Confident Arkansas Heads To Mississippi State

No. 18 Arkansas (21-5, 10-3) has won five straight and is 4-2 in SEC road games this season as it heads into a rematch with Mississippi State Saturday in Starkville, Miss.

The narrative that Arkansas can’t win on the road was placed in a heart-shaped box and buried in Oxford., Miss., on Valentine’s Day.

After all, the No. 18 Razorbacks (21-5, 10-3) have now won 7 of their last 11 SEC road games - including at Kentucky, at Vanderbilt, at Georgia and at Ole Miss to name a few.

Arkansas will get a chance to continue the new narrative of winning at home and away on Saturday when it travels to face Mississippi State (12-13, 5-7) in a 3 p.m. game at Starkville.

“Our guys, it doesn’t matter where they play at, they feel confident in what we are doing and confident in each other,” Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said.

Arkansas, 4-2 in league games and 5-4 overall on the road this season with a win at No. 25 SMU, can clinch a winning SEC road with a victory at Mississippi State on Saturday.

“I think the leadership is very evident,” Anderson said of his team’s new direction. “I think the maturity and the leadership. We have added some guys that bring what you have got to have when you go on the road. You have got to add toughness and I think we have added some toughness to this team.”

Arkansas extended its winning streak to five by downing Missouri 83-69 on Wednesday night and has now won eight of nine overall for the second straight season.

The difference this year is that Arkansas started that surge in January with 14 games to go in league play instead of in Feb. with 10 left.

“It tells me we have been consistent in our approach to games,” Anderson said. “Whether it be at home or on the road, our approach has been pretty consistent. Our guys are finding ways to win games.

“So that means somehow you have got to be in the game and hang around and hang around and make some plays at the end whether it be free throws, getting a stop,” Anderson added. “We have been pretty consistent about that. That tells me that we have learned from last year. We have gotten better. We have gotten mentally tougher and physically tougher.”

Arkansas will be taking on a Mississippi State team that it dusted 61-41 two weeks ago in a game where the Bulldogs did no score for over 13 minutes.

Mississippi State - which hit just 2 of 21 field goal attempts in the first half of that game and scored just nine points - hosts Ole Miss Thursday night at 8 p.m. before facing the Razorbacks on Saturday.

“They were kind of on their heels when they played here,” Anderson said. “It'll be different there. They'll be on their toes there. We're going to have to come with it. We're to have to come and guard and defend and keep them off the boards and keep them away from getting cheap baskets.”

The game will feature a match-up between former Little Rock Parkview backcourt mates in Arkansas freshman Anton Beard (6.1) and Mississippi State sophomore I.J. Ready (8.2).

Beard’s insertion in the starting line-up coincided with Arkansas’ recent spree.

“He came in and gave us what we needed from day one,” Anderson said of Beard’s insertion into the starting five. “He embodies what I am all about - toughness, hard-nosed, blue collar, in the trenches, plays to win.

“I think he is a winner,” Anderson added. “To me that is what he does - all the things that help you win. Obviously he has been scoring here lately, but if you look at all the other stuff that takes place - he has probably gotten hit the most of all the guys. Hit the nose and mouth all the time because he is right there doing the dirty work.”

Arkansas had 22 wins all of last season and has 21 right now with five regular season games and the post-season to go.

“Coming into this year I said I felt more comfortable, because I had an idea what we had in terms of the players coming back and the guys coming in,” Anderson said.

“I think our guys just go out each day just trying to get better,” Anderson added. “We started off saying, we want to be better than we were last year. Well, guess what? We're 26 games into the season and we're a little bit better.

“But to me, that's not the end result,” Anderson said. “And so therefore the day to day, the game to game, that's just a mindset. We've started this since I got here. And since this past year, that's what we've talked about , the next game, that's the most important game. That way we don't get ahead of ourselves.

“But have we improved? Absolutely,” Anderson continued. “ Do we have some more room for improvement? Without a doubt we do.”





Bobby Portis


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