Ben Howland had a chance to pick up his first win in the Southeastern Conference at home on Wednesday but fell one point shy against No. 21 Texas A&M.
Howland’s next opportunity comes today as Mississippi State travels to Arkansas for a 2:30 p.m. tip on the SEC Network.
However, earning a win at Bud Walton Arena has been easier said than done for the Bulldogs. MSU is just 5-20 all-time in the venue with its last win coming in 2011.
Howland is familiar with Bud Walton Arena, having coached there once before during the 1997 National Invitation Tournament while at Northern Arizona. Howland matched wits that day with former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson and lost 101-75.
The environment created by Razorback fans left an impression on Howland and expects the same when he returns today.
“It was a great crowd and an unbelievable atmosphere,” Howland said. “Obviously, they play really well at home with the great atmosphere along with being a really good, well coached team by Mike Anderson.”
The Bulldogs fell 61-41 in Fayetteville last year under former coach Rick Ray. State made just two baskets in the first half and trailed 30-9 at halftime. The Bulldogs committed 24 turnovers in the loss.
Howland has spent the last two days trying to prepare his team to face Arkansas’ famed “40 minutes of hell” full court press defense.
“It’s hard to simulate Arkansas’ defense,” Howland said. “No one else in our conference plays like that – trapping, pressing, doubling. We’re going to have to make plays and be aggressive offensively. When they trap you, you’ve got to be able to take care of the basketball.”
No player on Mississippi State’s roster owns a victory against Arkansas, as the Hogs have won four straight in the series. Arkansas finished off the sweep last season with a 65-61 victory in Starkville.
The Razorbacks lead the all-time series 32-25 overall.
MSU enters today’s outing with a 7-6 record led by senior forward Gavin Ware. Ware has scored in double-digits in all 13 games, pacing the team with 17.5 points and 8.2 rebounds.
Arkansas is 7-7 on the year and off to a 1-1 start in conference play. The Hogs dropped a 92-69 decision at Texas A&M to open the SEC slate but bounced back with a 90-85 overtime win against Vanderbilt at home on Tuesday.
Junior center Moses Kingsley, a native of Nigeria who played two seasons at New Albany, leads Arkansas in scoring (17.1 ppg)