Mississippi State University's Road Warriors are so good this year that not even ghosts of the University of Arkansas' fabled arenas past stood in their way this year.
But they could see them creeping up to the edge of the court at the end as the Razorbacks whittled an 18-point deficit with 11 minutes left to three at one point as Razorback Jonathon "Pookie" Modica was putting the finish on a career-high 33-point night.
Winsome Frazier bombed away 5 3-pointers en route to 23 points and inside force Lawrence Roberts added 19 points and a game-high 12 rebounds as the No. 6 and SEC-best Bulldogs bested the Razorbacks 77-70 before a season-high 19,042 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
"I know it is hard on these players because they played with a lot of heart out there on the court and I am proud of that," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "On paper, you look at those rosters and it doesn't look like a match at all, but when you play with a great amount of effort and play well together, get the ball to the hot man like Jonathon was, you give yourself a chance."
The Bulldogs had to hold on after watching a 60-42 advantage turned into just a 73-70 one on Modica's 3-pointer with 1:59 left in the contest.
"It happened because we got on a roll with our defense," Heath said.
But Frazier, who finished just a point off of his career high, then hit four free throws to put the game away.
"We found a way to make defensive plays and offensive plays when we had to," MSU head coach Rick Stansbury said. "I am very proud of our basketball team to overcome everything they had to overcome after Wednesday night (a 79-75 overtime win at South Carolina) to win that basketball game."
Shane Power added 17 points and Timmy Bowers 10 for MSU (21-1, 10-1), who ended a 12-game losing streak in Fayetteville – dating back to Barnhill Arena – while winning their 11th game on the road this season and their sixth league contest away from home.
"Anytime you go on the road and win in this league it is very special," Stansbury said. "I was very concerned about this game, not because we were on the road, but because we were playing an excellent team in Arkansas and they are playing their best basketball of the year."
Modica scored 24 of his 33 in the second half as Arkansas (11-11, 3-8), who saw its three-game home winning streak snapped and extended its current losing streak to three and suffered defeat for the fourth time in five contests.
Heath looks back on the contest as a missed opportunity.
"We had our opportunities," Heath said. "We cut a lead down that I'm not sure anybody thought we could and had a chance...I really feel like it is just going to take one or two wins in those situations to make us a team that can do it on a consistent basis."
Matt Jones had nine points and a team-high 10 rebounds and Ronnie Brewer added nine points and eight assists each while Eric Ferguson chipped in eight points and three of his team's nine steals.
The Razorbacks shot 44.3 percent from the field, connected on 8-of-22 3-pointers and made 8 of their 13 free throws in a game where it had just eight turnovers.
The Bulldogs shot a sizzling 58 percent from the field, including 64 percent in a red-hot first half. They knocked down 9 of 20 3-pointers and outrebounded Arkansas 36-23 to overcome 17 turnovers.
Mississippi State, whose lone loss was a last-second one at home to Kentucky, now leads both the overall and SEC Western Division race by two games.
The Bulldogs hit their first seven shots to go up – including a quartet of threes by Frazier and a pair by Bowers - to go up 24-10 , a run capped by Frazier's fourth bomb at the 12:33 mark.
"I thought the start of the game really put us in the hole," Heath said. "They came out guns blazing and shot the ball so well. Part of that was our defense in not getting there quick enough on those shooters. Why? I don't know. We had emphasized Bowers and Frazier and Power and making sure we got there. I guess there was a lot of concern about Roberts early and we were a step or two slow getting to those guys."
The Razorbacks would make a spirited run to get to within 29-20, but Roberts – a Baylor transfer and the leading candidate for SEC Player of the Year – began to dominate against Arkansas' smallish squad.
He had seven points as the Bulldogs pushed that lead out to 39-23 by the time Power hit the second of two free throws with 3:51 remaining before intermission.
Arkansas got back to within 41-33 when Brewer hit a 3-pointer with 46.7 seconds before halftime and had a chance to get even closer but Ferguson missed a lay-up at the buzzer.
It looked early on in the second half like Mississippi State might cruise to the finish line before Modica and his teammates made a run and the crowd got as loud as it had all year.
"The crowd was phenomenal," Heath said. "It really energized us and when we kept cutting into it, it got louder and louder. One time you couldn't hear yourself talking...It's amazing what that does for our team. You want to give them that chance to run on the court but unfortunately it didn't happen today."
Mississippi State has the week off before hosting Alabama next Saturday.
The Razorbacks, mired in last-place in the SEC West, will return to action Wednesday night when they travel to face Kentucky at 7 p.m. in a game that will be televised by Jefferson-Pilot.
No. 6 Mississippi State 77, Arkansas 70
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