Mario Austin may be the best center in the SEC, but he met his match Saturday at Bud Walton Arena. Larry Satchell bested Mississippi State's inside star to lead Arkansas to a 53-51 victory.
Satchell scored 10 points, grabbed nine rebounds and blocked four shots as the Hogs rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half. Kendrick Davis hit a driving layup and converted a foul shot for a three-point play with 25 seconds left to give the Hogs their first lead since the opening minutes.
MSU worked the ball to Mario Austin on its final possession, but his driving shot wasn't close with four seconds left under heavy pressure from Satchell. Austin scored just five points with just one rebound in a 35-minute futile effort.
Eric Ferguson led the Hogs with 15 points in 39 minutes. Davis scored nine points in just 15 minutes. Dionisio Gomez and Pookie Modica each scored eight points.
Arkansas played a variety of defenses designed to collapse the inside against Austin. All were effective. He rarely touched the ball. They played several different zone defenses and some man-to-man. Satchell got plenty of inside help against MSU's 6-9, 260-pound center.
"I didn't think Mario wanted it in the second half," said Carl Baker, one of the Hogs who doubled up on Austin. "I think L (Satchell) had taken it out of him in the first half. We played great team defense. We all helped. We tried to body up on him early in each possession, and hit him when he went across the lane. You hit a man enough, it takes it out of you. They weren't fouls, just bumps. Once he gets the ball, you can't hit him. You have to do it early."
Blake Eddins said Satchell "intimidated" Austin with his physical play.
"Austin didn't want to play with what Larry brought today," Eddins said. "It was all clean and all legal, just physical, tough play. Larry is playing great, the best I've seen him in four years. He understands what is going to work and he has zoned into it."
Baker said, "If you keep a man in front, and a man in back, it's hard for him to get some touches, and we did a good job of closing down on the shooters in the second half, and knowing where they might be."
Timmy Bowers scored 18 points in the first half for the Bulldogs, but scored only six in the second to finish with 24.
"We didn't recognize where Bowers was in the first half, but we did better in the second half," said Stan Heath. "We were yelling at them in the first half, but it wasn't doing any good. They kept up with him and kept a hand up in the second half."
Satchell deflected the credit to his teammates.
"It was team defense, especially inside," he said. "I did my part, and everyone else did their part. It's what has to happen. It was a battlefield out there and we all came to fight. We are getting some momentum now and understand how to play. We are listening to our coaches and it's starting to pay off."
The Hogs all agreed that this is not the time to be drawing Arkansas as an opponent.
"To be honest, I wouldn't want to be playing us right now," Satchell said. "I'm not saying we are great, but I don't think teams want to come in here right now. We are getting it going now."
Dionisio Gomez said, "It's a tough league and we are upholding our share of the fight now. No, I wouldn't want to be going against the Razorbacks. We are not an easy team right now. We are going to fight you and we are coming together and playing as a team."
Heath smiled at that thought.
"I don't know about that," he said. "We are just joining into the fight in a tough league. No one wants to play any of the other teams because no one is easier. We are playing better. I give credit to the players. They are listening to us and they understand now what it takes to win games. To be honest, everyone made some big plays today. It wasn't just one or two or three guys. Everyone did their part. And, we made some tough shots."
Davis hit the game winner with his off hand, which did stun some of his teammates and coaches.
"I don't know that I've ever seen him make a shot with his right hand in practice or a game," Heath said. "It was a tough shot, but it was the kind of shot we wanted. We wanted to attack. That's what we did at the end and things starting going our way. When you attack, good things happen. We got better ball movement and we got some open shots. We were attacking and switching the ball. That gave us some open threes."