Despite being plus-22 in points-in-the-paint and having only 7 turnovers, Arkansas could not overcome a lopsided free-throw shooting disparity and a poor shooting night from three as the Razorbacks suffered their first back-to-back losses of the season with a 77-70 road defeat at the hands of Mississippi State on Wednesday at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss.
Oh yeah, one-time Hogs commit Reggie Perry (6-10, 250) — named SEC Player of the Week on Monday — was unstoppable scoring and rebounding as the SEC’s only player averaging a double-double on the season finished with 26 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2 blocks in 33 minutes.
Arkansas (14-4, 3-3 SEC) is now 3-3 in true road games and 4-3 in all game played outside of Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Mississippi State (12-6, 3-3 SEC) has won 3 consecutive games — all at home — and the Bulldogs have now won 5 in a row in the series against the Hogs.
In it’s last game played on Saturday, Arkansas dropped its first home game of the season, 73-66, against then-No. 10 Kentucky.
“Mississippi State’s a really talented team, they’re really long,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said during his post-game radio interview.
“Their roster’s been constructed with great thought. They have a really good inside player in Reggie Perry. You hold an opponent to 38 percent from the field and lose a game, but that was the case tonight. The free throws attempted, way too much to overcome. And then we have to make the front end of one-and-ones. Even though we held Mississippi State to 38 percent we had one guy in particular that really had some defensive missed assignments, and that hurt in short stretches.”
Arkansas shot 30-of-63 from the field (47.6%) compared to Mississippi State’s 22-of-57 (38.6%), and the Hogs dominated points in the paint (46-24) despite losing yet another rebounding battle (41-31). Conversely, the Razorbacks made only 6-of-11 from the free throw line (54.5%) including two misses on front-ends of one-and-one opportunities, while Mississippi State shot 27-of-31 at the foul line (87.1%), including 10-of-10 in the final 1:02 of the game after the Hogs had whittled an 11-point deficit down to 67-62.
Arkansas had only one free throw attempt in the first half, and only three attempts with 7:36 to play in the game. The Hogs were 0-of-5 at the foul line when junior wing Mason Jones made both of his attempts inside of 3 minutes remaining in the game.
MSU also held an advantage in three-point shooting — 6-of-19 for 31.6% compared to Arkansas’s 4-of-20 for 20.0%. And though the Hogs won the turnover battle their margin was only plus-2 (9-7) while the Bulldogs were plus-1 on points-off-turnovers (10-9).
“One, you’ve got to defend without fouling,” Musselman said. “If you would have told me going into the game that we would outscore them 46-24 in points-in-the-paint, I would have said ‘Alright we’re going to win by 10.’ Not the case when you have 6 points to their 27 from the foul line. So, we’ve got to do a better job of defending without fouling, and we need everybody to produce.”
Jones finished with 20 points (7-of-16 field goals, inlcuding 2-of-7 from 3, and 4-of-4 free throws) as did senior guard Jimmy Whitt, Jr. (9-of-15 field goals and 2-of-5 free throws). Jones — he scored 18 of his points in the second half — also had a team-high-tying 7 rebounds and a team-high 4 assists in his 30 minutes. Whitt also had 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block while playing 39 minutes.
Sophomore guard Isaiah Joe — the Hogs second-leading scorer coming in (and 5th in the SEC) — made a three-pointer to tie the game at 3-all early, but scored only two more points from there as he finished with 5 points (2-of-13 field goals, including 1-of-8 from 3), a team-high-tying 7 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 steal in 36 minutes.
Arkansas’s frontline trio of starting forward Adrio Bailey and reserve forwards Reggie Chaney and Jeantal Cylla combined for 19 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks. They scored 15 of Arkansas’s 26 first-half points as the Hogs trailed by four at the break, 30-26.
MSU freshman wing DJ Stewart, Jr., finished with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. Junuor guard Nick Weatherspoon had 11 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 1 steal. Senior guard Tyson Carter chipped in 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal.
The Bulldogs led 9-3 when the Hogs strung together a 13-2 run to take a 16-11 lead at the 9:36 mark in the first half. Cylla’s three-pointer and lay-in fueled the run.
MSU responded with back-to-back triples by Stewart and Carter for a 17-16 advantage. Arkansas led 22-19 when the ‘Dogs closed the first half with an 11-4 surge — Perry had 6 points in the run — for a 30-26 Mississippi State lead at the break.
Chaney (6 points), Cylla (5 points), and Bailey (4 points) combined for 15 of the Razorbacks’ 26 first-half points. Joe and Jones combined for 5 points (Joe was 1-of-8 shooting from the field while Jones was 1-of-2 before sitting out the final 8:22 with 2 fouls).
Arkansas trailed by three, 51-48, with 8:30 to go in the game, but MSU would go on a 9-2 surge for a 60-50 advantage at the 4:41 mark. The ‘Dogs would expand to an 11-point lead, 67-56, at 2:21 when Whitt scored 4 points in a 6-0 Hogs’ spurt to pull within 67-62 with 1:12 remaining. But again, MSU shot 10-of-10 from the free throw line in the final 1:02 to ice the win.
Up next for Arkansas is a return home for the Big 12 / SEC Challenge against TCU at 3 p.m. CT on Saturday, Jan. 25, at sold-out Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville in a game that will be televised by ESPN2.