Arkansas 61, Mississippi State 41

Bobby Portis has 19 points and 11 rebounds and Anthlon Bell breaks out of a shooting slump with 4 3-pointers and 12 points as Arkansas downs Mississippi State 61-41 Saturday before a crowd of 17,404 fans at Bud Walton that honored former Razorback Sidney Moncrief at halftime.

With arguably the greatest defensive player in the basketball program's history looking on, Arkansas put forth one of its best defensive halves in many decades on Saturday afternoon.

Bobby Portis had 19 points and 11 rebounds for his eighth double-double in SEC games, Anthlon Bell added 12 points and Alandise Harris 9 as the Razorbacks routed Mississippi State 59-41 before 17,404 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

Arkansas (18-5, 7-3) - who honored former Razorback All-American Sidney Moncrief with a banner ceremony at halftime- held Mississippi State under double figures in the first half as the Razorbacks took a 30-9 lead to intermission.

The Bulldogs missed their final 15 field goal attempts of the first half, were scoreless for over 13 minutes and their only points from the 14:40 mark until intermission was two free throws by former Little Rock Parkview star I.J. Ready.

“It was an outstanding effort on defense by our basketball team,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “The first half, I mean it couldn't have gone any better defensively against a Mississippi State that's been playing real well.”

It was a game in which head coach Rick Ray’s Mississippi State squad had a scoreless drought of 13 minutes and 22 seconds that allowed Arkansas to go on a 20-0 run and turn a 7-7 tie into a 27-7 edge.

“Rick has his players in place now, but I thought our defense was really geared towards taking them out of whatever they wanted to do,” Anderson said. “We had great ball pressure. They got nothing easy, even when they had layups or dunks. Our guys were rotating on defense and blocking shots. Just harassing them.”

The Bulldogs were 0-of-10 from 3-point range in the game and just 14-of-45 overall from the field, but did hit 12-of-24 shots after halftime.

“I mean, it’s cool just because you know because I think like our first five games (of SEC action), teams were shooting 51 percent from the 3-point line on us,” Portis said. “So I think it is cool just to hold a team to no threes during the game. It’s a statement I guess.”

Bell agreed that Arkansas defense - which has held its last four foes to 36 percent shooting or less - has come around after a woeful start to begin league play.

“Like Bobby just said, that’s a statement,” Bell said. “We know that we had to trend in the right direction on defense to win. So that is what we are trying to do it.”

Bulldogs head coach Rick Ray - whose team had won 4 of 6 games and were coming off a 73-67 home win over LSU last Saturday and a 71-66 road victory at Tennessee on Tuesday - watched his team cough up the ball 24 times.

“First of all you've got to give Mike and his team a lot of credit,” Ray said. “I think they played really well and did a good job defensively against us. I thought for us as a team we simply didn't give ourselves a chance to win the ball game with our first half performance.

“I thought we went out there and played as individuals instead of as a team,” Ray added. “We just simply put our head down in half-court offense and tried to go make plays where plays aren't there.

“We're pretty good offensively when we share the basketball and break the defense down and have people get beat off of closeouts,” Ray continued. “But if you don't pass the ball to each other, you don't have those close-outs.

“I don't think we were terrible defensively,” Ray said. “If you eliminate the fact that we had 24 turnovers and we were chasing them down in transition defense, I thought we weren't terrible defensively. But we just didn't give ourselves a chance to win that game with the 14 turnovers in the first half.”

Bell had been struggling mightily recently, but was 4-of- 9 from the field - including 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

It came against a team that he hit seven 3-pointers against last season.

“I feel like it is just trying to turn things on,” Bell said. “The team needs me so I want to help them anyway I can to help them win.”

Arkansas needed that as starters Michael Qualls (1-of-9) and Anton Beard (2-of-9) had off-shooting days and the Razorbacks went 12-of-35 in the first half and just 24-of-64 for the game.

The Razorbacks were just 5-of-22 from 3-point range and 8-of-11 from the free throw line and got out-rebounded 42-34, but had a 30-18 points in the paint edge and its bench had 18 points to the visitor's 4.

Mississippi State was just 2 of 21 from the field in the first half and the Bulldogs’ had 14 of their 24 turnovers before halftime, including a trio of offensive fouls on which the Razorbacks took charges.

“You know Mississippi State is an attacking team and tries to get to the free throw line,” Bell said. “We just had to get ready and be in position to take charges. It was big for us.”

Gavin Ware led the Bulldogs with 16 points and 9 turnovers while Craig Sword - who had 26 points in the win over Tennessee - had 5 points and 5 turnovers and Ready 4 points and 3 turnovers.

Portis said he is enjoying Arkansas’ defensive surge.

“It's been fun because two or three weeks ago our defense was kind of bad and now feel like our defense has iced up a notch just because we have more and more guys buying into the defensive end,” Portis said.

Bell echoed those sentiments.

“That's all we have been preaching in practice,” Bell said. “Coach preaches defense, defense, defense. If we are not going to play defense we we are not going to be a winning team. We know we have to play defense to help us win.”

Rashad Madden had 7 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals while Moses Kingsley had five rebounds for Arkansas.

Anton Beard, Ready's former backcourt partner at Little Rock Parkview, had 5 points, 4 steals, 3 assists and 2 rebounds in his second career start for the Razorbacks.

Arkansas will return to action next week with a pair of 8 p.m. road games at Auburn on Tuesday and Ole Miss on Saturday.

They will go back out on the road after winning two games by 20 points or more - something Portis had wished for last week after a flurry of close decisions.

“I got my wish that I asked for last week,” Portis said. “I said that I wanted to win by 20 or 30 points and so far it has happened these last two games. Hopefully our team can keep it going.”

Photos by Jason Ivester

Arkansas fans get revved up for the game during player introductions

Anton Beard and Michael Qualls force one of Mississippi State's 24 turnovers.

Anthlon Bell celebrates after one of his four 3-pointers on the day.

Michael Qualls rallies his teammate Alandise Harris

MIke Anderson's team moved to 18-5 overall and 7-3 in conference play with Saturday's win.

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