Mississippi State 57, Arkansas 55

Gary Ervin scored all four of his points in the final 70 seconds to help Mississippi State rally past Arkansas 57-55 Tuesday night before 16,347 fans at Bud Walton Arena.

For the third time at Bud Walton Arena this season, a potential game-tying or winning second shot in the last few seconds didn't go for the home team.

Not getting any of those three shots to go will likely be a big reason in why the Razorbacks will almost certainly end up playing in the NIT instead of the NCAA.

Ronnie Brewer's short jumper came up shy this time and thus Mississippi State held on to down Arkansas 57-55 to send a late-arriving crowd of 16,347 fans home unhappy in a game that was televised nationally by ESPN.

"I'm just very disappointed for our guys in there in the locker room," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "We didn't not play well at all in the first half, but we came out in the second half and were very aggressive and got after it. But we never could get to the point where we could rebound with them and that cost us the game."

Mississippi State (21-8, 9-6), which starts four seniors and has five in its top six players, won the battle of the boards 47-31.

It also likely punched its ticket for the NCAA Tournament with the win and joined Alabama and Kentucky as visiting SEC clubs that got out with a win over the Razorbacks (18-10, 6-9).

"I'm very proud of our guys tonight," Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury said. "We played as a team."

New York native Gary Ervin had just four points, but it was his 3-pointer with 1:10 left that proved to be the game-winner and he also hit the middle of three free throw around a Jonathon Modica 3-pointer.

"He plays well with all the situations we have been in," Stansbury said. "He's just got a grit about him; too much Brooklyn. He has too much confidence and sometimes and it gets him in trouble."

Ervin, just a 22 percent 3-point shooter on the season, hit this one when it bounced up off the front of the rim and in.

"We kept ourselves in position to win, but Gary Ervin hit a big shot, a 3-pointer that he isn't know for," Heath said. "That was tough."

MSU All-American Lawrence Roberts scored just 13 points while grabbing 10 rebounds, but showed his wares late by putting the Bulldogs (21-8, 9-6) on his shoulders.

He scored seven straight points, including a 3-pointer, an old-fashioned 3-point play and then a free throw to give his team a 53-52 lead with 3:05 remaining.

The Razorbacks had just one field goal - Modica's 3-pointer - in the final 6:37 and just a pair after Eric Ferguson's 3-pointer put Arkansas up 48-43 with 9:36 remaining.

Arkansas hit just 8-of-31 shots from the field in the first half, but came out firing after halftime and hit its first six and 9 of its first 14 in the second half.

"In the first half we weren't doing a good job of rebounding and we dug ourselves a hole," Heath said. "At halftime I told them that we weren't playing aggressively. We needed to go out there and not be timid. We needed to be aggressive and penetrate the zone. That made a big difference for us in the second half."

Arkansas got back into the game via a 10-1 run that carried over into the second half and earned the Razorbacks a 34-34 tie when Brewer knocked down a 3-pointer at the 17:46 mark.

The UA squad then got its first lead of the season against Mississippi State on Olu Famutimi's steal and stuff that put the home team up 38-36 just over a minute later.

The Razorbacks would post their largest lead of the game when Brewer swished another 3-point to surge the lead to 43-37 with 13:21 remaining.

However, Arkansas hit just 2 of their last 14 and allowed Mississippi State to get out with a win.

Roberts began to take things into his own hands and got Mississippi State even at 52-52 when he first knocked down a 3-pointer and then cashed in an old-fashioned one with 4:13 showing on the clock.

He then gave his team the lead by making the back end of a two-shot free throw to put the visitors up 53-52 with 3:05 left.

"I was double teamed for most of the night and we needed people to play as well as possible," Roberts said. "Everyone stepped up and it helped push us over the hump. We made some big plays with our hustle. They (Arkansas) are young. They are a good team and they have good players."

Michael Jones, Arkansas' lone senior who has been battling an injury, was honored before the game and made his only shot of the game while playing four minutes.

The two teams were both woeful from the field in the first half with Mississippi State's 13-of-35 (37.1 percent) only looking decent because Arkansas 8-of-31 (25.8) was horrible.

It was Arkansas' second poor start against Mississippi State this season, falling behind 21-2 in what turned into a 80-55 laugher in Starkville.

The Bulldogs took a 33-24 lead into intermission because they had hit 5-of-13 3-pointers while the Razorbacks came up empty on all 8 of their tries from beying the arc.

Townes led Arkansas with 13 points and 6 rebounds while Brewer added 11 and Ferguson 10 for the Razorbacks who shot 33.9 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the free throw line.

Winsome Frazier had 11 and joined Roberts as the only two MSU players in double figures for a team that won despite shooting just 35 percent from the field and just 58.3 percent from the charity stripe.

The Bulldogs had 19 offensive rebounds, more than enough to overcome the 15 turnovers they made while Arkansas had 9.

"They outrebounded us and that's what it came down to," Townes said.

Arkansas will conclude its regular season with a 1:05 game at Auburn on Saturday and then participate in the SEC Tournament next week.

The loss clinched the SEC Western Division's fourth seed for Arkansas meaning it will face either South Carolina or Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. in Thursday night's opening round.


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