The SEC Western Division race isn't over after all.
Sonny Weems had 22 points and Patrick Beverley 19 points and 10 rebounds as the University of Arkansas grabbed a must-win game over No. 25 Mississippi State 78-58 Wednesday night before an announced crowd of 17,927 fans.
"We were certainly fortunate to win," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "(Mississippi State) was the hottest team in our league, one of the hottest in the country. But it's one game, not two, I'm proud of all of our guys in terms of how hard they played. We wanted to do the little things more. I thought we were a team. I thought we had 'it.' It was pretty cool because I know how good State is. We've got enough experience under out belt, we should be able to do it again."
Steven Hill added 9 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks in a victory that kept the Razorbacks (15-5, 4-2) in the Western Division race with Mississippi State (14-6, 5-1), who had its nine-game winning streak snapped and missed a chance to grab a three-game lead on the rest of the division.
The Razorbacks had lost two game at home to South Carolina and at Georgia before rebounding to win at LSU and against Mississippi State.
"We have big hearts and we looked deep inside and decided we weren't going to let this season go to waste."
The Razorbacks won the game despite shooting just 36.1 percent from the field against the nation's No. 2 field goal defensive team.
They did so in large part by forcing 22 turnovers while committing only 12 of their own, knocking down 9 3-pointers and by cashing in 25 of their 30 field goal attempts.
"This might have been the best all-around game we have played all season," Pelphrey said. "To win the way we did, especially shooting just 36 percent, means we did a lot of other things well."
Jamont Gordon led the Bulldogs with 24 points while Charles Rhodes chipped in 11 points and 15 rebounds against the Razorbacks, who were playing without suspended starting power forward Charles Thomas.
"I give Arkansas a lot of credit," noted Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury, who was trying for his 200th win at the school.I thought they played exceptionally well. When Sonny Weems and Patrick Beverley shoot the ball and score like that, it's very difficult to match up with them, so I give them credit."
Although Mississippi State cut a 15-point halftime deficit to 7 to open the second half, Weems' fifth 3-pointer of the game pushed Arkansas ahead 55-42 with 10:50 left in the game.
The visitors never got closer than 10 points from that point on.
"We weren't at our best," said Stansbury, whose team played without guard Ben Hansbrough. "Arkansas had a lot to with that."
Arkansas went on a 14-0 run early in the game – the final 10 points all poured in by Weems.
That spree the Razorbacks from an 11-7 deficit to a 21-11 lead at the 10:08 mark and was capped by a trio of Weems' 3-pointers – the last one turned into a four-point play when he added a free throw.
"I have no idea how that last shot went in," Weems said. "I was just really hot and wanted to take another and it somehow went in."
That lead grew to as many as 15 before halftime, including the final time on Beverley's old-fashioned 3-point play with 24 seconds left that capped the first half scoring and put Arkansas up 43-28.
Part of that first half success had to do with limiting turnovers after having four in the first four minutes.
Mississippi State rallied out of the locker room with the first 8 points of the second half with Phil Turner's 3-pointer cutting it to 43-36 at the 16:03 mark.
But Weems got hot again and the Razorbacks cruised on to the victory, one that certainly brought contending for the West title back into the equation.
Weems, who missed his first four shots of the second half, was 8-of-17 from the field while Beverley was 6-of-16.
"Sonny was special again tonight," Pelphrey said. "Patrick was special scoring the ball."
Michael Washington, who started in place of Thomas, had 8 points and 4 rebounds while Vincent Hunter also filled in nicely with 3 points, 3 rebounds and most importantly some nice defense on Thomas.
"What Vincent Hunter has done for our program, not only for five years, but for the last two weeks is special," Hunter said. "No one loves the Razorbacks more than Vincent. Tonight, he was the guy - his defense, his leadership. How special it was when that three-point shot went in and he shot it from Little Rock."
The Bulldogs, who leads the nation in blocked shots at nearly 11 per game, had 8 on Wednesday night.
That included 4 by 6-10 center Jarvis Varnardo (1 point, 6 rebounds), the nation's leading shot-blocker at 5 per game, but he was limited to just six minutes in the first half and played just 24 during the game.
"Mississippi State is a great defensive team, but Coach Pelphrey told us to go right at their post players. That was the game plan."
Arkansas now goes into Saturday with a chance to tie for the division lead when it hosts Florida at 2:05 p.m. while Mississippi State hosts SEC Eastern Division-leading Tennessee in Starkville.
Sonny Weems gets ahead of the pack for a dunk.
Patrick Beverley drives to the basket around Riley Benock.
Vincent Hunter gets ready to play defense after knocking down a 25-foot 3-pointer.
Patrick Beverley dives on the floor for a loose ball.
Gary Ervin drives the goal as Steven Hill tries to clear a path and Jarvis Vanardo tries to block the shot.
John Pelphrey reacts to action Wednesday night in his team's win over Mississippi State.
Michael Washington looks to score.
Arkansas 78, Mississippi State 58
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