The first order of business for the Razorbacks now that SEC play has arrived is a very formidable challenge.
Arkansas (11-3) gets league action underway Saturday night at 8 p.m. with a home game against No. 15 Mississippi State (13-2).
The Razorbacks are riding a six-game winning streak and will be trying to complete a seven-game home stand unbeaten with a win over the Bulldogs.
"The race is on and we are playing a Mississippi State team that is one of the best teams in our league," Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. "Everybody talks about Kentucky and Florida and rightfully so, but I just think Mississippi State is a team that has good balance."
Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury knows that Arkansas is 11-0 at home this season and knows that Bud Walton Arena can be a tough place to play.
"That's why we played a lot of those these games, different people and different styles, to get ready to go on the road," Stansbury said. "… They're going to do what they do, they get after you. They want to press you like they've always done and get after you in half-court."
The Bulldogs have one of the nation's best guards in 6-2 senior point guard Dee Bost (15.9), a huge front court in 6-11, 250-pound junior power Arnett Moultrie (16.8, 11.4) and 6-10, 285-pound sophomore center Renardo Sidney (10.4, 4.8) and a talented small forward in 6-8, 200-pound freshman Rodney Hood (12.3, 5.4).
Sophomore guard Jalen Steele (7.5) rounds out the starting five for Mississippi State, who opened its season with a home loss to Akron that clearly got the team's attention.
"They have size, they have athletic ability and they have a great point guard in Dee Bost, one of the leading rebounders in our league (Moultrie)," Anderson said. "They have a good mix of players and they have ended up playing good basketball."
Up until a 54-52 loss to No. 6 Baylor in Dallas on Dec. 29, the Bulldogs were riding an 11-game winning streak that included wins over Arizona, Texas A&M and St. John's.
"They are ranked, they are battle-tested, have played some very good teams and came out on the winning side of it," Anderson said. "They are playing with a lot of confidence."
The Bulldogs – who have not played in a week - downed Utah State 66-64 Saturday night to come into league play on a winning note.
The Razorbacks can not match up physically with the bigger visitors so they must get it into a game of easy baskets.
"It is a team of size, there's no question about it and we have to play one of our better basketball games to put ourselves in position to win," Anderson said. "Obviously there is a size disadvantage and an experience one as well."
Anderson wants to get off to a good start to the 16-game season.
"It's a race, it is not a sprint, but the first game starts Saturday for us and we would like to get off on a good note," Anderson said.
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