Mississippi State is off to a stellar start, bringing a 13-2 record into its league lidlifter. The Bulldogs fell to Big 12 power Baylor by just two points (54-52) on December 28, or they would actually be one of the few one-loss teams left in the nation. MSU welcomed the Utah State Aggies to Starkville on New Year's Eve, and slipped past the visitors in a 66-64 final. The team has been idle since, giving coach Rick Stansbury ample time to prepare for this contest. The Bulldogs, who are playing only their second true road game of the campaign tonight, are 10-3 in SEC openers under Stansbury, and they've won 17 of their last 20 such affairs overall.
Arkansas is also enjoying a solid season thus far, having won 11 of its first 14 games, and the Razorbacks come into this clash riding the wave of a six- game win streak. The most recent outing for the Hogs took place on Tuesday night versus Savannah State and not surprisingly, coach Mike Anderson's club prevailed in an 83-66 final. UA has won 10 straight home games, and is 11-1 in front of the Fayetteville faithful this season. The Razorbacks are 12-8 in SEC openers, and they won last year's version at home over a favored Tennessee squad, 68-65.
Arkansas owns a slim 27-24 advantage in the all-time series with Mississippi State, but the Bulldogs have won six of the last seven meetings, including a pair last season.
MSU boasts four players averaging double digits in the scoring column, one of whom is junior forward Arnett Moultrie who brings 16.8 points and 11.7 rebounds per game to the court. Dee Bost (15.9 ppg, 4.4 apg), Rodney Hood (12.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Renardo Sidney (10.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg) have all performed well for the Bulldogs this season, although Bost could certainly improve his shooting touch as he is hitting just 37.9 percent of his field goal attempts. As a team, Mississippi State is putting up 74.8 ppg in hitting 47.1 percent of its total shots, and 35.0 percent of its three-point tries. Defensively, the Bulldogs are permitting 63.1 ppg on typical shooting outputs of only 41.0 percent overall and 30.1 percent from beyond the arc. Hood poured in 16 points and grabbed six rebounds, Moultrie logged yet another double-double with 15 points and 10 boards, and Sidney tallied 13 points and seven rebounds to help MSU push past Utah State last Saturday. The Bulldogs won the game despite being outshot (.482 to .433) by hitting seven treys compared to just three for the Aggies.
Despite the absence of forward Marshawn Powell (19.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg), the Razorbacks are averaging 76.9 ppg in shooting 43.5 percent from the field, which includes a 33.7 percent showing from three-point range. Powell, who was the top returning scorer and rebounder from last year's team, appeared in just two games before suffering a season-ending knee injury, leaving guys like B.J. Young (14.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Mardracus Wade (11.3 ppg) and Rickey Scott (11.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg) to pick up the slack. While the offensive production has been solid, the defensive effort has been superb, as foes are generating just 63.9 ppg in hitting 37.9 percent of their total shots, and 31.3 percent of their three-pointers. They also turn the ball over more than 18 times per outing, giving the Hogs a +4.4 turnover margin. Scott and Young combined to score 34 points in Tuesday's rout of Savannah State, as Arkansas shot 50 percent from the floor, held the Tigers to just 38.5 percent, and claimed resounding differentials in both rebounds (46-28) and points from the foul line (31-9). About the only negative to point out is that the Razorbacks committed an unsightly 23 turnovers.