On Wednesday, Arkansas picked up its 7th consecutive win in a 99-73 road win over a Georgia that just a few days later would nearly knock off No. 1 Auburn , falling to the Tigers in a 74-72 thriller. On Wednesday, JD Notae put up an eye-popping stat line against the flagship program from his home state that didn’t offer him a scholarship out of high school, going for 23 points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals, and one block across 32 minutes of action.
Up next on the Razorbacks’ schedule is another revenge game of sorts for Notae as the Hogs face the Mississippi State Bulldogs (14-7, 5-3) at home on Saturday. The senior guard missed the first matchup between these two teams due to an undisclosed illness. His absence played a role in Arkansas’ 81-68 road loss to the Bulldogs, their third loss in four games.
Since that first matchup against the Hogs, Mississippi State has gone 4-4, including 4-3 in SEC play with a loss on the road against Texas Tech in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. The Bulldogs lost to Ole Miss who is ranked 105th in the NET rankings before turning around and beating Alabama (currently No. 22 in NET rankings) a week later. While the Bulldogs haven’t shown much consistency, they’re a dangerous team capable of knocking off nearly anyone. A six-point overtime loss on the road against Kentucky shows that.
What to Expect When Mississippi State Has the Ball
Iverson Molinar is the clear focal point for the Bulldogs’ offense. He is averaging 18.1 points, 4.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game on nearly 50% shooting from the field and 88% shooting from the free-throw line. Despite the absence of their on-court leader in Notae, the Hogs limited Molinar to fewer points (16) and steals (0) than his season average.
They also didn’t allow Molinar to make a single 3-pointer despite shooting over 30% from long range prior to that game. Since that first matchup, Molinar has averaged 20.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.9 steals per game on over 56% FG shooting.
Last time the teams met, a 6-10 big man, Tolu Smith, torched the Hogs for 63% shooting on his way to a team-high 18 points, six rebounds, and five steals. The junior forward averages 1.4 steals per game. He also forced his way to the free-throw line 10 times against the Hogs, his highest free throw total of the season.
However, Smith suffered a knee injury during the Bulldogs’ game against Ole Miss on January 22nd. While an MRI revealed no structural damage to the big man’s knee, Smith hasn’t played since this incident. He’s been labeled as week-to-week with no updated timetable for return.
Shakeel Moore, a 6-1 sophomore, lit up the Hogs from long range during the first meeting between these teams, shooting 3-4 from distance and scoring 15 points to go along with his five assists and four steals. The return of JD Notae’s defense could play a huge role in limiting the guard’s efficiency during this rematch. The senior guard’s return to the lineup will also limit the minutes of Chris Lykes and Jaxson Robinson, neither of which have excelled on the defensive side of the ball this season (though they were both forced into an above-average amount of minutes played last time these two teams met).
What to Expect When Arkansas Has the Ball
Stanley Umude had his best game as a Razorback in his last outing against Georgia, scoring a season-high 31 points on 6-8 (75%) three-point shooting to go along with four rebounds, four assists, two steals, and two blocks. He shot 60% from the field overall and went 1-2 from the charity stripe. This was Umude’s fourth time in his last five games to score 12 or more points, and the 11th time this season he’s scored in double digits. His ability to be a consistent scoring threat will not only aid the Hogs against Mississippi State, but it could prove to be the difference in potential matchups down the road with tournament implications.
JD Notae is coming off of his most well-rounded game of the season while shooting 64% from the field and 57% from long range. His leadership and growth as an offensive playmaker are remarkable to see and will continue to be a factor down the stretch of the season. He’s likely chomping at the bit to take the court against Mississippi State after not being able to help his team avoid a loss the first time around.
Jaylin Williams continued his stretch of impressive games, notching his eighth consecutive double-digit scoring game with 14 points to go along with eight rebounds, two blocks, one steal, and one assist. With Mississippi State losing the presence of Tolu Smith in the paint, Williams has yet another opportunity for a strong performance. Prior to Smith going down with injury, Mississippi State held its opponents to 48% shooting from inside the arc. In his seven-game absence, opponents have shot nearly 56% from inside the arc against the Bulldogs. Since his injury, Smith has been replaced in the lineup by 6-7 sophomore, Cameron Matthews, who is averaging four points and five rebounds per game.
Arkansas vs Mississippi State: What to Watch For
Despite the loss of their star big man, Mississippi State still ranks 1st in the SEC in fewest total rebounds per game allowed to opponents. Aside from Smith, the Bulldogs still have six players averaging at least three rebounds per game, including three players averaging at least 4.7 RPG in D.J. Jeffries (4.7), Cameron Matthews (5.1), and Garrison Brooks (6.4). The Hogs also have six players averaging at least three rebounds per game, but only Au’Diese Toney (5.3) and Jaylin Williams (9.1) top the 4.7 RPG mark. During the six-game stretch in which the Hogs lost five out of six, they averaged only 30 rebounds per game as a team during losses. In their last seven games, all wins, Arkansas is averaging over 36 rebounds per game as a team.
Perhaps the biggest change from the last time these teams met will be the Hogs’ rotation. Sure, JD Notae’s absence played a big role. But also consider the Hogs had not yet switched to their supersized starting five that has brought them so much success as of late. In their first matchup, Arkansas started Chris Lykes (in place of Notae), Devo Davis, and Jaxson Robinson to go along with Trey Wade and Jaylin Williams.
It wasn’t until three games later against the Missouri Tigers that head coach Eric Musselman rolled out the starting five of Notae, Toney, Wade, Williams, and Kamani Johnson. A minor injury to Johnson sidelined him long enough for Umude to take over his role as a starter, but the Hogs’ defense hasn’t faltered – aside from perhaps giving up 47 points to Georgia in the first half of their last game.
Since the Hogs made this rotation shakeup seven games ago, they have held their opponents to 28% from behind the arc after allowing a startling 37% from long range prior to the lineup change. They’re also holding opponents to only 37% from the field during their current winning streak compared to 44% prior to the Missouri win. Mississippi State shot only 29% from 3-point range in their first meeting with the Hogs, but they also shot 46% from the field as a whole. Don’t be surprised to see that efficiency drop in light of Tolu Smith’s absence and the way Arkansas’s new defensive-minded lineup has played recently.
Arkansas vs Mississippi State Prediction
ESPN’s BPI gives Arkansas a 63% chance to defeat Mississippi State in Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas is searching for their eighth consecutive victory and seventh consecutive conference victory, as well as revenge against an SEC opponent.
The stifling defense of the Hogs will be too much for Iverson Molinar to overcome by himself. Mississippi State will be limited to one of its worst shooting performances of the season – they currently shoot 33% from long range on the season – and the Razorbacks will roll to another conference victory.
Arkansas wins 77-69
How to Watch Arkansas vs Mississippi State
Mississippi State Bulldogs (14-7, 5-3)
Arkansas Razorbacks (17-5, 6-3)
Where: Fayetteville, AR
Date: Saturday, February 5th
Time: 7:30 PM CT
TV: SEC Network / ESPN App (Kevin Fitzgerald and Dane Bradshaw)
Online: Watch ESPN
Radio: Learfield Razorback Sports Network (Chuck Barrett and Matt Zimmerman)
Arkansas vs Mississippi State Game Notes
- This will be the 67th all-time meeting between Arkansas and Mississippi State. The Razorbacks own a 34-32 advantage in the series. Since Arkansas basketball joined the SEC for the 1991-92 season, Arkansas holds a 29-28 advantage.
- The Razorbacks’ current seven-game winning streak is the program’s best since winning nine straight last season (finale eight regular-season games and vs. Missouri in the SEC Tournament)
- The Hogs have won six straight SEC games, which is the the most since w 10-straight vs SEC competition streak last season when you include the win over Missouri in the SEC Tournament.