BASKETBALL: Five Keys To An Arkansas Victory

1. AMP UP THE DEFENSE It wasn't like Arkansas dogged it Wednesday night at No. 4 Tennessee. Arkansas coach John Pelphrey didn't fault the Razorbacks' effort against the Volunteers, even though his Hogs gave up a season-high 93 points.

He did, however, say that average effort just wouldn't cut it on the road. Arkansas didn't "overachieve" on the defensive end, Pelphrey said, and the Razorbacks must do so today against an explosive Mississippi State squad.

The Hogs will be just fine if they perform with the kind of intensity they showed in their Jan. 30 victory over the Bulldogs. Then, in Bud Walton Arena, Arkansas held the 'Dogs to 58 points, their second-lowest point-total this season.

2. CHALLENGE VARNADO

The Razorbacks succeeded in that first matchup in getting Mississippi State shot-blocker extraordinaire Jarvis Varnado into early foul trouble. Sophomore guard Patrick Beverley drove right at Varnado in the game's opening minute to draw his first foul. Senior center Darian Townes gave Varnado a head-fake to draw his second foul and send the nation's leading shot blocker — with 111 — to the bench.

Varnado played just six minutes in that first half as Arkansas stormed out to a 43-28 halftime lead. The Hogs must attack Varnado again today, must at least try to get him out of the game.

3. KEEP GORDON OUTSIDE

Mississippi State point guard Jamont Gordon may just be on his way to earning Southeastern Conference Player of the Year honors. The 6-foot-3 junior is truly an all-around threat. He can score. He can rebound. He can pass. He can defend. But he's most dangerous when he's driving into the lane, scoring or finding open teammates.

The Hogs relied on 6-6 senior Sonny Weems to contain Gordon the first time around, forcing six turnovers, and he'll likely draw the assignment again.

4. TAKE GOOD SHOTS

Only one SEC team ranks better in scoring defense than the Razorbacks, and that's Mississippi State. The Bulldogs allow a league-low 63 points per game, and their defensive intensity only gets higher in The Hump.

So the Hogs must choose their shots wisely. They can't force attempts, yet they can't be too conservative. Not the easiest dilemma obviously.

5. GET OUT FRONT EARLY

Humphrey Coliseum has been extremely unkind to the Arkansas Razorbacks. The Hogs haven't left Starkville with a victory since the 2000 season, and many of the losses haven't even been close. So the last thing Arkansas needs today is to fall behind early.

Last season, the Razorbacks trailed 36-23 after game's first 15 minutes, and the margin only increased.

ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (17-6, 6-3)

TEAM GLANCE

• COACH: John Pelphrey (1st season)

• LAST TIME OUT: Arkansas lost to No. 4 Tennessee 93-71 on Feb. 13 in Knoxville, Tenn.

• KEY INJURIES: None

LINEUPS

PROBABLE STARTERS

Name Ht. Cl. PPG RPG

G Stefan Welsh 6-2 Sophomore 4.8 1.6

G Patrick Beverley 6-1 Sophomore 11.9 6.9

C Steven Hill 7-0 Senior 5.0 3.1

F Michael Washington 6-10 Sophomore 5.7 5.0

F Sonny Weems 6-6 Senior 15.1 4.9

KEY RESERVES

F Charles Thomas 6-8 Senior 9.8 4.9

G Gary Ervin 6-0 Senior 8.9 2.4

F Darian Townes 6-10 Senior 11.0 4.9

MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (16-7, 7-2)

TEAM GLANCE

• COACH: Rick Stansbury (10th season)

• LAST TIME OUT: Mississippi State beat Auburn 83-64 on Feb. 9 in Auburn, Ala.

• KEY INJURIES: None

LINEUPS

PROBABLE STARTERS

Name Ht. Cl. PPG RPG

G Barry Stewart 6-2 Sophomore 12.0 4.3

G Ben Hansbrough 6-3 Sophomore 10.3 3.6

G Jamont Gordon 6-3 Junior 18.1 6.3

F Charles Rhodes 6-8 Senior 14.9 7.7

C Jarvis Varnado 6-9 Sophomore 7.1 7.8

KEY RESERVES

G Phil Turner 6-3 Freshman 5.0 3.4

F Elgin Bailey 6-8 Freshman 1.9 2.0

C Brian Johnson 6-9 Junior 2.5 2.6

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