In fact, after a loss to UAB to open January, the Razorbacks sat 7-7 on the year. Fortson was suspended for those games, but the team had kept its head above water as a showdown with No. 2 Texas loomed just three days later.
But even with Fortson back in the fold, the script remained the same. Unlike last season, an impressive non-conference win over the Longhorns at home, Arkansas couldn't muster enough in a 96-85 defeat. Fortson managed 19 points in the loss, with six assists and three rebounds.
For Arkansas, close losses and missed opportunities have been the norm throughout the Southeastern Conference schedule as well. Sure, Fortson has averaged 20.2 points per game over the six-game span since his return to the court, but the Razorbacks claim only two conference wins to show for it.
At 9-11 overall and 2-3 in SEC play, Arkansas is a team on the brink. But don't tell Ole Miss head coach Andy Kennedy.
"Arkansas is a very dangerous team, though it's not reflective of their overall record," Kennedy said. "Their most explosive player, Courtney Fortson, has only played in their last six games."
Despite it all, the Razorbacks trip to Oxford following an emotional win over Mississippi State.
Fortson again produced eye-popping numbers. In a 67-62 win, he accounted for over half of the team's scoring with a career-high 35 points. Even better, 33 of those points came in the second half.
"Fortson, coupled with the best shooter in college basketball in Rotnei Clarke, make them another in a long line of challenges that you face throughout the SEC," said Kennedy.
Conversely, the Rebels, now 16-4 overall and 4-2 in Southeastern Conference play, are back home for just the second time in their last six contests. Ole Miss is riding a three-game win streak, including wins in back-to-back road contests for the first time since 2001.
Ole Miss has already matched last season's win total following an 84-74 win over Auburn Thursday. The Rebels sit atop the SEC Western Division along with Mississippi State at 4-2.
"It's great to get back home," Kennedy said. "Hopefully we'll have a sellout crowd. It's a quick turnaround, but we have to protect home floor. This is a huge game for us in anticipation of next week when we go back on the road."
Sunday's game will be the 65th meeting between Ole Miss and Arkansas. The Razorbacks hold an all-time series lead of 40-24. Ole Miss has won 16 of the last 23 games played between the schools.
Ole Miss swept two meetings with Arkansas last year, including an improbable 98-91 overtime win in Fayetteville using just seven players. The Rebels hold a 15-4 series lead in games played in Oxford and have won 12 of the last 13 bouts at home.
Today's game will not be televised.
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