a top-26 RPI team. It really bolsters our confidence, two hard wins in a row."
Mississippi State (11-4, 2-1) hit a flurry of 3-point attempts to take control of the game and stymie every chance of an Arkansas comeback. The Bulldogs finished the game 12 of 26 from 3-point range, led by Quinndary Weatherspoon's six makes.
Weatherspoon led Mississippi State with 25 points, including 14 in the first half. After trailing by as many as five points, the Bulldogs used a 14-3 run late in the first half to take the lead, and led 40-34 at halftime.
"I was feeling good in warmups," Weatherspoon said. "I hit a couple in a row, and I thought then it was going to be a good night, and my teammates got me open."
Arkansas opened the second half on a 6-0 run to tie the game, and tied the game again 46-46 on a Moses Kingsley layup with 13:37 remaining.
But Mississippi State responded with a 9-2 run that was capped by Schnider Herard's 3-point play with 11:29 left to give the Bulldogs a 55-48 lead.
Arkansas cut the deficit to three multiple times late in the game, but Mississippi State always had an answer. Dusty Hannahs twice pulled the Razorbacks within three midway through the second half, but Weatherspoon answered each one with a 3-pointer of his own.
"Obviously disappointed with our performance tonight," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "... Weatherspoon, we had no answer for him."
Mississippi State made 22 of 32 free throws and led by as many as 10 points in the final minute. The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Razorbacks by 12 and had 15 offensive rebounds. Both teams had 14 second-chance points.
Kingsley led Arkansas with 19 points before fouling out late in the game. Hannahs added 17 points, 15 of which came after halftime.
Lamar Peters hit four 3-pointers and scored 14 points for the Bulldogs, while Aric Holman added 13 points.
The Razorbacks are scheduled to play again Saturday at 5 p.m. against Missouri (5-10, 0-3) at home.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs entered the season with only one senior on their roster, and that inexperience showed in early losses to Central Florida, Lehigh and East Tennessee State. Their youthful roster, however, has started to mature as of late for Mississippi State — which now has five wins in its last six games.
Arkansas: In addition to losing their second straight SEC home game, the Razorbacks have now also lost two in a row overall after a loss last week at Kentucky. For a program that's reached the NCAA Tournament only once in coach Mike Anderson's five seasons, this season was critical — and now the pressure will only mount.
As the two teams walked off the court for halftime, there was an altercation between Hannahs and Mississippi State's Xavian Stapleton — enough for the officials to blow their whistles from half court and Anderson to go running into the tunnel that leads under the seats. No fouls or technical were called, however.
The Bulldogs snapped a four-game losing streak in Fayetteville with the win, and they did so largely thanks to their 3-point shooting. After hitting 11 of 22 3-pointers in the win at LSU, Mississippi State — the second-leading 3-point shooting team in the SEC — made 12 more on Tuesday, with Weatherspoon finishing 6 of 7 from behind the arc. "I think we're maturing," Howland said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report
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