It's definitely not the "Brawl For It All" that both teams wanted to be playing this time of year, but Wednesday night's Mississippi State-Arkansas match-up is nevertheless important for both teams.
The Bulldogs (15-13, 7-7) visit the Razorbacks (18-10, 7-7) for an 8 p.m. match-up inside Bud Walton Arena.
On the line is second place in the SEC's Western Division and also a leg up on a a bye in next week's league tournament in Atlanta.
"For us to still be in there fighting and competing and having an opportunity, that's good," noted Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey. "Nothing is complete. Nothing is finished. We still have to work and get better. We always talk about with games being left to be played, there's a lot of basketball to determine a lot of things."
Not only is it a big game in the standings, but will also be Senior Night with Marcus Britt, Delvon Johnson and Jemal Farmer making their last regularly scheduled appearances in Bud Walton Arena.
"It will be a big night for our three seniors," Pelphrey said. "It will big for those guys from an emotional standpoint and a big game for us from a team standpoint."
Britt said he intends to fight to the last minute.
"We're not fixing to go out here and just give up like we did in the past," Britt said. "Most of the guys gave up during the past. So we've got this mindset we're not going to give up. We're going to try to finish this thing out strong."
Mississippi State can clinch a bye with a win over Arkansas since it would then have swept both the Razorbacks and Ole Miss.
"It's very obvious and there are no secrets about it," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "The winner of our game basically gets the number two seed. That's kind of where it is. That is what is at stake for both teams Wednesday night."
Arkansas can clinch a bye with a win and an Ole Miss loss at Auburn or with a win over the Bulldogs and a win Saturday at Ole Miss.
"Obviously we have very, very difficult games this week with Mississippi State at home and at Ole Miss on Saturday," Pelphrey said. "There is tremendous talent on both teams, both very well coached. It won't be easy for us."
This is rematch of Mississippi State's 67-56 win over Arkansas on Feb. 9 in Starkville when senior point guard Dee Bost led the way with 18 points and 6-10 freshman center Renardo Sidney had 12 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bulldogs won despite not having leading scorer Ravern Johnson, who was suspended for the game after ill-advised tweets and ensuing insubordination.
"I like the pieces to their team and I am sure they are very confident coming off their big win at Tennessee," Pelphrey said. "They are coming in here playing very well in my estimation."
Mississippi State's inconsistent season was typified last week when it lost a home game to bottom feeder LSU and then went to Tennessee and won 70-69.
"It's never easy going on the road," Stansbury said. "We all know how loud it gets at Arkansas. But we've had some success on the road this year, and we'll have to be at our very best to beat them."
Stansnbury believes his team will get Arkansas' best shot.
"Arkansas is playing really well right now," Stansbury said. "They have won four out of their last five games and it is always a tough place to play in Fayetteville. We'll have our work cut out for us Wednesday night."
Rotnei Clarke, the current SEC Player of the Week, will be the main focus of the Bulldogs' defense.
It held him to 9 points in the earlier match-up in Starkville.
"There's a lot at stake," Clarke said. "It's the same way for Mississippi State. It's a big game. We've got it at home and that's an advantage for us. We're excited."
Glenn Bryant blocks a shot as Rotnei Clarke looks on.
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