At the close of business Saturday night in the SEC, the six teams that have the best chance to represent the league in the NCAA Tournament all did what they needed to do.
That was simply go out and win a game by any means necessary.
The list included No. 18 Arkansas (22-5, 11-3), who solidified its hold on second place with a 65-61 win at Mississippi State before an announced crowd of 6,254 fans at Humphrey Coliseum.
"We found a way to escape, and that's what you've got to do," Razorback head coach Mike Anderson said. "It wasn't pretty, but I've never seen an ugly win."
It was the Razorbacks’ fifth SEC road win this season, something that has not happened since the 1994-95 campaign.
Winning on successive Saturdays at Ole Miss and Mississippi State means the program accomplished that feat for the first time ever in the program’s history.
The Razorbacks have now 10 straight games in February over the past two seasons with the Aggies coming in for Tuesday night’s 8 p.m. game that will be televised by ESPN.
Arkansas will be riding a six-game win streak fueled by its defense.
“We talked about getting back to the basic fundamentals,” Anderson said. “I think that's what has taken place. Along with those fundamentals, you've got to play with maximum effort, and I think we're seeing that.
“Our guys are playing with maximum effort,” Anderson added. “They're taking pride in playing defense, wanting to play defense. I think that's been the different in the last few ballgames we've played.”
No. 1 Kentucky (27-0, 14-0) – Arkansas’ foe next Saturday in Lexington – stayed unbeaten by blasting Auburn 110-75.
Texas A&M (19-7,10-4) – who visits Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday - and Ole Miss (19-8, 10-4) stayed tied for third as the Aggies won at South Carolina 62-52 while the Rebels held off visiting Tennessee 59-57.
LSU downed Florida 70-63 and Georgia survived Alabama 66-65 in overtime in Tuscaloosa.
“So I think the league, top to bottom, is the best it's been since I've been here,” Kentucky head coach John Caliparii said. “But I say this: because we're pretty good, it should not take away from anyone in our league."
The Aggies will be looking for their 20th victory on Tuesday night.
“They understand what’s at stake and have done a tremendous job of staying in the moment,” Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy said of his team.
Arkansas is up to No. 19 in the ESPN RPI and has three road wins over Top 35 RPI team in SMU, Ole Miss and Georgia.
The Razorbacks blocked 11 shots on Saturday with Moses Kingsley swatting five and Bobby Portis four to lead the way.
“We just couldn’t get a good look at the rim,” Mississippi State guard Craig Sword said. “They were contesting everything.”
Bobby Portis battles inside in Saturday's win at Mississippi State.
Arkansas' Defense Delivers Again
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