An Arkansas basketball team that has experienced a rollercoaster regular season will try to finish it on a good note against a Mississippi State team that has had plenty of problems of its own.
The Razorbacks (18-12, 6-9) – who at one point were 16-6 - will visit the Bulldogs (20-10, 7-8) Saturday at 4 p.m. in Starkville – where the visitors have lost 11 straight.
It's a one-game season," Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. "We are looking forward to going on the road and hopefully have the opportunity to steal one."
Mississippi State – who lost to Arkansas 98-88 back on Jan. 7 in Fayetteville, ended a five-game losing streak Wednesday with 69-67 overtime win at South Carolina.
Arkansas blew a 15-point lead a night earlier in a 77-75 home loss to Ole Miss and wants to have some momentum going into next week's SEC Tournament in New Orleans.
"We'll play these guys, hopefully go out and play well, and worry about what takes place after that," Anderson said. "But I know once that's over with, it's a new season. You can throw out the records. Everybody's 0-0. So no matter who you play, it's somebody you've played earlier in the year. Survive and advance. That's what it's all about."
Anderson knows that his team is a long shot to win the SEC Tournament and thus get the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament, but he was an assistant o the 2000 Razorback team that did just that.
"When you talk about the conference, you want to finish up strong," Anderson said.. "And that being said, when that season is over with now it's a new season, it's a season everyone looks forward to getting to and that is the tournament play. That is an opportunity for everyone to have an opportunity to go to the NCAA Tournament."
The five-game losing streak was the second longest in the 14-year tenure of Rick Stansbury, who has been at his school longer than any other SEC coach.
It's certainly was not for a lack of talent, but instead seemingly a chemistry mix.
""Things have definitely been down the wrong path lately and we let it get too deep," noted MSU star Arnett Moultrie. "It shouldn't have (gone) this far. A five-game losing streak is unheard of at any level in basketball, especially when you have all this talent."
Stansbury was quick to try to push the talk in another direction.
"Hey, you guys can write what you write and I know who you all are pointing to some but you're not going to get me to say it, so now is not a time to point fingers at each other," Stansbury said. "Now is the time to keep working, take responsibility for your own actions and work hard. That's what it's about right now. Hey, it's easy to make excuses. We're not going to make excuses now. We have to find a way to get over that hump."
Mississippi State is led by 6-9 forward Moultrie, who has had 17 double-doubles this season.
He had 16 points and 12 rebounds in the win over South Carolina while 6-10, 300-pound Renardo Sidney added 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Brian Bryant had a career-high 16 points, including the game-winning shot.
That doesn't even include the solid backcourt play of point guard Dee Bost and shooting guard Jalen Steele as well as talented freshman small forward Rodney Hood
"I'm awful proud with the way our guys responded," Stansbury said. "We played with great effort, but more importantly, when (South Carolina) made runs at us and even got the lead, our guys stayed focused and really stayed together. We really executed down the stretch and made the plays we had to make."
For only the second time in 20 years of being in the SEC, Arkansas will finish up its league season with the team it started.
It is strange that the Razorbacks are ending conference play with the team that started.
"That's pretty rare," Anderson said. "Especially in conference play when you play 16 games. You probably would think at some point in time you would play before the end after the beginning. I guess that's how it kind of shapes up this year."
Anderson knows that his team's defense has not been up to par lately.
"I just think our half-court defense is not where I would want it to be at this point and time," Anderson said. "We might do it for a half, but for a full game we're not finishing the way I think we're capable of doing."
He believes that is a toughness factor and maybe some fatigue.
"Some of that has something to do with I just think the toughness part of it," Anderson said. "Are they wearing down? I don't know. But I think it's something if we intend to continue to play, we've got to get better at it."
Arkansas does go into the game with a road win, something it achieved at Auburn last weekend for the first time in a year.
"I think that, to me, is a great signal, great sign, for this young basketball team," Anderson said. "We grew up, and I think that's going to pay dividends. Whether it be this year or next year, it's going to pay off in a big, big way."
Stansbury does not put much stock in his team's 11-game winning streak over Arkansas at a place called "The Hump."
"Unfortunately, those other ones don't matter," Stansbury said. "The only thing that matters is the 12th year. It's senior night; it's our next game and last game of the season here. It's an important game. There's a lot of significance. Our guys will be ready."
Back To The Hump
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