Mississippi St 84, Arkansas 54

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STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI (TICKER)—Mario Austin scored 19 points and Ontario Harper added 14 as 24th-ranked Mississippi State recorded its fifth victory in six games with an 84-54 rout of Arkansas in a Southeastern Conference matchup.

Austin and Harper collected five points apiece during the opening 6:20 of the contest, when the Bulldogs (15-5, 5-4 SEC West) outscored the Razorbacks 20-7.

A junior center, Austin also grabbed 12 rebounds to record his fourth double-double of the season and the 11th of his career.

“I think now everyone is really buying into what we’re trying to do here,” Austin said. “We kind of lost it at the beginning of the year, but we’ve picked it back up. But now the guys are playing hard and things are really starting to come together.”

“We started out 0-3 in the league,” Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury said. “We had the chance to lose a lot of confidence after those games. I’m proud we’ve been able to bounce back.”

After Arkansas’ Michael Jones made a 3-pointer, Mississippi State embarked on a 17-3 outburst over the next 4 1/2 minutes. Winsome Frazier tallied seven points during the surge and Lincoln Smith capped it, converting a pair of free throws with 7:55 left in the first half and opening a 37-13 cushion.

Frazier chipped in 12 points in 13 minutes off the bench during the contest. The sophomore hit Mississippi State’s fifth shot from the arc in the opening 20 minutes and fellow reserve Branden Vincent made a pair of free throws with a second remaining and gave the Bulldogs a commanding 52-18 halftime advantage.

The 52-point opening period marked the highest scoring half by Mississippi State against an SEC foe since the Bulldogs tallied 54 in the first period against Alabama on February 24, 1996.

“We’ve not gone in (at halftime) up 34 points against anybody,” Stansbury said. “We played awfully good that first half, offensively and defensively. Defensively, we were pretty special.”

Arkansas only managed to close the deficit to 24 after the break.

Freshman Eric Ferguson paced Arkansas with 13 points. But the Razorbacks (7-12, 2-6) dropped their 13th straight road game, including all six this season.

“They create a lot of things off of their defense,” Razorbacks coach Stan Heath said. “They force you to take bad shots that end up being long rebounds and end up being fast-break points.”

Mississippi State entered the weekend ranked second in the conference in scoring defense (61.6 points per game) and field-goal percentage (39.7 percent) and Stansbury’s team enjoyed another strong defensive performance on Saturday.

The Bulldogs held the Razorbacks to just 5-of-30 shooting in the first half (16.7 percent) and 17-of-68 for the game (25 percent).

Jones was the only other Razorback in double figures with 11 points. Arkansas freshman Jonathon Modica, who came off back-to-back 26-point outings, made just 1-of-11 shots for four points.

Mississippi State recorded its fourth straight home win over Arkansas and improved to 12-21 in their all-time series.

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