"Come out with maximum energy and you will get results," said senior center Campbell, who scored a SEC-career best 15 points in the runaway victory.
If this wasn't the absolute best these Bulldogs are capable of, it was close enough to satisfy every MSU participant and fan among the 9,636 in the house. State scored the opening bucket of the afternoon and never looked back, outscoring the Razorbacks by 14 points in the first half and 11 more in the second. "It was just coming out aggressive from the jump," senior forward Roberts said. "We got some easy looks, got the crowd involved, and took it from there."
Coach Rick Stansbury was more blunt. "I thought we threw the first punch and never let up."
Indeed, the Dogs punished the visitors for forty infernal minutes. It was a near-total turnaround from State's previous game, when the Bulldogs were almost knocked out in the first half at Tennessee and fell short by a point in a furious late rally. This time State came out swinging and essentially had scored a TKO by intermission with a 33-19 margin.
"Today we tried to bounce back and start the game off the right way," Campbell said.
The Dogs did because their big men set the groundrules early and kept the game under control. Roberts did his part, notching another ‘double-double' with 17 points and ten rebounds. The surprise contributions came from Campbell, who Wednesday night managed just a bucket and single rebound. This was a game, and matchup, more to the 7-0 center's tastes.
"I tend to like playing against people that are bigger," Campbell said. Arkansas started 7-0 Steven Hill and 6-8 Charles Thomas on the front line, but these youngsters were mismatched by State's upperclass tandem. After missing a couple of early opportunities Campbell twice scored consecutive buckets for a nine-point first half, hitting four of five shots.
"You can't do anything without your team," said Campbell. "They gave me the ball and I just did what I was supposed to do."
"When Marcus does that it opens up so many things on the floor," said Roberts, who scored seven first-half points of his own. There was nothing fancy about MSU's attack, either, that got the big men so open, so often.
"We were working the high/low," forward Shane Power said. "Lawrence gave Marcus some good passes, he was able to seal and we started out shooting four or five layups. That took the pressure off our defense a little, too."
From Arkansas' viewpoint the MSU defense was putting enough pressure on already, playing straight man-to-man and doing it effectively. Even surprisingly so, considering some mismatches of size, speed, or both in the backcourt. "We really defended," Stansbury said, as the Razorbacks missed 12 of their first 13 shots and fell behind 21-2 eight minutes into the first half.
In that span Arkansas had only a loose-ball layup by guard Ronnie Brewer, until a turnaround jumper by Darian Townes at 11:13. State consistently disrupted ball movement, then contest shots, come away with the rebounds, and convert at the other end.
"We were able to relax and play with some confidence," Power said, "we got some stops and all of a sudden it's a 19-point game."
It was until Arkansas, which almost never gets out of man-defense, went to a zone for reportedly the first time this season. State, playing without off-guard and second-leading scorer Winsome Frazier, found good shots rare and made baskets rarer and from 11:00 to 5:30 had only a three-point play from backup center Walter Sharpe. Arkansas was able to chip away until the deficit was down to 24-14 at 5:40.
The Bulldogs did calm down, attacked the zone inside and drew fouls. Free throws by Jamall Edmondson and Power and a driving basket from Ontario Harper checked UA's momentum and let State take a 14-point advantage into halftime.
Barely three minutes into the last half the margin was up to 22 points as the Dogs ‘doubled' the Razorbacks 44-22 by 16:51. Campbell had four points and Roberts stuck an open three-pointer as State made it clear this game would remain under control. That meant no matter what lineup was on the court, too.
"The bench did a pretty good job coming in and keeping the intensity," said Harper. "It carried on to every guy that stepped in." Arkansas never got closer than 17 points, 61-44 at 8:15, and scored only one basket in the final four minutes.
Even though the UA bench outscored State's backups 33-22, Stanbury was entirely happy with how the backups performed. "I thought we had great balance up and down the roster." Harper contributed a dozen points off the bench and eleven Dogs in all scored at least a point. Roberts not only got his ninth double-double of the year but surpassed the 1,000 career rebounds mark. He joined Bailey Howell and Rickey Brown as the only Bulldogs ever with both 1,000 points and rebounds.
The only Hog in double-digits was guard Jonathan Modica, coming off the bench for 14 points. 6-7 guard Brewer was held to seven points, on a 16.4 average, and starting frontcourt men Hill and Thomas—a Jackson, Miss., native—had only two points each as the Razorbacks shot just 30.4%.
The Bulldogs won their third-straight game against UA and the fifth victory in the last six meetings. It was also Stansbury's 100th regular-season SEC win at State, and one of the sweetest to the coach.
"I'm very proud of our team, not just with the win but how we won and under all the circumstances," Stansbury said. "I think we proved today we can win without Winsome Frazier. I thought we stepped up and played with much more confidence, more poise."
And, more success.