OPINION — Like It Is

Mitchell a fighter in a hard-fought defeat

No one knew for sure how Makhi Mitchell would perform this season, playing without his twin brother for the first time in their lives.

Mahkel Mitchell transferred to UALR last season and after overcoming an early injury is starting to be a difference-maker for the Trojans.

On Saturday against Mississippi State, it was little brother's time to shine. At 6-10, he's an inch shorter than his brother.

Makhi Mitchell came off the bench in the second half for Arkansas and in a span of a little more than three minutes scored 10 points, blocked 2 shots and had a steal. Going into the 9:54 media timeout, the game was scored tied at 48-48.

On his way to a personal high of 21 points, it was like Mitchell and Khalif Battle had declared enough was enough and they would be Batman and Robin if need be.

Battle scored 18 on an assortment of shots and the final nine minutes was a thriller. The teams were tied then one or the other broke the tie, and with 58 seconds to play, Mississippi State was hanging onto a 68-67 lead.

Mitchell fought until he fouled out.

The Bulldogs missed a pair of free throws and with 23 seconds to play, Eric Musselman called a timeout.

Two passes and too much dribbling became a turnover and State, which had made only 16 of 28 free throws, calmly made two for a 70-67 lead and another Hog timeout.

Wisely, the Bulldogs fouled quickly and after El Ellis missed the first free throw, he intentionally missed the second. State went back to the free-throw line, made one and came away with a hard-fought 71-67 SEC win.

It was State's ninth win in the past 11 meetings against Arkansas and the second in a row for Bulldogs Coach Chris Jans.

Arkansas was in Buffalo for the NCAA Tournament when it first met Jans, who was then the head coach at New Mexico State, but rumors were rampant the Iowa native would be the next head coach at Mississippi State.

It didn't seem like a good fit at the time, but then neither did New Mexico State, which he led to four NCAA Tournaments in five seasons.

His first March Madness win had been two days earlier when the No. 12 seed Aggies knocked of No. 5 UConn 70-63. It was not a fluke and Musselman had his team ready for a battle.

The Razorbacks relied heavily on defense and got 12 steals en route to the 53-48 win.

Arkansas, a No. 4 seed, then took on No. 1 seeded Gonzaga and won 74-68 before falling to Duke in the Elite Eight 78-69.

Jans had been impressive and on March 20 he was announced as the head coach at MSU.

In his first season, he led the Bulldogs to a 21-13 record and 8-10 in the SEC playing, avenging his first loss with a 70-65 win at Bud Walton.

Saturday's game was in the heart of darkness commonly known as Humphrey Coliseum, or simply The Hump. The Bulldogs came out red-hot after missing their first two shots and nailed the next eight and led 25-17.

Arkansas tied it at 29-29 on its second made three-pointer on 11 attempts but went scoreless the final three minutes and the Bulldogs scored five unanswered points.

MSU scored 20 of its first 25 points in the paint, forcing Arkansas into a zone and limited the Bulldogs to just four points inside over the final eight minutes.

Musselman used 10 players in the first half but managed only six points from his bench, Mitchell leading the way with all six points, three rebounds and assist before drawing a second foul, limiting him to just six first-half minutes.

One of three Hogs who fouled out, Mitchell finished with 21 points and nine rebounds.

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