Washington, Hunter Fill In For Thomas

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas' Michael Washington and Vincent Hunter may not be Charles Thomas, but the duo did their best impression of the senior in his absence Wednesday night.

The forwards filled in for Thomas, who was suspended for violating unspecified team rules, by scoring 11 points and grabbing 7 rebounds during Arkansas' 78-58 win against Mississippi State in Bud Walton Arena. Thomas was averaging 10.5 points and 5.1 boards.

"Without them, we wouldn't have won," Arkansas forward Sonny Weems said. "That's the way I see it. If they didn't come in and step up and help us in this game, we wouldn't have won."

Washington earned his third start and responded by scoring 8 points and grabbed four rebounds in 22 minutes. The 6-foot-10 Hunter, who has played sparingly this season finished with 3 points and 3 boards. He turned in one of the game's highlight moments by knocking down a 3-pointer to help the Hogs build a 59-45 lead in the second half.

"What that kid has done the last two weeks is pretty special," coach John Pelphrey said of the Little Rock native. "Nobody loves the Razorbacks more. Nobody loves the kids in that locker room more.

"What special a moment when the 3-pointer went in. ... and he shot it from Little Rock."

It's unclear if the forwards will be called on again in the Razorbacks next game against Florida. Pelphrey declined to comment on Thomas' status for Saturday's game and said it would be addressed later.

But Weems said the Razorbacks did have their teammate in mind against the Bulldogs. So did Mississippi State forward Charles Rhodes.

Thomas and Rhodes are both Jackson natives and played AAU ball together in high school. The senior said he was hoping to visit with Thomas to offer some words of encouragement, but was "sad" he didn't see his former teammate on the court Wednesday.

"I talked to one of our mentors that we're real good with," Rhodes said. "I just found out his situation, and I was hoping to see him (Wednesday) so I can tell him to keep his head up and make sure he keeps working hard."

Block Party Postponed

Mississippi State center Jarvis Varnado entered the game as the nation's leader in blocked shots (5.1 a game). But the Razorbacks figured out how to work around him Wednesday: Get him on the bench.

Varnado picked up two fouls in the first six minutes and sat out the rest of the half. He had one block in the half. The Bulldogs, who were averaging 10.4 blocks in SEC games, had only two in the first half.

"You'd certainly rather have him over there than on the court," Pelphrey said.

Varnado stayed out of the trouble the rest of the way and finished with four blocks in 24 minutes. MSU had eight blocks in the game.

Weems Hot

Weems scored a team-high 22 points against Mississippi State, but got 10 of them during a remarkable stretch in the first half.

The senior scored 10 straight points at the tail end of an early 14-0 run that helped the Hogs open an early lead. He made three 3-pointers during the stretch and was fouled on the last one. Weems converted the four-point play to give the Razorbacks a 21-11 edge.

He was 8-of-17 from the floor, including 5-of-10 from 3-point range.

"Those games when he plays assertive, they're at their best," MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. "He was assertive tonight every minute he was on the court."

Piling Up Points

Arkansas scored 43 points in the first half, which was the most Mississippi State has allowed this season. In addition, the Razorbacks' 78 points against the Bulldogs was the second-most Mississippi State has allowed. Clemson scored 84 against MSU on Nov. 15.

The Bulldogs entered the game leading the SEC in points allowed (61.3 a game) and opponent field goal percentage (36 percent). The Razorbacks shot 36.1 percent from the field, but scored 26 points off 22 turnovers and were 25 of 30 from the free-throw line.

Free Throws

Palfrey's father, Jack, watched his son coach the Razorbacks in person for the first time on Wednesday. ... Mississippi State had more turnovers in the first half (13) and fouls (12) than field goals (9). ... The Hogs outscored MSU 26-4 on points off turnovers.

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