FINAL: Arkansas 98, No. 15 MSU 88

Recapping No. 15 Mississippi State’s 98-88 loss to Arkansas at Bud Walton Arena on Saturday night.

The buzz: Well, this was unexpected. Perhaps. MSU simply could not handle the Arkansas press and looked lost the entire game, and the Hogs (12-3, 1-0 SEC) got a big night from its guards, especially Julysses Nobles and B.J. Young. MSU (13-3, 0-1) really couldn’t do anything right. But DeVille Smith‘s stat line is pretty.

Turning point: The tone was set early when Arkansas used an 8-0 run to take a 14-7 lead. From that point, MSU was completely flummoxed by the press, committing 11 turnovers in the first half alone. It was 43-37 at halftime, and that quickly swelled to a 14-point lead, then eventually a 20-point gap.

MVP: Smith, who had a career-high 25 points in 18 minutes, with 19 points in the second half. Shooting numbers below.

MSU leaders: Smith 25 points (6-8 FGs, 3-3 3FGs, 10-11 FTs); Dee Bost 21 points (6-13 FGs, 0-6 3FGs, 9-13 FTs), 6 turnovers, 3 assists; Rodney Hood 17 points (5-12 FGs, 2-5 3FGs, 5-5 FTs), 5 rebounds; Arnett Moultrie 9 points (4-6 FGs, 1-1 FTs), 10 rebounds, 5 fouls.

Arkansas leaders: Nobles 24 points (7-11 FGs, 4-7 3FGs, 6-7 FTs), 7 assists; Young 24 points (10-13 FGs, 2-4 3FGs, 2-2 FTs), 2 steals; Michael Sanchez 12 points (4-5 FGs, 4-5 FTs), 4 rebounds; Mardracus Wade 12 points (5-6 FGs), 5 assists; Rashad Madden 11 points (3-6 FGs, 5-6 FTs).

Key stats: MSU commmitted 18 turnovers, Arkansas 9; Arkansas shot 67.9 percent in the second half, 56.5 percent overall; MSU shot 51.9 percent overall, 45 percent (9-20) from 3-point range; Arkansas outscored MSU in the paint, 46-28; Arkansas had 10 fast-break points, MSU had 2.

Highlight reel: About the only highlight I saw for State was an alley-oop to Moultrie in the second half, making it 57-45 Arkansas.

Quotable: “They beat us so many different ways on that dribble. About every way you could get beat on it, they found ways to beat us with it. We changed up and went zone some to slow down the dribble, they knocked down two threes in a row against that. We weren’t very good defensively.” – MSU coach Rick Stansbury

Bottom line: This is a bad loss in all sorts of ways. It’s a condemnation of MSU’s – and more specifically, Stansbury’s – ability to prepare for a different kind of team. With a whole week to do so. This was one of the worst performances – relative to talent level, expectation and everything else – that I’ve seen from MSU in a long time.

Up next: MSU hosts Tennessee on Thursday at Humphrey Coliseum. The Volunteers beat No. 13 Florida earlier today.