No matter what time its game with Mississippi State is played on Thursday, the University of Arkansas does not need to fall down 19 points in the first half.
That's what happen in the first meeting this season between the Razorbacks (8-11, 1-3) and the Bulldogs (15-4, 3-1), who ended up holding on for an 82-80 win in Starkville.
The two teams are scheduled to hook back up – just two weeks later – at 8 p.m. although there was some discussion of moving the tip up to 2 p.m. because of expected inclement weather.
"From one respect of it, you are obviously
going to have a good idea of who you are playing and they will have a good idea of who they are playing," Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey said. "It may not be as many changes as if it had been a month on into the conference season.
"But one thing that won't change is that they are a very good basketball team – experienced, fast and can shoot that ball from the 3-point line," Pelphrey added.
Mississippi State will be trying for its first back-to-back wins ever in Fayetteville after having won 70-56 last season in Bud Walton Arena.
Bulldogs head coach Rick Stansbury said that game or the Razorbacks' 101-70 loss at Kentucky will not be a factor on Thursday night.
"That won't have anything to do with our game," Stansbury said. "They're back home and they're a totally different team there….They've been playing pretty well at home, they beat Alabama and let that Florida game slip away. We know it will be a very difficult game up there."
Mississippi State is a veteran team that plays four guards, but can also bring in height.
"They are a very experienced basketball team and give you a little bit of different look in that sometimes they play four guards and sometimes go big," Pelphrey said. "They are a tremendous transition team.
"The thing I like about their basketball team is that they have a good feel, an understanding of the time and score in the game," Pelphrey said. "I just think they play well together and it shows from the success they have had the last couple of years.
"Then they have the best shot blocker ever in the SEC in the middle and arguably the best in college basketball by the end of the year," Pelphrey continued. "Those all provide tremendous challenges."
That would be 6-9 senior center Jarvis Varnado, who had a triple-double in the first game with 18 points, 12 rebounds and 10 blocks.
He has exactly 100 blocked shots this season, is the SEC career leader and needs just 42 to become the NCAA's all-time career leader.
"I think when we get around the basket, we have got to be able to attack the basket, attack and go at Varnado," Pelphrey said. "But there are smart ways to do that and not so smart ways to do that. It's hard. He is going to block his share of shots, but we have still got to try and be aggressive back there with him.
Alabama knocked off the Bulldogs 62-57 on Saturday when the normally hot-shooting visitors were just 2-of-18 from 3-point range.
"They are a tremendous 3-point shooting team," Pelphrey said. "They didn't shoot it well against Alabama so we will probably get a pretty focused perimeter basketball team."
Stansbury thinks Arkansas is a better team with Courtney Fortson running the point.
"Courtney Forston changes their team and their game," Stansbury said. "He attacks the rim and puts so much pressure on the basket off the bounce and he creates for others because you have to collapse on him. He's increased offensive production and a bunch of points. He is tough to defend and makes them much better. They are a tough out for anybody now."
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