Arkansas has righted the direction of its season and looks for a sixth win in seven games against visiting Mississippi State in Southeastern Conference play at Fayetteville, Ark.
The Razorbacks (17-7, 6-5 SEC) have won three straight games and seemingly wiped away the memories of going 4-5 in a January, including a four-game losing streak.
The Razorbacks’ defense – particularly that of guards Anthony Black and Davonte Davis – has paved the way for success, which was evident in Tuesday’s 88-73 victory at Kentucky.
The 6-foot-7 Black was all over the stat sheet, posting 19 points, five steals, five assists and four rebounds. Davis added 15 points, seven assists and two steals.
Just over a minute into the second half, Black, a freshman, managed a pair of steals and breakaway dunks that turned a one-point lead into a quick five-point advantage.
With Arkansas up by 16 points with four minutes left, some Kentucky fans started filing toward the exits.
“Defensively, we got much better in the second half,” said Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman, who recorded his 200th collegiate win. “Our guard play to start the second half, with Anthony Black’s steals, (was) extremely important. We’ve not been turning people over as much as we would like, but tonight that changed.”
Winners of four straight contests, Mississippi State (16-8, 4-7) has recently recorded double-digit victories over South Carolina, Missouri and LSU.
With an offensively challenged group at times, coach Chris Jans turned to his bench and found instant offense from guard Shakeel Moore.
A left-handed sharpshooter who started at North Carolina State, Moore has provided a spark since Jans made him a starter on Jan. 25 at then-No. 2 Alabama. He has averaged 13.5 points in the four wins.
“I’ve been telling him to shoot more,” Jans said. “He’s turned down too many shots. He’s a guard, and he’s a scorer. He’s got to have that confidence internally. He’s got a wonderful shot fake. It’s a heck of a weapon.
“But it’s almost been to the point where he relies on it too much and he turns shots down we think he should take. And I hear his teammates tell him the same thing.”
–Field Level Media