Southeastern Conference Tournament seeding, NCAA Tournament dreams, and pride were all on the line for the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Saturday in the Humphrey Coliseum.
It all fell in the Bulldogs' favor as they sent seniors Dee Bost, Brian Bryant, and Taylor Luczak out in grand fashion in a crucial 79-59 win over Arkansas.
“I thought our guys came out and did what they were supposed to do,” MSU coach Rick Stansbury said. “You always worry about the emotions (of senior day) and where guys’ minds are and I thought our team was the most energetic on the court. "Sometimes, it is hard to settle down and play. We certainly did that today. We were very good on both ends of the floor. Their full-court pressure was a big factor the first time we played. We made some adjustments and it was not a factor in (Saturday's) game at all.”
The Bulldogs were paced on offense by Arnett Moultrie who had 20 points, many of which came via high-flying dunks, something Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson felt controlled the game.
“The game was simply at their pace," Anderson said. “They do a good job of throwing the lob up there every time you lose (Moultrie) on defense. The only way you’re going to negate size is put bodies on people."
Entering the game, State felt the pressure of having lost its last two games in the Hump and the need to get the win to bolster their tournament resume.
“It’s now or never," Bost said. "It’s my last year and I want to get back to the tournament. We wanted to prove a point (Saturday) and that obviously was something we got done.”
Bost turned in 16 points while fellow senior Bryant knocked down jumper after jumper to add 15 points to the total.
“Brian took advantage of their switching and jumped up to make shots," Stansbury said. “That’s what you need this time of year from him."
The Razorbacks’ only lead was early in the first half at 5-4. The Bulldogs traded baskets with the Hogs until they reeled off six straight points, creating separation and never looked back.
"We wanted to set the tone and play with some energy," Bryant said. "When we were losing games earlier, we were not playing with the intensity you need to play with. Everybody stepped up."
Arkansas connected on just a single field goal over the final 8:51 of the half and the Bulldogs took control heading into the locker room.
"I thought you saw a mindset and a determination," Stansbury said. "When we lost some games earlier, we were losing tight games and some overtime games. It was good to have a game, which didn't come down to the final horn for once. You saw what we did with Kentucky.”
The win improved State’s record to 21-10 overall and 8-8 in league play. The Bulldogs are locked into the sixth-seed in next week’s SEC Tournament in New Orleans, La.
State will face Georgia at 9 p.m. Thursday in an opening-round game at the New Orleans Arena. The first two rounds of the tournament will be televised regionally by the SEC Network, while the semifinals and finals will be shown nationally by ABC.