Rogelio V. Solis
February 21, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Arkansas couldn't make any shots and struggled to grab rebounds, a two-part mix that usually results in a loss. Especially on the road.

But the Razorbacks still had their defense. And after 40 minutes of pressure and fighting and clawing, they managed to claim their sixth straight victory.

No. 18 Arkansas rallied to beat Mississippi State 65-61 on Saturday, holding the Bulldogs scoreless for a crucial 6-minute stretch late in the game. Rashad Madden led the Razorbacks (22-5, 11-3 SEC) with 16 points and Michael Qualls added 14, but the real reason for the win was on the defensive end.

''We found a way to escape,'' Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. ''That's what you've got to do. It wasn't very pretty but I've never seen an ugly win.''

Mississippi State (12-15, 5-9) looked as if it had a good chance to pull the upset until its offense fell apart down the stretch. The Bulldogs went nearly 8 minutes without a field goal until Craig Sword made a 3-pointer with 33.1 seconds remaining to cut the Razorbacks' lead to 60-57.

Mississippi State pulled to 61-59, but Arkansas' Anton Beard had a crucial steal with 12 seconds remaining to seal the win.

Sword led Mississippi State with 15 points. Gavin Ware added 13 points and nine rebounds, but the Bulldogs couldn't overcome 23 turnovers.

''I'm frustrated by the fact we lost this game,'' Mississippi State coach Rick Ray said. ''I think we're doing some really good things on the court, but we've got to figure out a way to win a ball game like this.''

It was a much more competitive game than the first matchup between these two teams. Arkansas embarrassed Mississippi State in Fayetteville on Feb. 7, taking a 30-9 halftime lead and cruising to the victory.

Arkansas struggled with its shooting touch the entire afternoon and trailed 33-32 at halftime. The Razorbacks stayed in the game by forcing 11 first-half turnovers - largely because of its full-court press.

The game was feisty early, especially after Arkansas' Jacorey Williams was called for a flagrant foul after a hard hit on Mississippi State's Roquez Johnson when he was going up for a fast-break dunk. The Bulldogs shot 13 of 29 (44.8 percent) in the first half, led by Ware's eight points and seven rebounds.

Arkansas looked as if it might take control early in the second half, jumping out to a 40-36 lead, but Mississippi State stayed close until the end. The Bulldogs shot just 9 of 24 (37.5 percent) in the second half.

Arkansas' Bobby Portis - who Anderson said was battling an illness the past few days and hadn't practiced recently - made two free throws with 5:25 remaining to put the Razorbacks ahead for good. The 6-foot-11 forward had 13 points, including 12 in the second half, and nine rebounds.

Four Arkansas players scored in double figures, which helped overcome the relatively slow night for Portis, who is averaging nearly 18 points per game this season.

''We're very deep and on any given night any player can pick up the slack for another player,'' Qualls said.

TIP-INS

Arkansas: The Razorbacks have won eight of their last 12 road games in conference play dating to last season. Arkansas has won nine of its last 10 overall.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs' starting point guard I.J. Ready didn't play Saturday because of an ankle injury suffered against Ole Miss on Thursday night.

UP NEXT

Arkansas hosts Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

Mississippi State hosts Kentucky on Wednesday night.

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