FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – After a cold-shooting first half and his team trailing by eight at intermission, Courtney Fortson scored 33 of his career-high 35 points in the second half Thursday evening to lead the Razorback men's basketball team past Mississippi State, 67-62. A small, but lively crowd of 4,113 fans braved the elements to cheer Arkansas on to victory at Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas snapped a modest two-game skid to improve to 9-11 with a 2-3 mark in Southeastern Conference play. With the win, the Razorbacks avenge a loss earlier in the season to Mississippi State (15-5, 3-2) on the road. Stef Welsh chipped in 12 points, including a game-tying layup with 4:29 remaining in the game. Marshawn Powell added nine points and nine rebounds to the cause.
The cold outside crept inside the building as both teams struggled to sink baskets on any type of consistent basis in the first half. Mississippi State hit 10 of 40 first half shots for 25 percent and the Razorbacks were 6-25 for 24 percent. A combined 12 turnovers led to a halftime score of 29-21.
Mississippi State jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, but Arkansas scored the next two baskets including a Rotnei Clarke three to make it 5-4. The Bulldogs returned the favor with six straight points to take a 10-5 lead and would not trail again over the opening 20 minutes. Mississippi State built a lead as large as 12 in the closing moments of the opening 20 minutes, but a pair of three-point baskets by Welsh made it an eight-point game at the break.
Early in the second half, the Bulldogs built maintained their advantage and kept Arkansas at arm's length. The visitors led by 11, 49-38, with 10:05 left in the game, but the Razorbacks began chipping away. Trailing by 10 with 8:11 on the clock, Arkansas went on a 9-0 run to cut its deficit to one. Fortson scored six of the nine points during the streak. Mississippi State responded with four points to extend its lead but the Razorbacks rallied again to even the score at 55-all on the layup by Welsh.
Fortson's free throw with 2:57 remaining gave the Hogs their first lead of the half and the home team would never trail again. Arkansas built its lead to four, 61-57, on another driving bucket by Fortson, and in the final minute of the game, the Razorbacks were perfect from the free-throw line, sinking their four attempts, to ice the game and come away with the win.
Clarke finished the game with just six points but extended his streak of making a three-point basket to 29 games.
The Razorbacks have another quick turnaround as they head to Oxford, Miss., to take on the Ole Miss Rebels on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. For more information regarding Razorback men's basketball or University of Arkansas athletics, please visit ArkansasRazorbacks.com.