<
>

Arkansas' second half rally falls short

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- A 5-11 guard from Brooklyn, N.Y.,
provided the winning edge Tuesday night in a 57-55 victory by
Mississippi State over Arkansas.

Gary Ervin scored just 4 points, but they were the last points
scored by the Bulldogs as they came back from a momentum-swinging
surge by Arkansas in the first few minutes of the second half.

"He has just enough Brooklyn in him," Mississippi State coach
Rick Stansbury said. "I felt comfortable with him in the game."

Ervin hit a three-pointer with 1:08 left to give the Bulldogs
(21-8, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) a 56-52 lead.

"You've got to have confidence to do what you do," Ervin said.
"I was really pumped up."

Arkansas got within one when Jonathon Modica hit a 3-pointer,
but Ervin widened the gap -- and provided the final margin -- by
making a free throw with 17.1 seconds left.

A desperation heave by Arkansas guard Ronnie Brewer on the
Razorbacks' final possession fell short.

With 4:13 remaining, Lawrence Roberts, who had a team-high 13
points and 10 rebounds, tied the game at 53 points each on a
3-point play and then later hit a free throw to give the Bulldogs a
53-52 advantage.

The win was important for the Bulldogs as they try to make a
case for an NCAA Tournament berth.

"We [usually] don't think about the NCAA Tournament,"
Stansbury said. "This is the first time we talked about it. We had
to create some urgency."

Mississippi State, which led 33-24 at intermission, fell behind
less than four minutes into the final period. Arkansas (18-10,
6-9), which hit only 34 percent of its shots in the game, got hot
early in the half and erased a nine-point deficit.

After Brewer scored his first 5 points of the game, Arkansas
guard Olu Famutimi broke up a pass at midcourt and rattled home a
fast-break dunk to give the Razorbacks a 38-36 lead their first
since the 10:40 mark of the first half.

The Razorbacks built the lead to 48-43, with 9:35 left in the
game. But Mississippi State responded.

"The team has five seniors on the court," Arkansas coach Stan
Heath said. "They were going to give us their best shot."

The loss likely knocked Arkansas out of the running for an NCAA
Tournament bid, unless the Razorbacks win the SEC tournament next
week to earn the league's automatic invitation.

"It was real frustrating," Brewer said. "We let our destiny
slip through our hands."

In the opening 20 minutes, Mississippi State's defense allowed
Arkansas to make just 26 percent of its shots from the field. The
Razorbacks did not make their first field goal until 3:56 into the
game when freshman center Darian Townes, who scored a team-high 13
points, hit a 15-foot jump shot.

The Bulldogs, meanwhile, held Brewer -- who leads Arkansas with
an average of 16.4 points per game -- scoreless for the entire half,
and shut down the Razorbacks' perimeter offense. Arkansas missed
all eight of its 3-pointers in the opening period.