"Matchup Nightmare" Leads To 3-Point Barrage

STARKVILLE, Miss. — The past few days, as Stan Heath tirelessly viewed tape of Mississippi State's previous games, Arkansas' coach worried.

He wondered how his Hogs would guard the Bulldogs. He fretted about the Bulldogs' mix of speed and strength. He anxiously awaited the challenge, hoping his Razorbacks could enter a hostile environment such as "The Hump" in Starkville and excel.

"I wasn't very comfortable with the matchups," Heath said. "(Mississippi State) is a matchup nightmare."

Arkansas' 84-60 loss Wednesday night was every bit the bad dream Heath envisioned, enough to surely haunt the Hogs after their quiet plane ride home. Heath's worst visions came true, as Arkansas was defeated for the seventh time in its last 10 games and fell to 4-7 in the Southeastern Conference.

Mississippi State (14-10, 5-6) tapped into its athleticism to open up 3-point shots, and the Bulldogs' long-range shooters produced. The Bulldogs drained seven of their 10 first-half attempts and finished 11 of 19 from beyond the arc.

"Everybody was making shots," Bulldogs guard Jamont Gordon said. "We knew the offense was there. Everybody created for each other, and we made open shots."

Those weren't the only shots the Bulldogs nailed. They converted guarded 3-pointers, as well.

After Arkansas (15-10) jumped out to a 5-0 lead, without suspended Gary Ervin and Sonny Weems, Mississippi State heated up. Reginald Delk nailed three bombs in a row. Richard Delk, Gordon, Ben Hansbrough and Barry Stewart each added one before halftime.

Every time the Hogs halted Mississippi State's momentum, striving to mount a comeback, the Bulldogs re-energized the crowd with a 3-pointer.

"Some of them were breakdowns because we over-helped in penetration areas," Heath said. "Some of those, we had a guy there and they just made a tough shot. Once they got into a rhythm and got a hot hand going, whether we were there or not there didn't seem to matter."

Most of Arkansas' players seemed frustrated they weren't out on Mississippi State's shooters more often. Sean McCurdy's face turned red out of frustration after one of the 3-pointers. Patrick Beverley sniped at Weems after another, demanding more effort.

McCurdy and Heath both admitted the Razorbacks struggled immensely at executing the prepared scouting report.

"We talked about that in the scouting report, to try and not over-help," McCurdy said. "In the first half, we over-helped and they got in deep on us and kicked out for 3s. In the second half, we did a better job with that."

But by that time, after Mississippi State had hit 11 of its first 15 3-pointers, it was far too late.

That's because Arkansas had no answer for Gordon, who had six of his game-high seven assists before halftime. The 6-foot-3 guard met little resistance as he repeatedly drove into the paint and kicked the ball out for uncontested shots.

The Razorbacks' shooting troubles (36.4 percent) and the limited playing time for Ervin (20 minutes) and Weems (18) also definitely hurt.

Not nearly as much as Arkansas' failure to halt the Bulldogs' shooting spree, though.

"Defense was going to be something we wanted to hang our hat on this season," Heath said. "I'd say in a lot of games we've been pretty good with it, but (tonight) our defense wasn't there at all."

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