Mississippi State (15-5, 5-4 SEC), before 8,460 fans in Humphrey Coliseum, completely dominated the Arkansas Razorbacks (7-12, 2-6 SEC), 84-54."> Mississippi State (15-5, 5-4 SEC), before 8,460 fans in Humphrey Coliseum, completely dominated the Arkansas Razorbacks (7-12, 2-6 SEC), 84-54.">

MSU Defeats Arkansas 84-54

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/coaches/basketball/stansbury.jpg" align="left" width="126" height="160"> Mississippi State (15-5, 5-4 SEC), before 8,460 fans in Humphrey Coliseum, completely dominated the Arkansas Razorbacks (7-12, 2-6 SEC), 84-54.

Mississippi State was led in scoring by Mario Austin's 19 points. In a game where MSU played 13 players, two other players scored in double figures, Ontario Harper with 14 and Winsome Frazier with 12.

MSU, winners of 5 of their 6 games, held Arkansas to a 25% shooting night, the worst shooting game of the year for Arkansas.

MSU, on the other hand, shot the ball at a 50% clip.

MSU outrebounded Arkansas 48-37.

MSU now has a week off before facing in-state rival Ole Miss in the Hump next Saturday night.

MSU coach Rick Stansbury:

"I was very pleased with this win because of the way our team played. Our team was the best team at both ends (of the court). They played with tremendous energy, lots of confidence, we played together and we shared the basketball. I thought that the key was at the defensive end. Our guards took their two guards, in particular (Jonathon) Modica, and shut them out. (Modica) is a young man who made a difference in their basketball team.

"Coach Heath has done a great job with that team. His team plays very hard. They rebound the basketball extremely well. There is no question that Arkansas is a very good basketball team. It will be a very difficult game when we go back up to Fayetteville."

How difficult was it for your team to remain focused after getting such a big lead at halftime?
"Naturally, you would like to come out and have them focused coming out in the second half. That's what we talked about at halftime and that is what we tried to do. Being realistic about it, it is really hard to do when you are up 34 at halftime. But our kids did enough things that we had to do it. We played a lot of zone in the second half basically to make the clock run."

Your team has played so well in all areas of the game the past two games. Are there areas that you feel this team still needs to improve on?
"We have played very well, but we can always improve. There are a lot of things we need to improve on. What I am pleased with about this team is we started off 0-3 in the league. We knew then where we had been and what we had done. We had a tendancy to lose some confidence in those three games, but I am proud that we have been able to bounce back. I think this team is gaining the right momentum at the right time. I like our confidence and I like the rotations that we are settling in on. I like that our bench is playing so well for us."

Were those three games more who you were playing than how your team was playing?
"Florida was one of the best teams in the country. And we didn't have (Ontario) Harper. Harper basically got out of the hospital at gametime. We go to LSU and Mario (Austin) hadn't (practiced) all week. We were playing LSU at the time when they were playing their best basketball. Then we went to Alabama and at that time they had won 27 or 28 straight on their home court and we had a chance to win the game with 6 or 7 seconds to go. It wasn't that we weren't playing good, we just didn't make some plays at the right times."

Did you sense that you would dominate Arkansas the way you did?
"No one would have sense that. I think that all you Arkansas reporters who follow Arkansas knew that they were playing their best basketball of the year. They kept it respectable at Florida and they got Alabama down 27 points at home."

Was the first half the best half your team has played this year?
"I have to look at the stats and study the film (to know for sure), but we played very well that first half, offensively and defensively. I think defensively we were pretty special. They had four baskets at halftime. We took their best players and took them out of the game. Our guards are pretty good defensively. Timmy Bowers took that challenge on. Modica is going to be a terrific player in this league, but Timmy Bowers, being a junior and he being a freshman, took that challenge on and said that he wasn't going to come in here and get 26 points against us. He had two games back to back where he got 26 points. He had four points today and was 1-for-11."

How is Winsome Frazier's ankle?
"He tried to come back in the second half but couldn't go. I think that he will ready by Saturday but I'm saying that without knowing what the trainers think about it."

Last year's team got on a roll and played with a lot of confidence during the second part of SEC play. Do you see this team playing with that same kind of confidence?
"This team is playing with a lot of confidence. There is no doubt about that. This team has won 5 of our last 6. Even in those first three (losses) we knew who we played and where we played them. We wanted to win them all, but that doesn't happen in this league."

After two straight blowouts, how do you prepare this team so that there is not a letdown your next game?
"We won't prepare them any differently. We know that Ole Miss is a very good basketball team. We understand how important this next game is, no matter who it is. It is going to be a big basketball game. It is always a little special between us, especially with us already having gone up there and winning. It is our next basketball game, so it will be our biggest game of the year."

Arkansas coach Stan Heath:

"There is not a whole lot that I can say. They got to us early and didn't have an answer in two major areas of the game. With the speed they have getting up and down the court, they beat us in transition. Also, their inside play was very impressive. (Mario) Austin is as good a big guy as we have faced (this year) and really does a great job getting in position. They really the ball and fine him. That was difficult to deal with and at the same time our shots weren't falling in the first half. I could see that we were getting frustrated. Credit their defense, too. They do a good job, due to their athleticism and quickness, of getting to our shooters and blocking our shots. We are going to have to learn from this experience and put it behind us."

What did they do to Modica?
"I think in the first half Jonathon was going to draw some attention after scoring 26 points in his last two games. They certainly were on him tight. I think Jonathon was a little impatient in the first half. When that happens, we need to have someone step up. We can't just be the Jonathon Modica show."

Were you surprised that your team didn't play any better than they did?
"Nothing surprises me about this team. We have had this problem all year where we have a little bit of success and then struggle handling that. We have a little bit of failure during the course of the game, then we dig ourselves a deeper hole. We have not being consistent."

Derrick Zimmerman:

Talk about the defensive effort of your team tonight.
"I think as a team we haven't been defending well, but we have picked up our intensity level because we realize defense is the key for us to win. That dictates our offense."

What do you think it does to a team when you or Timmy blocks a shot into the first row?
"It probably kills a guy's confidence. It makes them think about shooting a jump shot with a guard so close to them. There are not many guards that have Timmy and my athletic ability. If you look at the stats, Timmy and I are probably one and two in leading the team in block shots. That is very uncommon for a college basketball team."

Last year, MSU got on a roll during the second half of SEC play. Do you feel this team is about to go on the same type roll? "There must be something about February with the Mississippi State basketball team because it seems like every time this month rolls around the guys seem to pick up their intensity and start playing with great effort and energy."

Talk about Marcus Campbell's play during the game.
"He played good for us. He got in there and banging his big body around. He is so hard to defend because he is seven-feet tall. You really can't get up and block his shot. Coach has gotten on him about throwing the ball back outside when he catches it down low. I think he did a good job tonight of catching it and taking his time and scoring."

Ontario Harper:

You kept beating them down the court over and over with layups. Did you see a hole in their defense and took advantage of it?
"It seemed like they weren't getting back (on defense) and Z was pushing it, so Coach told us to run and I was running trying to get to the basket."

Do you now feel you have all of your confidence back?
"Every day my confidence rises more and more. I'm just trying to build on it."

Mario Austin:

You got off to a quick start against Arkansas today.
"We knew coming in that Arkansas is a very good team. They were capable of coming in here and getting in a win. We wanted to get our defense on them early and play really hard. We really knuckled down on defense and the offense came."

Do you feel these were your two best games as a team this year, even better than the Xavier and Oklahoma games?
"Yeah, because I think everybody is now buying into what we are trying to do."

Winsome Frazier:

Do you feel this team is playing its best ball right now?
"Yeah, we are really hitting our mark. Coach has been stressing that we need to play better together. Right now, we are able to rest the starting five and allow them to have more energy later in the game."

Did you hate that you got injured during a game where you were having your best game here at State?
"I felt during warmups that I was going to have a good game. I had a good game, 12 points in 13 minutes. I was very mad when I got the ankle injury."

Was it more of a precaution that you didn't play in the second half?
"Coach asked me if I was alright. I told him that I would tell him after I did layups in warmups. I came out and couldn't even jump off my leg. I told Coach that I can't really do it and I didn't want to put the team in jeopardy. I told him I will come out next week and hope everything is alright."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at swindoll@genespage.com

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