For the third straight game, the University of Arkansas basketball team had a double-digit lead in the second half only to watch it disappear.
But also the third straight game the Razorbacks managed to pocket a win - this one over a high-scoring and sweet shooting foe that came in undefeated and ranked sixth in the country in the Sagarin ratings.
Ronnie Brewer had eight of his 19 points and Eric Ferguson 5 of his 11 in the final three minutes and change as Arkansas won its sixth straight game by edging unbeaten Missouri State 79-75 before a Bud Walton Arena crowd of 13,8718.
"This was a great win over a very good basketball team," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. 'I can't say enough about how hard both teams played and the quality of the basketball played there at crunch time."
Charles Thomas had 13 of his 17 points in the opening half and a team-high 8 rebounds, Darian Townes had 15 points and 7 boards while Dontell Jefferson had a strong all-around game with 10 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals for the Razorbacks (7-2).
Steven Hill added six blocks for Arkansas, in a game where the Razorbacks blocked 10 shots and had 13 steals while forcing 21 turnovers in front of a crowd that included some fans that drove down from Springfield for the game.
Having some enemy fans in the building clearly challenged Arkansas' crowd, who responded to the challenge.
"I loved our crowd tonight," Heath said. "They were really into it tonight. They gave us a lot of energy and we needed it."
Blake Ahearn, one of the country's top 3-point shooters at 50 percent coming in, had 16 to lead the Bears (6-1) - but was only 2-of-9 from beyond the arc Thursday night while after hitting nine of those in a Saturday night win over Detroit.
"I think we had a great effort, especially on the defensive end," Heath said. "We had a really good shooting team, just a really good team overall to 23 percent shooting (from 3-point range). It was a team effort on the defensive end."
"They (Arkansas) are the most athletic team we have played this year," said Ahearn, who was averaging 21.3 point per game coming in. "We didn't shoot well so we have got to find other ways to do it."
Missouri State - formerly known as Southwest Missouri State and averaging 92 points per game - trailed by 13 at halftime, but seemed primed to possibly pull off their third road win in as many tries on Tyler Chaney's lay-up that put the visitors up 66-65 with 3:51 remaining in the game.
Brewer's lay-up put Arkansas back up for good at 67-66 with 3:10 left and then scored inside on a rebound basket and a drive to keep Missouri State at bay.
Sky Frazier's lay-up cut it to 71-70 with 1:18 left, but then Ferguson's old-fashioned three-pointer and Brewer's jumper with 34.6 seconds left gave Arkansas a 76-70 cushion that proved to be enough to fend off the Bears.
Arkansas found itself down several times early, including 18-17 when Missouri State's 6-10, 255-pound Frazier scored low with 9:05 left in the opening half.
But the Razorbacks turned up the defensive pressure at that point and force five straight turnovers by the Bears with four resulting in baskets and the home team surging ahead 25-18 in the next two minutes.
Ahearn and Chaney both buried a 3-pointer each later to steady Missouri State before the Razorbacks went on another defense-fueled spree with nine unanswered points.
That turned into a 12-2 run to end the first half, starting with Jefferson's 3-point bombed and capped by Brewer's baseline drive with just under 10 seconds left that pushed Arkansas ahead 44-31 at half.
Missouri State quickly cut that to 45-41 when Ahearn and Nathan Bilyeu buried treys and Ahern put in two free throws at the 16:04 mark.
Arkansas would get that lead back out to as many as 9 on Townes' bucket that made it 54-45 with 13:18 remaining in the game.
But the feisty visitors just kept coming and took the lead when Dale Lamberth bombed home a 3-pointer to put Missouri State 62-61 at the 7:04 mark.
Hill's tip regained the lead for Arkansas and Ferguson's jumper pushed it to three, but Bilyeu's basket Chaney's coast-to-coast drive got the Bears back up 66-65.
Missouri State actually had the ball and a shot to extend that lead, but missed a shot that resulted in Brewer racing to the other end to put his team up for good.
That set up the frantic finish in which the Razorbacks stepped up on several occasions to close out the game, which neither team had a lead of more than four in the final nine minutes.
"A lot of the game was decided in the last two minutes," Heath said. "We have a lot of experience with that. We have been strong in that situation. We were tonight as well."
Arkansas will battle with an old Southwest Conference foe on Saturday when it faces Rice in a 7:35 p.m. game at Alltel Arena in North Little Rock.
It is the Razorbacks' only Central Arkansas appearance of the season.
Arkansas 79, Missouri State 75
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