FAYETTEVILLE — Two of the SEC’s early hot teams face each other Saturday in cooled off dismay.

The Arkansas Razorbacks, 16-8 overall, 4-7 in the SEC, and the Mississippi State Bulldogs, 15-9, 6-5 in the SEC, both felt better about themselves going into their Jan. 22 game at Starkville, Miss., than either do going into Saturday’s noon SEC Network televised rematch at Walton Arena.

First-year Arkansas coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks were 14-3, 3-2 in the SEC and played hard and respectably losing their previous game, 73-66 to then No. 10 Kentucky before again playing hard and respectably but again losing, 77-70 to Mississippi State at the Bulldogs’ Humphrey Coliseum.

Arkansas’ most recent two games, an 83-79 overtime SEC loss last Saturday in Columbia, Missouri, to sub-.500 Missouri and its first blowout loss, 82-61 Tuesday at SEC rival Tennessee, marked the first times that Musselman said the Hogs didn’t play harder or at least as hard as their opponent.

The Bulldogs don’t feel good, either.

They come off an effort that Mississippi State coach Ben Howland said, “stinks” after host Ole Miss on Tuesday battered the Bulldogs 83-58 in Oxford, Mississippi.

“Two teams both coming into the game hungry for a win,” Musselman said.

Howland asserted postgame Tuesday night in Oxford his team better be hungry coming to Fayetteville.

“That pain that you deal with is going to have to drive you to come back and come together and really give our best effort the remainder of the way, including this week in a very important game that we have on Saturday,” Howland said. “I mean, it just keeps coming. We have to bounce back. We can’t let this loss beat us twice.”

Arkansas craves breaking a three-game SEC skid with an overtime loss to No. 11 SEC leader Auburn at Walton preceding the losses at Mizzou and at Tennessee.

Of course, the Hogs also crave evening the score against Mississippi State in this season’s first SEC rematch.

While the Hogs played with fierce intensity at Starkville and had sophomore shooting star guard Isaiah Joe playing instead of about to miss his fourth consecutive game since undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, they were the same victims of foul play against Mississippi State victimizing them against Missouri and Tennessee.

The Razorbacks only committed 15 fouls against Mississippi State compared to their frequent fouling 32 times at Mizzou and 26 at Tennessee.

But the fouls Arkansas committed sent the Bulldogs to the line 31 times in Starkville.

Mississippi State sank 27, including 14 of 15 by 6-foot-10 Bulldogs star forward Reggie Perry.

Perry overwhelmed Arkansas with a 26 points, 13 rebounds double-double and dished three assists and blocked two shots.

The Hogs way too often, Musselman said upon film review retrospect, they fouled Perry needlessly in bonus one-and-one situations.

“We’ve got to get better at not fouling people when they’re not in a scoring area.”

They can’t gift Perry, averaging 17.7 points and 9.9 rebounds, more than he normally gets but he’s going to get plenty.

“Everybody knows right now, Reggie Perry is going to score,” Musselman said. “And he’s going to rebound. So it’s a matter of, how much can we get that down?”

And it’s not like Perry is a one-man team.

Bulldogs starting guards DJ Stewart, and especially point guard Nick Weatherspoon, six assists versus zero turnovers, and reserve guard Tyson Carter, hurt Arkansas scoring 14, 11 and 10 on the Hogs in Starkville.

Off their game in Starkville, it may seem the Hogs won’t much miss Joe from a rare (2 for 13) bad shooting night.

But Joe does so much more than score.

Arkansas battled the Bulldogs to the wire in Starkville in part because of other things Joe, a tall guard at 6-5, does defensively, like his defensive rebounds in Starkville with a steal and offensively dishing three assists.

Jones, 20 points, seven rebounds and four assists, and foul drawing drive to the basket/mid-range jump shooting guard Jimmy Whitt, offensively paced Arkansas in Starkville scoring 20 points each.

Jones scored 40 against Auburn, his first game minus Joe from the surgery but Mizzou and Tennessee overplayed their defenses on him. It worked.

Jones shot but 3 for 14 from the field at Mizzou and 1 for 10 at Tennessee.

So Whitt, guards Desi Sills and Jalen Harris and starting forwards Adrio Bailey and Reggie Chaney all have to step up offensively and defensively on the boards Musselman said to make the Bulldogs pay if they overplay on Jones.

“We can’t, as a team just rely on Mason to get 35,” Musselman said. “Other players have to make open shots.”

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