Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Pick & Prediction FEBRUARY 17th 2024

Mississippi State finally won its first true road game of the season and won consecutive Southeastern Conference games for the first time this season.

Now the Bulldogs (16-8, 5-6 SEC) will try to reach .500 in league play and strengthen their NCAA Tournament resume when they face Arkansas (12-12, 3-8) on Saturday in Starkville, Miss.

Coach Chris Jans said the Bulldogs’ week-long break since a 75-51 win over Missouri came at “the perfect time,” though it’s unclear whether it was enough time for forward D.J. Jeffries — one of their top defenders and rebounders — to recover after missing two games due to a knee injury.

Jans was pleased with the defensive performance in the win over Missouri after recent struggles in that realm.

“We’re trying to kind of get back to our baseline,” Jans said of an aggressive defensive mentality. “Last year’s team was one of the better teams at turning people over, and we generated a lot of offense off our defense. Our offensive numbers are better this year, and it’s almost like (prior to Missouri win) we’d gotten away from who we need to be and how we need to play.”

The players were also pleased with the effort against the Tigers.

“We can put our minds to anything, and we can beat anybody,” guard Shakeel Moore said. “I just feel like if we continue to trust each other, continue to play our roles and play the way we’re supposed to play everything will fall into place.”

Now they have some momentum, which forward Cameron Matthews said is “really huge for us for the rest of the month and going into March.”

Arkansas, meanwhile, has been reaching negative milestones. Its 92-63 loss to No. 8 Tennessee on Wednesday was the fifth time this season that the Razorbacks lost a conference game by more than 20 points.

The Volunteers had the highest shooting percentage of an Arkansas opponent this season (56.9), just four days after the host Razorbacks defeated Georgia 78-75.

“It’s frustrating to have a well-played performance last game and come out and play the way we did (against Tennessee),” guard El Ellis said. “In stretches like the second half we’ve really just got to play harder.”

Arkansas was outscored 46-23 in the second half, trailing by as many as 32 points, and shot just 25.8 percent after halftime, making just 2 of 10 3-pointers.

“Not good either half defensively,” coach Eric Musselman said. “We didn’t play hard enough in the second half defensively. Plain and simple.”

–Field Level Media

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