Starkville, MS (SportsNetwork.com) - Hoping to build on a five-game win streak, the 18th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks will hit the road to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs in an SEC showdown at Humphrey Coliseum on Saturday.
Arkansas extended its win streak on Wednesday with a convincing 84-69 victory over Missouri, which boosted the Razorbacks' conference record to 10-3. The team is performing well against conference opponents on the road with a 4-2 mark away from home.
Mississippi State took on heated in-state rival Ole Miss on Thursday night, which yielded negative results for the Bulldogs. The hosts battled, but the visiting Rebels hung on down the stretch for a 71-65 victory. The loss dropped Mississippi State to 5-8 in league play on the season.
Arkansas holds a 31-25 all-time series lead over Mississippi State, and has taken the last three decisions over the Bulldogs. The two teams met earlier this season in Fayetteville, which saw the Razorbacks come away with an easy 61-41 win.
Missouri finished with a better shooting percentage (50 percent from the floor) in the game against Arkansas (46.6 percent), but it was the Razorbacks who got up more attempts and connected on more 3-point field goals (10) than Missouri (six) on Wednesday. Arkansas was able to coast to the home victory with ease thanks to strong offensive performances from its top players. Michael Qualls led the charge with 21 points and six rebounds, and Bobby Portis collected 16 points with a team-high nine boards. Anton Beard got the start for Arkansas against the Tigers, and added 13 points with five assists in the win.
The sophomore Portis continues to build on his stellar season. The big man ranks first on the team and second in the SEC in scoring at 17.6 ppg with a team-best 8.7 rpg (fourth in the conference standings). Qualls is the only other player to net a double-digit scoring figure this season at 15.5 ppg, although Rashad Madden (9.7 ppg) is right behind the mark. Madden also come in at second in the league with a 4.8 apg average, which leads his team. Despite having just two double-digit scorers this season, the Razorbacks rank first in the SEC in scoring per game, netting an even 80.0 ppg on 45.5 percent shooting from the floor.
Mississippi State went toe-to-tow with Ole Miss, but came up short in the end. Ole Miss guard Stefan Moody was the Bulldog killer Thursday, netting 29 points with a handful of critical free throws down the stretch. Craig Sword did all he could to keep Mississippi State in it, netting 19 points with five rebounds. Gavin Ware tallied 13 points and six boards, and Travis Daniels added 12 points and six rebounds of his own. The Bulldogs made 45.8 percent of their shots from the floor, but went just 5-of-19 from 3-point range.
Ware has taken control of the team's scoring lead at 10.1 ppg, which suggests the Bulldogs don't really possess a true night-to-night scoring threat. Ware is trailed in the category by Roquez Johnson (10.0 ppg), who played only seven minutes in Thursday's loss to the Rebels after suffering a head injury. He's listed as doubtful for this game with concussion-like symptoms. Fred Thomas (9.9 ppg) and Sword (9.5 ppg) are building their scoring resumes and are on the rise. Still, Mississippi State averages just 62.2 ppg this season, and is giving up 62.7 ppg to opponents on 41.2 percent shooting. Ware also leads the team on the boards, owning a 7.3 rpg mark which ranks fifth in the SEC this season.