FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – For the fourth time in the last seven games, an Arkansas basketball game came down to the final seconds. For the first time in four of those situations, it did not turn out in favor of the Razorbacks as Mississippi State held on for a 57-55 victory Tuesday.
Ronnie Brewer’s last-second shot in the lane was partially blocked by Ontario Harper and Shane Power rebounded as the Bulldogs escaped with the victory.
MSU improves to 21-8 overall and 9-6 in the Southeastern Conference. The loss puts Arkansas at 18-10 overall and 6-9 in the league.
The one-possession loss is the first for UA since Jan. 29 when a last-second shot did not fall in the 69-68 loss to then-No. 6 Kentucky. Arkansas followed with close wins at Ole Miss (66-65), and against LSU (65-62) and Tennessee (70-68).
Arkansas shot just 34 percent for the game (20-59), was out-rebounded 47-31 and trailed 33-24 at the half. Despite those obstacles, the Hogs opened the second half with a 19-4 run and led 43-37 on a Brewer three-pointer with 13:20 remaining. UA led 48-43 on an Eric Ferguson three four minutes later and 50-46 on a Brewer free throw with 8:37 to go.
MSU went on a 10-2 run and led 56-52 with 1:09 left. Lawrence Roberts, who had a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds, converted a three-point play to tie the game at 52-52. He made a free throw a minute later and Gary Ervin’s three-pointer from the right wing, which hit the front of the rim, bounced straight up and fell through, gave the Bulldogs their four-point lead.
Jonathon Modica hit a three to get Arkansas within one and Ervin was fouled with 21 seconds left. He missed the free throw, but the rebound was long and Ervin tracked it down on the left side of the floor. Fouled again, he made the first for the two-point margin with 15 seconds to go.
Brewer drove into the lane and had his shot partially blocked by Harper with two seconds remaining.
“In the first half, we weren’t doing a good job of rebounding and we dug ourselves into a hole,” UA head coach Stan Heath said. “At halftime, I told them that we weren’t playing aggressively. We needed to go out there and not be timid. We needed to be aggressive and penetrate the zone. That made a big difference for us in the second half.
“We had an outstanding second half and got ourselves back in the game, but we never really got to where we could rebound well enough,” Heath said. “We still kept ourselves in position and had the opportunity to win, especially in the free throw situation (10-14). We had a good effort there. We fought and battled hard, but just came up short.”
Freshman center Darian Townes led Arkansas with 13 points and six rebounds. Brewer finished with 11 points, all in the second half, five rebounds, three assists and two steals with no turnovers. Eric Ferguson scored 10 points and had six assists with just one turnover.
Winsome Frazier added 11 points and four rebounds for Mississippi State, which shot just 35 percent (21-60) and had 15 turnovers to Arkansas’ nine.
The Razorbacks close the regular season Saturday with a 1 p.m. game at Auburn, which is being televised by Jefferson-Pilot Sports.