STARKVILLE, Miss. — Before Saturday, Anthlon Bell had scored two baskets in Arkansas’s last seven games. He was in a funk, and nothing seemed to be helping.
“But I knew that a slump can’t last forever,” Bell said.
And it didn’t. Bell scored a career-high 19 points to lead Arkansas to a 73-69 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday, their first win in Starkville in 12 tries.
“I just stuck with it and made sure I took lots of shots practice,” Bell said. “My dad told me just to stick with it, keep God first and the shots would come.”
Arkansas (18-9, 7-7 Southeastern Conference) shot 44 percent (28-of-64) from the field and hit 8 3-pointers, 7 in the first half. The Razorbacks have now won five of their last six.
“This time of year, a win anywhere is good,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said. “I like where our confidence is. This team is trending in the right direction.”
Bell was 8-of-15 from the floor and 3-of-8 from 3-point range.
“He stays in the gym,” teammate Coty Clarke said. “Today was one of those games where he could put it on display. I’m proud for him.”
Michael Qualls scored 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting and Bobby Portis added 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting for the Razorbacks.
Mississippi State (13-14, 3-11 SEC) also shot 44 percent (26-of-59) from the field, but struggled with turnovers and failed at times to defend the perimeter. The Bulldogs have lost nine games in a row.
Colin Borchert led Mississippi State with 21 points and 7 rebounds.
Roquez Johnson added 11 points and Trivante Bloodman and Craig Sword both chipped in 10 points.
“Colin is really good when he lets the game come to him,” MSU head coach Rick Ray said.
Arkansas opened the game 4-of-5 from beyond the arc and led for most of the first half.
“We started off the game with great energy,” Anderson said. “We made shots, and really put Mississippi State on their heels out of the gate.”
MSU took a brief 15-14 lead, but the Razorbacks immediately hit another 3-pointer, stole the ball twice and hit two quick layups to open back up a six-point lead. Arkansas led 39-35 at the half.
“I thought we were having some success against their full court press,” Ray said. “But then they went to the 2-2-1, which is a softer press, and then shifted into a 2-3 zone. We just weren’t able to penetrate.”
In the second half, MSU pulled to within two points early, but Arkansas never surrendered the lead. MSU made a late rally and trailed 73-69 with 40 seconds remaining, but missed a 3-pointer on its final possession.
“We were fortunate that time ran out,” Anderson said. “They were charging back.”
Arkansas lost the rebounding battle 43-36 but forced 16 Mississippi State turnovers, which it converted to 19 points.