STARKVILLE, Miss. – The University of Arkansas clearly outplayed Mississippi State University for the final 26 minutes of Thursday night's game at Humphrey Coliseum.
But college basketball games are 40 minutes long – and the first 14 minutes of excellence proved good enough for the Bulldogs.
Jarvis Varnado recorded a triple-double (17 points, 12 rebounds, 10 blocks) and Dee Bost added 18 points and 6 assists as MSU sizzled early from the field and then held off the UA 82-80 before 8,339 fans at "The Hump."
"I think the difference in tonight's basketball game was obviously Jarvis Varnado around the basket," Razorback head coach John Pelphrey said. "He's got 10 blocks in the game. If you were able to score on even four of those, that's 8 points minimum. He just makes it really hard on you to drive the ball in there and makes it hard for our guards to finish plays. He challenges the big guy as well."
Arkansas (7-9, 0-1) – down by 19 points in the first half and 14 with nine minutes to go - scored 11 of the games' final 15 points against Mississippi State (14-3, 2-0).
The Bulldogs did not have a field goal the final 3:45 of the game and only 3 baskets from the field in the final 9 minutes after going ahead 69-55.
"After a little bit of a shaky start there, our guys really, really dug in and played better than our opponent," Pelphrey added, "because we were down 17 or 18. We really competed and got it back to a two-point game, just couldn't pull it off.
"I am proud of their effort, I thought they competed and we have a chance to even play better," Pelphrey continued. "Obviously we have a tremendous amount of respect how hard it is to win on the road – especially here against this basketball team. I hope we can capture some of this – the good things – and continue to clean it up and play a little bit better and see if we can't get a win Saturday (against visiting Alabama)."
Mississippi State was impressed with what he saw from Arkansas in the comeback.
"Give Arkansas a lot of credit," Stansbury said. "I said going into this game that Arkansas is a much improved basketball team. They are going to be one of the better teams in this league…I'm most proud of our team because we had an opportunity after the win on the road Saturday to get patted on the back and drink that poison. For the most part, we didn't, and we came out ready to play. I'm proud of the team for being ready."
True freshman Marshawn Powell, who led Arkansas with 25 points and 8 rebounds, had 14 of his points in the final 8 minutes of the game as he took over.
He was 10-of-16 from the field and 5-of-7 from the free throw line in a game where each team hit 8 3-pointers and Arkansas shot 40 percent from the field.
"I thought in the first half, he was kind of a typical freshman thing there with his first road game against a good basketball team," Pelphrey said. "He was having to try to absorb game plan and get into the game and we were trying to do some different things with Dee Bost and Barry Stewart and those guys off the pick-and-roll. I think it took a minute, maybe the whole first half to be able to calm down.
"But the second half I think he kind of cut it loose and played ball," Pelphrey said. "We were able to get it to him and he made some good plays. We are excited about the future we him. He is going to be a good player."
The Bulldogs hit their first 6 shots, 11 of their first 12 field goals and 15 of their first 20 in roaring out to a 37-19 advantage.
It was part of a first half where they hit 60 percent of their field goals before shooting just 30 percent from the field on the second half.
"I don't think it is different than the way we start a lot of games," Stansbury said. "These guys were ready to play and that is what I was most pleased with. Our guys responded because if we hadn't this Arkansas team would have beaten us."
MSU found itself hanging on for dear life late when Powell took over the game and got his team to within 79-74 on a basket with just under 3:06 remaining.
Neither team scored again until Arkanss senior center Michael Washington hit a jumper with 35 seconds left to make it 79-76.
Bost then hit a free throw to push the lead to four points, but Powell's turnover on an in-bounds allowed Phil Turner to add another charity toss and give his team enough points to win the game.
"In the first half we weren't able to stop them enough to get any rebounds, but in the second half – except of a couple of occasions – we hung in there and got some tough rebounds and gave ourselves a chance."
Indeed, the Razorbacks were once getting beat by 15 on the board, but closed that to 42-37 by the end of the game.
Arkansas point guard Courtney Forston matched his counterpart's production with 20 points (16 in the opening half) and 6 assists while Washington had 16 points and 7 rebounds.
He also forced Bost into five turnovers while cutting his down from six against Texas in his season debut to just three against MSU.
"Fortson gives them another element that they haven't had in those other 15 games," Stansbury said. "They had Powell, who is another guy that can score and that is the difference in their team. Give them a lot of credit."
Fortson, 9 of 26 from the field, had 16 points in the opening half.
"Obviously the first half he played very well and was kind of the only guy that could get anything going," Pelphrey said. "…Late in the game he was trying to get Mike on a couple of pick-and-rolls and rolling to the basket. They made a couple of good rotations from behind and get a hand on it and get steals. He is trying to make the right play with that."
It was the Razorbacks' fourth straight loss after previously riding a five-game win streak.
"We had 16 assists and just 11 turnovers," Pelphrey said. "That is going to give you a chance on the road most nights. I just think the difference in the game was Jarvis Varnado and his 10 blocked shots."
It was Varnado's second triple-double of the season.
"He was huge for us," Stansbury said. "He scored, rebound and blocked shots…That's a pretty good night."
Stewart added 12 points, Ravern Johnson 11 points, Romero Osby 9 and Kodi Augustus 7 points and 9 rebounds for Mississippi State, who had won at Ole Miss on Saturday.
The Bulldogs are the only SEC West team without a league loss just two games into the slate.
Arkansas will host Alabama (11-5, 1-1) Saturday in a game that will tip off at 12:47 p.m.
"I'm proud of the guys," Pelphrey said. "They kept playing. They could have certainly hung their head. They did not do that and I think that is tribute to Big Mike. He kept them battling. I thought everybody's attitude stayed very well, we stayed the course. We can build on that. We've just got to take what we have got and play better. We have got to play better. You can't flinch, can't have bad moments, can't have bad starts."
Marshawn Powell scores over Varnado.
Mississippi St. 82, Arkansas 80
Hawgs Daily Top Stories
TCU vs Iowa State primerAfter falling in double-overtime to Arkansas, TCU looks to get back to their winning ways against Iowa State.
Horned Frog Insider09/15/2016
The Ultimate Midlands TeamThere is a lot of talent in the Midlands region, with a vast majority of the highest rated recruits playing high school football in the Lone Star State. Which prospects made the…
These rival helmet color swaps are revoltingSwapping rival teams' helmet colors? It shouldn't have been done, but someone did it anyway.
Post-July 2017 Top 100 Player RankingsWith the July evaluation periods, Nike Skills Academy, adidas Nations and Under Armour's Elite 24 over, Scout's basketball recruiting team has updated the 2017 top 100. DeAndre…