*Mississippi State snapped a five-loss streak Wednesday with an overtime win at South Carolina. The do-or-die victory kept the Bulldogs in NCAA contention, though they still cannot afford to drop this one without slipping back onto the proverbial bubble.
*The Bulldogs now know they will be playing a first-round game at the SEC Tournament. They can finish as high as 6th in the league now, which would slot them in Thursday's late game against the #11 seed.
*But a loss will leave State at the mercy of other games, and could drop them as far as ninth depending on tiebreaks.
*The five-loss streak was the longest at State since the 2006 team dropped seven-straight.
*All Bulldog league wins up to this week have come in pairs, a promising sign for Saturday.
*Rick Stansbury now has 292 career wins, and needs 297 to tie for 7th in SEC history. He is 15-14 against Arkansas.
*Stansbury is now 15-15 in overtime games.
*Bost and Arnett Moultrie are among the finalists for the Howell Trophy given to the state's premier college player.
*Arkansas leads the series 28-24 after taking the first meeting back on January 7. Before that State had won six of the seven games and two-straight. Arkansas has not won in Humphrey Coliseum since 2000.
The Opponent: Up to a week ago Mississippi State might have counted this one as won. Then the Razorbacks went and won a road game. At Auburn, admittedly; and even with that Arkansas is still just 1-4 in the last few weeks with signs the squad is packing it in for the year. Still Mississippi State has been alerted not to assume anything about the visitors, beyond how they will try to attack the Dogs. Pressing, no make that outright harassing, worked splendidly in round-one. It wasn't just the 18 turnovers as that is not an awful outing for State anyway, but how the Hogs got under skin and on nerves. Whether by stealing or stifling the Razorbacks converted at their end for a 98-88 win, most points allowed by MSU in many a season. Helter-skelter has produced some pretty good defensive numbers as far as 43% shooting allowed, and while the Hogs do foul a good bit the flustered opposition hasn't cashed in as many of those free throws as would be expected. Their challenge will be duplicating it both on the road, and against a forewarned foe. After that, it will be up to Arkansas shooters to put up the points…which just happens to be the strong point of Mike Anderson's inherited team. He's applied a four-guard lineup most of the winter and if any of the starters are off there's somebody else waiting a chance to chunk. Make Mardracus Wade the chief exponent of this offensive approach: he's shooting 46% overall and 48% from the arc with a team-best 63 treys. B.J. Young isn't quite so accurate but has thrown in 48 longballs as a sometime starter, and Julysses Nobles another two-score threes. Rebounding? Wellllll, if the long heaves come back long a Hog has a good chance at chasing it down for a second shot. Though Hunter Mickelson has been giving some inside presence and blocking shots, at least until the fouls add up. It is worth wondering what would have happened had Marshawn Powell not gone down after two games. Still the Razorbacks have a decent NIT shot now, not to mention the sort of free-firing attitude that could catch an unwary early-round opponent in New Orleans off their guard. Or guards. For that matter, if the long shots are falling Saturday it might make Senior Day much more interesting than wanted.
Projected Starting Lineups (full season stats):
ARKANSAS: F Michael Sanchez, SR 6-8 235, 4.0ppg, 3.4rpg; F DeVonta Abron, FR 6-8 255, 5.6ppg, 4.3rpg; G Mardracus Wade, SO 6-2 175, 15.3ppg, 63 3ptrs; G Julysses Nobles, JR 6-1 175, 8.9ppg, 3.5rpg, 40 3ptrs, 35% 3ptfg; G Rickey Scott, SO 6-3 200, 9.5ppg, 3.5rpg.
Top Reserves: G B.J. Young, FR 6-3 175, 15.3ppg, 48 3ptrs, 41% 3ptfg; G Rashad Madden, FR 6-5 175, 6.6ppg, 3.3rpg; F Hunter Mickelson, FR 6-10 235, 5.2ppg, 3.6rpg, 69 blks.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Arnett Moultrie, JR 6-11 249, 16.0ppg, 10.7rpg, 55%fgs; C Renardo Sidney, JR 6-10 285, 10.3ppg, 5.3rpg, 51%fgs; G Dee Bost, SR 6-2 175, 15.8ppg, 157 asts, 68 3ptrs; G Brian Bryant, SR 6-3 168, 6.8ppg, 4.4rpg, 53 asts; G Jalen Steele, SO 6-3 195, 7.9ppg, 58 3ptrs.
Top Backups: SF Rodney Hood, FR 6-8 204, 10.8ppg, 4.8rpg, 44 3ptrs; C Wendell Lewis, SO 6-8 253, 3.7ppg, 4.0rpg, 28 blks; G Deville Smith, FR 5-11 165, 4.7ppg, 49 asts.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 71.4, ARK 72.9
Scoring Defense: MSU 66.8, ARK 69.4
FG Shooting: MSU 45.6%, ARK 43.75 FG Defense: MSU 43.1%, ARK 42.9%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 36.0%, ARK 35.7%
Rebounding: MSU 36.5, ARK 34.2
Rebound Margin: MSU +2.9, ARK -3.3
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 69.8%, ARK 69.1%
Turnovers: MSU -1.2, ARK +3.5
BULLDOG NOTES: *Three Bulldogs were pacing the SEC in minutes played per league game, until SF Rodney Hood missed the whole second half against Kentucky with his injury and dropped to 4th. So now it is just PG Dee Bost (37.5) and PF Arnett Moultrie (36.7) who are 1-2 in the league ironman standings.
*After missing a game with a knee bone bruise, SF Rodney Hood returned to action Wednesday and played 13 minutes at South Carolina. Hood has scored the 10th-most points by a Bulldog freshman and played the fourth-most minutes ever for a rookie.
*Backup SF Shaun Smith is now done for the season with a broken finger on his shooting hand suffered at Alabama.
*In their losing streak the Bulldogs averaged 60.8 points. They have not topped 70 points since February 4 in a 91-88 win over Auburn at home.
*State's average SEC winning margin is 4.4 points; in the eight league losses the margin has been 8.6 points. But in the last three losses have been by a dozen points on average.
*PF Arnett Moultrie had his three-game string of double-doubles snapped at Alabama, but got back on track Wednesday with a 15/12 night at South Carolina. Moultrie still has 17 DDs out of 27 games played, and is the only SEC player averaging double-figures for both points and rebounds.
*Moultrie has averaged over 20 points in SEC wins, 11.1 in losses.
*He is the SEC's second-most accurate shooter.
*Moultrie needs to average 11.0 boards for a top-ten State season.
*PG Dee Bost now has 1,594 career points, #8 on the program chart. He needs 1,602 to catch former teammate Barry Stewart for seventh place.
*He is the first Bulldog ever with 600 career assists. Bost has 607 in his 119 games at State.
*Bost has averaged 15.4 points in SEC wins, but 16.3 in losses.
*When Bost fouled-out against Auburn in the home, it was his first time to draw five personals since the 2009-10 opener against Rider; a 68-game stretch. In the seven games since he has just ten total personals.
*Just the fourth Bulldog with 200 career treys, Bost now has made 230. He needs 258 for third place.
*C Renardo Sidney missed the road Auburn game with back spasms, and had just three points against Kentucky. But he seems fine now after putting up 14 against Alabama and 12 at South Carolina, and taking every shot inside the arc.
*Back issues meant limiting Sidney to 41 total minutes in the Kentucky and Alabama games, but he played a season-most 35 at South Carolina.
*G Jalen Steel has been in a slump the last two games, 4-of-16 at the arc and 4-of-19 overall.
*In SEC play, Steele has taken 108 shots; 87 of them are trey-tries.
*C Wendell Lewis is a 62% shooter. But he also has not taken more than three shots in any of the last ten games and scored just 16 total points.
*Lewis is 2-of-7 for entire SEC season on free throws.