State Extends SEC West Lead

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

Charles Rhodes scored 24 points and Barry Stewart added 19 as Mississippi State beat Arkansas 80-74 Saturday to take control of the Southeastern Conference's Western Division.

The Bulldogs (17-7, 8-2 SEC) squandered a 13-point halftime lead in the opening minutes of the second half, but battled back for their eighth straight win at home over the Razorbacks (17-7, 6-4).

The win gives Mississippi State a two-game lead over the Arkansas in the SEC West with six games left in the regular season. No other team is over .500 in the division.

Rhodes had 19 of his 24 points in the first half, while Stewart hit three 3-pointers. Jarvis Varnado finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds and added to his single-season school record with two more blocks.

Mississippi State transfer Gary Ervin led Arkansas with 15 points. Sonny Weems had 14 points, while Patrick Beverley scored 11 and Darius Townes chipped in 10.

Mississippi State had runs of 11-2 and 12-3 in the first half and Rhodes hit 8 of 12 shots as the Bulldogs built a 47-34 at halftime lead. But the Razorbacks opened the second half with a 19-4 run to take a 53-51 lead.

The Bulldogs retook the lead with about 6 minutes left on two free throws by Stewart. A layup by Jamont Gordon and two free throws from Varnado extended the lead to five. Arkansas twice pulled to within three points in the final 3 1/2 minutes, but Rhodes sealed the win with a pair of late free throws.

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