Arkansas Interior Defenders Put Up Battle

FAYETTEVILLE -- Deep down, Arkansas freshman Darian Townes probably doesn't want to play in Bud Walton Arena again this season.

Neither do any of his teammates.

And that won't happen if the Razorbacks find a way to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

If not, there's probably going to be more basketball to be played in Fayetteville because Arkansas should receive a National Invitation Tournament bid and play at least one game in Bud Walton Arena.

After Mississippi State beat Arkansas 57-55 in Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday night in front of 16,347 fans and a national television audience, things looked bleak for the Razorbacks in their final regular-season home game.

It was another heartbreaker where getting pounded on the boards at significant times left a mark on bruised Arkansas egos.

"No doubt about it," said Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury. "The difference in the game was our ability to rebound the basketball."

Mississippi State did outrebound Arkansas (47-31) but struggled early in the paint to establish an inside scoring attack.

"Really, the key to the game was the rebounding," Townes said. "We just got to work on that and get ready for our game against Auburn on the road Saturday.

"In the first half, we came out too passive. At halftime, the coaches talked to us about breaking down their 2-3 zone. In the end we just messed up a little."

In the first meeting this season in Starkville, Miss., on Jan. 15, the Bulldogs bullied the Razorbacks around in the middle, punishing Arkansas with points.

And ...

Mississippi State won 80-55.

"Last game, we weren't real prepared against them," Townes said. "On the inside, (6-foot-9) Lawrence Roberts and (7-0) Marcus Campbell pretty much had their way against us."

Roberts scored 17 points and had 10 rebounds. Campbell had 15 points and 4 rebounds.

"We watched film of that game and worked hard on correcting things," Townes said. "We saw a couple of weaknesses and we worked on it.

"It worked at times tonight." Must have.

In the first half, Roberts, the 2003-2004 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and a preseason All-American, was handcuffed inside and scored only 3 first-half points and had only four touches inside.

Roberts finished Tuesday night with 13 points --he was 2 of 3 on 3-point attempts -- and had 10 rebounds, but had to fight off Townes, Rashard Sullivan and Charles Thomas, who covered him like plastic wrap.

Campbell finished with 4 points and 6 rebounds.

"I don't think they really bullied us down in Starkville the first time," Sullivan said. "They got a lot of long rebounds inside and made the most of it. That was a major reason they won that game.

"I think we did a good job in the first half. We kind of focused on Roberts in the first half, but in the second half some others kind of got it going for them. They went to the basket more.

"And got more shots inside."

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