by: Knox Bardeen
The Mississippi State Bulldogs (11-6, 2-2 SEC) travel to Fayetteville, Ark. Wednesday to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks (7-9, 2-2 SEC) at Bud Walton Arena in Southeastern Conference basketball action. Tip-off is slated for 9 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on CSS with Matt Stewart and Kyle Macy calling the action.
After starting SEC play off with two wins, Mississippi State dropped two games in a row. The Bulldogs will be looking for a way to bounce back from double-digit losses to Alabama and Tennessee. Head coach Rick Ray believes the key lies on defense.
"Were giving up too many points," said Ray on Monday's SEC Basketball Teleconference. "In order for us to win ballgames, these two teams that we played, both Tennessee and Alabama have been in the 70s. When we win, we hold people in the 50s and lower 60s. Because we struggle offensively thats not anything new."
Arkansas lost Saturday at Ole Miss after a double overtime thrilling win over Auburn earlier in the week. Junior forward Marshawn Powell led the Razorbacks last week, averaging 22 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Head coach Mike Anderson knows the Razorbacks have a thin roster with some young talent, but is more concerned with how his squad deals with last week's defeat.
"The thing I'm looking for our team is to see if we can kind of bounce back from a tough loss at Ole Miss," Anderson said Monday at his press conference. "We need to play some good basketball and clean up in other areas. It's amazing, we clean up one area in terms of defending and rebounding and then we don't take care of the ball. That's what cost us in the Ole Miss game."
What to Watch
Mississippi State has ruled this rivalry of late, winning seven of the last 10 meetings and two of the last four at Bud Walton Arena.
Leading at halftime is critical for the Bulldogs. Mississippi State is 0-8 this year when trailing at the half.
Because of injuries to the team this year, and a number of last year's players moving on from Mississippi State, only 10 players have seen action on the floor this season and nine have started at least four games. This is a shallow team in terms of depth and one in a state of flux regarding the starting lineup.
Because of its trim roster, Mississippi State had trouble simulating Arkansas' "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball," a derivative of former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson's "40 Minutes of Hell" heavy-pressure, press defense this week in practice. Watch to see if the Bulldogs are bit hard by turnovers.
Junior guard Jalen Steele leads the Bulldogs in scoring with 11.1 points per game this season. But look out for freshman guard Craig Sword, who leads all SEC freshmen in conference play with 13.3 points per game.
Just four games into SEC play, Arkansas ranks second in the conference in field-goal percentage (39.1 percent) and turnover margin (4). The Razorbacks' fast-paced, attacking defense helps in both cases providing lots of turnovers and lay-ups.
In Arkansas' last nine games, the Razorbacks have allowed opponents to score more than 69 points just three times.
Arkansas is tough to beat at home in Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks are 2-0 in SEC play at home and 11-1 overall. Their sole loss came on Nov. 30 against then-No. 6 Syracuse.
Junior forward Marshawn Powell moved into 29th place on Arkansas' all-time scoring list last week and now has 1,079 career points. With 11 points Wednesday he'd move into 28th place and with 18 points he'd move up to No. 27.
The last time an Arkansas team failed to make a three-point basket in a game was Jan. 7, 1989. The Razorbacks' active streak of 789 games with a three-pointer is the sixth-longest active streak in college basketball.
by: Knox Bardeen