Turnovers doom out-of-sync Arkansas in loss to Mississippi State

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Lacking its best player and one of its top big men, Arkansas was in no position to open SEC play with a win.

Mississippi State took advantage of a short-handed Razorbacks squad and won both teams’ SEC openers, 81-68, on Wednesday evening in Starkville.

Arkansas (10-3, 0-1 in SEC) announced minutes before the game that guard JD Notae, the team’s leading scorer (second in the SEC) would miss the game because of an undisclosed illness. The team also announced Kamani Johnson, who had his best game of the season last time out against Elon, was indefinitely suspended from the team. No reason was given.

The Razorbacks looked disheveled without them. Mississippi State (10-3, 1-0) won nearly every meaningful statistic and took away Arkansas’ strength of getting to the inside on offense. Without Notae, Arkansas forced the issue, committing 17 turnovers, which led to 25 Mississippi State points.

Arkansas entered the game allowing opponents to grab about seven offensive rebounds a game, the best mark in the SEC. But without Johnson on the interior, the Bulldogs racked up 15 offensive boards. Tolu Smith was especially dominant on the interior, scoring 18 points and getting six rebounds.

Shakeel Moore, Iverson Molinar and D.J. Jeffries joined Smith in double figures with 16, 15 and 10 points, respectively.

Stanley Umude led Arkansas in scoring with 19. Devo Davis added 15 points and Chris Lykes had 10.

Arkansas returns to Bud Walton Arena to start SEC play at home on Tuesday against Vanderbilt.