FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Marshawn Powell scored 25 points in his Southeastern Conference debut to lead the Arkansas men’s basketball team on Thursday night, but despite coming back from a 19-point first-half deficit, the Razorbacks could nottake down the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the closing moments, falling 82-80 at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, Miss.
Arkansas (7-9, 0-1 SEC) drops its SEC opener to the Bulldogs for the second straight season while Mississippi State (14-3, 2-0 SEC) holds on to pick up its second conference win against West Division opponents
A three-point game with 25 seconds left on the clock, the Razorbacks came a long way back to make it close, but a costly turnover in the closing moments put the Bulldogs on the free throw line and secured the home victory. Powell was huge in the final 20 minutes of the game as he took over the Razorback offense by scoring 21 of the Hogs 41 second-half points. His 25-point effort is the second highest of his young career as the Newport News, Va., native went 10-16 from the floor and 5-7 from the free throw line.
The Bulldogs jumped out to the early lead which grew thanks to stunning shooting that saw them hit 11 of their first 12 shots midway through the opening half. The Razorbacks, down by as many as 19 in the opening period, would go on an 8-0 run late in the half to close the Mississippi State lead down to nine as the four minute mark approached on two quick three-point baskets by Courtney Fortson and Marcus Britt and a layup by Mike Washington. The Bulldogs would finish the half with a 12-point, 51-39 lead and were the beneficiaries of a startling 61 percent shooting from the floor. Conversely, Arkansas shot a respectable 45 percent over the opening 20 minutes, but the number was not enough to counter the Bulldogs home court advantage.
Arkansas began a hard fought comeback early in the second half, scoring 12 of the first 19 points and cutting the Mississippi State lead down to seven. The deficit would remain in single digits for two minutes before the Bulldogs’ Dee Bost buried a three from the corner move the lead to 10 for Mississippi State.
Following an Arkansas timeout Powell scored a basket from under the rim to make it an eight-point contest with 12:37 left. After the Bulldogs increased their lead back to 13, Arkansas again went on a spirited run that cut deep in to the Mississippi State lead with under five to play. Getting to the free throw line started the Razorback spurt and following a big Stef Welsh three pointer, Powell followed up with a basket in the interior to make it a six-point game, 73-67.
Feeling the heat, Mississippi State picked up a pair of baskets to stretch the lead to nine, but Powell came right back with a basket and drew a foul for an old fashioned three-point play. With the clock under four minutes, Arkansas trailed 78-72. The Razorbacks continued to feed their hot hand in Powell down the stretch as he scored 11 points in the final four-plus minutes.
Arkansas had an opportunity in the closing moments to potentially tie the game or take the lead, but it would not come to fruition and the Razorbacks lose their closest game to Mississippi State in Starkville since defeating the Bulldogs during the 2000 season.
Powell led the Razorbacks with 25 points while Fortson contributed 20 including 16 in the opening half. Mike Washington was also in double figures with 16 points. Rotnei Clarke continued his steady march to the Razorbacks’ single-season three-point basket record with two long balls on the day. The sophomore from Verdigris, Okla., now has 57 three pointers on the year and is 46 behind Scotty Thurman’s school record of 103 which he set during the 1995 season.
The Razorbacks are back on the floor on Saturday afternoon when they host the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bud Walton Arena with a 12:47 p.m. start. For more information regarding Razorback men’s basketball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.