SEC MEN’S BASKETBALL MISSISSIPPI STATE 77, ARKANSAS 67:

Razorbacks' offense dries up; halftime lead evaporates with 23-1 run

By: Bob Holt
Published: Sunday, February 17, 2019
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford is trapped by two Mississippi State defenders during a game Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford is trapped by two Mississippi State defenders during a game Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas basketball team missed its first 14 shots and had five turnovers to start the second half against Mississippi State.

By the time the Razorbacks finally made a basket in the second half -- on Mason Jones' drive as part of a three-point play with 11:33 left to pull Arkansas within 11 -- the Bulldogs were well on their way to a 77-67 victory on Saturday night before an announced crowd of 11,034 in Walton Arena.

Things were looking good for Arkansas when Daniel Gafford hit two free throws to give the Razorbacks a 40-32 lead with 19:47 left.

Then Mississippi State took over.

The Bulldogs outscored Arkansas 23-1 over a 7:46 span -- including eight points by Tyson Carter and six by Quinndary Weatherspoon -- to move ahead 55-41 with 12:01 left.

Mississippi State Coach Ben Howland said he never expected to go on that type of run on the road against Arkansas.

"Obviously, it's usually the other way around," Howland said. "That's why this was so amazing. It was our kids' defense."

Three of the Bulldogs' baskets in their decisive run came on dunks -- two by Carter and one by Weatherspoon -- as the Bulldogs converted turnovers into easy points.

"Turnovers led to that big run," said Jones, a sophomore guard who led the Razorbacks with 30 points. "We had a lot of turnovers in that stretch, and they capitalized on it with easy layups and fast-break, easy dunks.

"They got the momentum right there, so props to them."

Mississippi State (18-7, 6-6 SEC) beat Arkansas (14-11, 5-7) for the fourth consecutive time.

The Razorbacks lost their third consecutive game and fell to 10-5 in Walton Arena. The five home losses are their most in a season in Coach Mike Anderson's eight seasons.

Weatherspoon, a senior guard, led the Bulldogs with 22 points, 6 steals and 3 assists. Carter, a junior guard who started in place of the suspended Nick Weatherspoon, scored a season-high 18 points.

Freshman forward Reggie Perry, who signed with Mississippi State after initially committing to Arkansas, had 12 points and 10 rebounds.

"We just locked in and started to play defense aggressively without fouling," Perry said of the Bulldogs' second-half surge. "Then we got out on the break."

Gafford, the Razorbacks' 6-11 sophomore who came into the game averaging 16.9 points per game, finished with 8 points and 11 rebounds.

Arkansas sophomore guard Jalen Harris had 8 points and 7 assists, and junior forward Adrio Bailey had 8 points.

The Razorbacks led 40-36 when Gafford went to the bench with his third foul with 18:08 left after he was called for a charge in the lane.

"I didn't see that one there," Anderson said of disagreeing with the call. "I thought he avoided the guy.

"That kind of turned it around, because obviously Dan is a big part of what we do. He's our most experienced guy."

By the time Anderson put Gafford back into the game with 14:14 left, Mississippi State had taken a 48-41 lead.

"Daniel is the centerpiece of the program, so to have him go out, it really hurts," Jones said. "But other people have to step up, and they just went on a good run and we weren't knocking shots down."

Arkansas shot 28.6 percent from the field (8 of 28) in the second half after shooting 58.3 percent (14 of 24) in the first half when the Razorbacks took a 38-32 halftime lead.

"It was a tale of two halves," Anderson said. "I don't know if we just ran out of steam. But the first half against a very good Mississippi State team we shot the ball well. We executed. We rebounded the basketball. We shared it.

"I thought we did much better moving offensively in the first half than the second half. We had just a big lull."

Anderson said the Razorbacks missed shots to start the second half that they normally make, including some layups.

"Sometimes when you start missing them, it kind of gets to your head a little bit," he said. "So guys start pressing."

The Razorbacks had 20 turnovers, including 14 steals by the Bulldogs.

Mississippi State finished with a 27-22 edge in points off turnovers -- a stat that usually goes in Arkansas' favor.

After Mississippi State went ahead 61-45 on two free throws by Robert Woodard with 10:45 left, Arkansas didn't pull closer than eight points the rest of the game -- 75-67 on Jones' three-point basket with 13 seconds left.

The Razorbacks got the crowd back into the game after they closed within 62-53 on Bailey's dunk with 5:53 left, then had the ball after a missed shot by the Bulldogs with a chance to cut their deficit to seven or six points.

But Harris turned the ball over trying to pass to Gafford when Abdul Ado made a steal. That led to a Weatherspoon dunk with an assist from Carter to keep Mississippi State in control.

"That was just a magnificent, awesome win for our team and our players," Howland said. "I'm really happy for them, to be able to get a win against a very tough opponent."

Game sketch

RECORDS Arkansas 14-11, 5-7 SEC; Mississippi State 18-7, 6-6

STARS Mississippi State senior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon (22 points) and junior guard Tyson Carter (18 points). Arkansas sophomore guard Mason Jones (30 points)

KEY STAT The Bulldogs outscored the Razorbacks 36-22 on points in the lane.

UP NEXT Arkansas plays Auburn at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Auburn, Ala.

Sports on 02/17/2019

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