*It took a lot of years for a Bulldog team to score their first victory in Walton Arena, in 2004. Now in the last five trips State has won three times, most recently 2011.
*State has won seven of the last ten meetings and has not lost a home game since 2000. But Arkansas leads the series still, 28-25.
The Opponent: It's still early in SEC season but tonight stacks up as a key contest for Mike Anderson's team, if they are to return Arkansas to NCAA play for the first time since 2008. The Razorbacks have a lot of work ahead to get there. They have no ‘bad' losses other than maybe the 18-point defeat at Texas A&M to open SEC season. But there's only one win of real note either, a homecourt beating of Oklahoma, and a RPI that won't get a lot of help from this weak conference's competition. So expect an intense effort tonight from a team that already relies on setting a fast pace. It's not so much the points Arkansas denies, as they give up plenty. It is the cheap points they score off mistakes, forced or not…and a plus-five turnover rate shows they force them in bunches. And even if the Razorbacks don't score on a takeaway that does mean the other team isn't scoring either. The full-court, full-time tempo is practical because a whole lot ‘o Hogs get to play with eleven averaging double-digit minutes. So the starting lineup doesn't mean much, at least in the backcourt, beyond who gets to break first sweat. The constant is streaky soph B.J. Young, the team's leading scorer and most exciting—if at times infuriating too—player. He's not just a scorer by the way as his assists total reminds. It's easier getting credit for an assist too when defenders come up and leave Marshawn Powell isolated with a winnable matchup. He's a 54% shooter as a result. Tall soph Hunter Mickelson helps free him up inside on offense, and at the other end blocks balls. In fact Arkansas doesn't just rely on turnovers but they have swatted 55 shots the last nine games. The roster got a December boost with activation of Fred Gulley, an Oklahoma State transfer who has started the last three league games in place of now-bench regular Mardracus Wade and Rashad Madden. There isn't just one or two three-point threats here as the outside offense is split-up with backups Anthlon Bell and Kikko Haydar rotating in too. The rebounding isn't great but then doesn't have to be this year as long as the ‘Backs keep making opponents play at their preferred pace. And Arkansas hasn't lost at home to an unranked opponent since December 2009.
Latest Starting Lineups:
ARKANSAS: F Marshawn Powell, 6-7 JR, 15.2ppg, 5.6rpg, 54%fgs; F/C Hunter Mickelson, 6-10 SO, 7.2ppg, 4.5rpg, 26blks; G BJ Young, 6-3 SO, 17.2ppg, 4.4rpg, 67asts; G Rickey Scott, 6-3 jR, 4.9ppg, 2.2rpg; G Fred Gulley, 6-2 JR, 1.6ppg, 1.8rpg.
Top Reserves: G Mardracus Wade, 6-2 JR, 7.2ppg, 28stls; G Rashad Madden, 6-5 SO, 56%fgs, 4.6ppg, 2.4rpg; F Coty Clarke, 6-7 JR, 6.6ppg, 5.1rpg; G Kikko Haydar, 5-10 JR, 16 3ptrs, 52%3ptrs.
MISSISSIPPI STATE: F Colin Borchert, 6-8 JR, 6.8ppg, 4.7rpg, 23 blks; C Gavin Ware, 6-9 FR, 8.0ppg, 7.1rpg, 52%fgs, 16 blks; G Craig Sword, 6-3 FR, 9.6ppg, 3.0rpg, 28 stls; G Trivante Bloodman, 6-0 SO, 5.9ppg, 44 asts; G Jalen Steele, 6-3 JR, 11.1ppg, 3.3rpg, 39% 3ptrs
Top Backups: F Rocquez Johnson, 6-7 SO, 10.8ppg, 4.9rpg, 11 blks; G Fred Thomas, 6-5 FR, 10.3ppg, 26 3ptrs; G Tyson Cunningham, 6-3 JR, 2.5ppg, 2.8rpg.
HOW THEY COMPARE:
Scoring: MSU 61.6, ARK 78.6
Scoring Defense: MSU 63.9, ARK 68.9
FG Shooting: MSU 40.8%, ARK 45.7%
FG Defense: MSU 40.9%, ARK 41.8%
3-Point Shooting: MSU 27.7%, ARK 31.3%
Rebounding: MSU 35.6, ARK 36.8
Rebound Margin: MSU -0.7, ARK -1.0
Free Throw Shooting: MSU 66.9%, ARK 68.1%
Turnovers: MSU -0.6, ARK +5.8
BULLDOG NOTES: *State has started the same squad in all four SEC outings.
*PG Trivante Bloodman is the only Dog to open all 16 games.
*State isn't last in SEC shooting this week, having edged out of the cellar ahead of Vanderbilt this week. When the Dogs do make 45% or better of their shots though they win.
*But the Bulldogs are still dead-last in three-point shooting and making alike. They are 15 treys behind the 13th-last team with just 67.
*It's nothing new from previous years of course, but State is again last in SEC three-point defense.
*Though they are one of the shorter overall lineups in the league, State is 6th in SEC blocks. F Colin Borchert comes in at 5th this week.
*Despite a limited roster no Bulldog ranks in the SEC's top-ten for minutes played.
*No Dog is in the top-25 for SEC scoring either, though.
*G Craig Sword has fouled out five times in 16 games, most of any league player.
*He needs to stay on the floor because Sword is shooting 21-of-42 in SEC season. And he is 5th in league steals per-game too.
*C Gavin Ware has scored 16 points in his four SEC games and taken just 17 shots total. He has yet to make a free throw in league play, too.
*Yet the freshman is 10th in SEC rebounding, second among all freshmen.
*G Fred Thomas has made 11-of-25 shots the last three games, his best stretch of the season. Better, he is 6-of-12 at the arc in these games.
*G Jalen Steele has 111 career treys, in 68 games. He needs 132 longballs to crack the MSU top-ten.