NCAA Basketball

Newly ranked Arkansas travels to Mississippi State

The last time Arkansas played a true road game, on Dec. 2 against Houston, the Razorbacks played one of their worst games in a 26-point loss.

They are now riding a six-game winning streak, including two wins over top-20 programs, earning them a No. 22 ranking this week in the AP Top 25 Poll released Monday.

The top-25 ranking is the program's first since the final poll of the 2014-15 season.

Arkansas (11-2, 1-0 SEC) travels to Mississippi State (12-1) on Tuesday for its second true road game in the Bulldogs' Southeastern Conference opener.

"It's going to be a tremendous challenge but it's a great opportunity for us to go out and play a lot better the last time we went out on the road," Anderson said of the 91-65 loss against Houston. "We have to match the intensity. The sense of urgency has to be there.

"We're going to get punched. We have to punch back. We cannot panic. We have to deal with the adversity."

Arkansas' top two scorers -- Jaylen Barford (19.3 points a game) and Daryl Macon (16.7) -- combined to score only 23 points against Houston on 6-of-21 shooting from the field.

"We've got to shoot the ball well; shooting the ball well cures a lot of ills when you're on the road," said Anderson, whose team shot only 34.5 percent at Houston.

Arkansas' 95-93 overtime victory over No. 19 Tennessee last Saturday gave the Razorbacks multiple top-20 wins in a season for the seventh time in the last 13 years. The Razorbacks also beat No. 14 Minnesota at home on Dec. 9.

Arkansas leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring offense (90.4 points per game), scoring margin (plus-15.8), 3-point field goal percentage (.409), turnover margin (plus-5.5) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6).

Following Arkansas' win over No. 19 Tennessee, the Razorbacks jumped to No. 4 in the NCAA's official RPI rankings through games of Dec. 31. Arkansas is 2-1 against top 15 RPI teams with wins over the Volunteers, who sit at 12, and Oklahoma, which is No. 3 in the nation.

The game will be the SEC opener for Mississippi State, which isn't participating in the midseason Big 12/SEC Challenge. Therefore, the Bulldogs played a nonconference opponent Saturday, beating North Florida 109-81 to extend their winning streak to four.

Mississippi State, which is No. 74 in the NCAA RPI rankings, suffered its lone loss at Cincinnati 65-50 on Dec. 12. The Bulldogs have not played a daunting schedule. Their lone wins against Top 100 RPI teams are over No. 88 Dayton (6-7) and No. 98 North Dakota State (8-6).

"Basically, we have 18 Cincinnatis coming around the corner needless to say, although I am ecstatic about being 12-1," said Mississippi State coach Ben Howland, whose team is off to its best start since the 2011-12 season. "Now, it's time to get into the grind. The grind starts Tuesday and does not let up until the SEC tournament. However, I think we are ready."

Howland is hoping for another big game from junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon, who when he has scored 20 or more points in his career, Mississippi State has compiled a 12-2 record.

Weatherspoon leads the Bulldogs with 14.1 points a game. Junior forward Aric Holman is next with 13.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Holman had a career-high 23 points against North Florida.

"I think we need to start conference play right now," Holman said. "Everyone is feeling good right now. That is when you want to start playing conference games. When everybody has that good feeling and the team is play well, you want to see how you measure up."

The Razorbacks beat Mississippi State twice last year, once in Bud Walton Arena and once in the SEC Tournament. The last time the two teams met in Starkville was in 2016 and Mississippi State won 76-60.

Updated January 2, 2018

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