FAYETTEVILLE -- You can get burned in chemistry class as Arkansas learned last Saturday in Starkville, Miss.
Make that scorched.
A talented Mississippi State team, but presumed in preseason by pundits less talented than Alabama, had Arkansas down 52-18 at half. MSU won 84-54.
Arkansas had battled Alabama hard in the SEC opener back on Jan. 8 in Tuscaloosa, and rolled over the Tide start to finish, 81-70, last Wednesday at Walton Arena.
On paper, pundits really liked a Mississippi State team led by center Mario Austin, guards Derek Zimmerman and Timmy Bowers and forwards Mike Ignerski and Ontario Harper. They were head over heels with the defending SEC champion Tide led by center-forward Erwin Dudley, the 2002 SEC Player of the Year, SEC 2002 Freshman of Year point guard Mo Williams, smooth 6-9 forward Kenny Walker and an impressive cast of veterans and touted recruits to complement the three stars.
Yet Alabama stalls like a badly tuned car while Mississippi State has flowed since recovering from an 0-3 SEC start to be 5-4.
Rick Stansbury's Bulldogs were especially alert to Arkansas. The stumbling Hogs, (7-12, 2-6), that coach Stan Heath inherited, righted themselves with a well-played loss at then No. 4 ranked Florida and whipped the 22nd-ranked Tide. Arkansas freshman guard Jonathon "Pookie" Modica scored 26 in both games.
He scored four against in Starkville and shot 1 for 11. The Smackover sensation saw several shots smacked under. Mississippi State blocked eight.
"Modica is going to be a terrific player in this league," Stansbury was quoted. "But he's a freshman and Timmy Bowers is a junior. I think Timmy took the challenge this guy isn't going to score 26 on us."
Get too uppity in this league, and someone will knock you down.
The good ones step up from the knockdowns. Expect Modica to bounce back. The 6-4 chiseled rookie repeatedly has shown grit in a season in which fans knew their Hogs would struggle.
At least the next one is at home, though not likely to be easy.Tennessee, paced by senior trash talker but big scorer Ron Slay, beat 17th-ranked SEC East power Georgia last Saturday. Slay scored 33.The Vols visit Walton Arena for a 7 p.m. Jefferson Pilot televised SEC game Feb. 12.Baseball weather still the NormAfter 33 years, Norm DeBriyn has turned the Razorback baseball reins over to one of his former players, Dave Van Horn, but the season-opening weather is still "the Norm."
The Hogs got snowed out of Sunday's season-opener at Baum Stadium with Missouri Southern, a typical happening in the DeBriyn era as it would be for any coach forced to play February baseball in the Ozarks.Great track
The Olympic 1,500-meter champion and the Razorback who beat him won't run against each other Saturday night, but both Noah Ngeny and Alistair Cragg are still scheduled to run at Saturday's Tyson Invitational at Arkansas' Randal Tyson Indoor Track.
Two weeks ago, Razorback junior Cragg set a collegiate record in the 3,000 meters while defeating Kenya's Ngeny, the Olympic 1,500-meter champ.
Ngeny will run the mile in an all-star field including former Razorback two-time NCAA champion Seneca Lassiter and 2002 NCAA 1,500-meter runnerup Chris Mulvaney.