Former New Mexico State head basketball coach Chris Jans may not have been able to stop Arkansas from getting back to the Elite Eight last season, but his new team did end the Razorbacks’ five-game SEC winning streak on Saturday.

Jans, in his first year at Mississippi State, watched his Bulldogs take a 16-point lead in the second half and then withstand an Arkansas rally to down the Razorbacks 70-64 at Bud Walton Arena.

“I’m just proud of my kids, just proud of them,” Jans said. “I have heard all about this place, but never been to a  game here. I had been to AAU events here a long, long time ago. But obviously but his a great venue to compete in and it felt really good.”

It was the fifth straight win for Mississippi State (17-8, 5-7), who lost its first seven SEC games after opening the season 11-0.

“I felt really good about where we were at leading up to this game,” Jans said. “We talked about getting a road win at South Carolina (66-61) and talked about how we handle the atmosphere at Alabama (a 66-63 loss) – not because we were happy  about it – but how the crowd really didn’t effect our play. We didn’t think it effective the outcome and we wanted to lean into that tonight and we did.”

The importance of winning at Bud Walton Arena over the Razorbacks (7-8, 6-6) was perhaps best relayed by former Mississippi State head coach and current Bulldogs radio analyst Richard Williams.

“You don’t know this, but the entire career that I coached at Mississippi State, this is in the only place in the Southeastern Conference that my team did not win,” Williams told Jans. 

Jans said former Kentucky player Scott Padgett had warned him of Bud Walton Arena.

“I’m sad for you, but Scott Padgett told me that when he was at Kentucky, he thought this was the hardest place to play,” Jans said. “…I don’t know why, but I love going into places like this. There is nothing more that I like than going into a place that you know is going to rock and you know that you are run enemy territory.

“I think it is the sign of the truest test of your character and your togetherness and your toughness. It is easier to win at home and trust me that’s hard sometimes, too. 

“But to go into a place like this…it just means so much to me and I know these young men are growing and getting it and I am super proud of them.”

Jans noted Mississippi State played mostly man-to-man defense against Arkansas although most teams prefer zone when facing the Razorbacks.

“We wanted to protect the paint at all cost,” Jans said. “They are not shooting it great from three –  I don’t know they were tonight – well 4 for 18 – so we really, really wanted to keep the ball out of the paint as much as possible.

“We also guarded our own man and didn’t switch the first probably 35 minute of the game and then the last five we went to switching all the ball screens. That really helped because they got into a rhythm and 0 (Anthony Black) was just driving the ball against us and we were struggling in our coverage and I really thought it helped us.”

Dashawn Davis led Mississippi State with 17 points to lead four Bulldogs in double figures.

Will McNair, who was with Jans at New Mexico State last season, added 6 points and 3 rebounds for revenge of last season’s Arkansas 53-46 win in the NCAA Tournament second round.

“I didn’t spend a lot of time talking about that, but Will McNair certainly wanted to talk about it quite a bit in the postgame,” Jans said. “But that wasn’t in the forefront of my mind.”