- Associated Press - Thursday, January 5, 2017

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Vic Schaefer hasn’t been happy with how Mississippi State has practiced in recent days, despite the No. 4 Bulldogs’ undefeated record to start the season.

The Mississippi State coach finally saw that lack of focus - along with perhaps a dash of pressure - show itself in a game, a 59-51 victory at Arkansas on Thursday night.

Behind 14 points and a career-best 15 rebounds from Chinwe Okorie, the Bulldogs (16-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) led throughout but narrowly held on.

Mississippi State is two victories from matching the school record for best start - 18-0 in 2014-15 - but it shot only 36.5 percent (23 of 63) and narrowly avoided matching its season low for points.

“I think, to be honest with you, we may have a couple kids who are feeling a little bit of the number,” Schaefer said. “The 15-0, it’s more the 0 than the 15, and I think we were a little tight tonight, quite honestly.”

Morgan William had 15 points to lead Mississippi State, which has ascended to a program-best ranking with its fast start, while Victoria Vivians added 13 points on 5-of-19 shooting.

Malica Monk led the Razorbacks (11-4, 0-2) with 17 points, while Jessica Jackson added 12 - her 15th straight game in double figures.

Arkansas entered Thursday looking for its first win over a ranked opponent in nearly a year, having last defeated then-No. 24 Missouri on Jan. 17, 2016. The Razorbacks trailed by as many as 13 points in the first half, but they closed to within 51-49 late in the game.

Jackson, however, missed a pair of free throws that would have tied the game and William hit four free throws in the final minute to help Mississippi State close out the victory - pressure or no pressure about remaining undefeated.

“I honestly don’t think it’s the zero (losses),” Bulldogs junior guard Blair Schaefer said. “… I think sometimes we think we can just kick it on for game time, and tonight showed sometimes it’s not that way.”

BIG PICTURE

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are one of three unbeaten teams remaining in the country, joining No. 1 UConn and No. 18 Virginia Tech. They have four games remaining before a key regular-season matchup at No. 5 South Carolina on Jan. 23.

Arkansas: After starting the season 9-0, the Razorbacks have lost four of their last six games. Still, their 11-4 record is a far improvement over last season - when they finished 12-18 in Jimmy Dykes’ second season as coach. “Our confidence isn’t shaken at all,” Dykes said. “We know we can play with anybody in this league.”

HALFTIME ADJUSTMENT

The 6-foot-5 Okorie scored all 14 of her points in the first half for Mississippi State on 7-of-10 shooting, but she was held scoreless in the second half and missed all five of her shot attempts. Still, the senior center managed to set a career best for rebounds - topping the 14 she had against Louisiana Tech in 2014.

UP NEXT

Mississippi State puts its unbeaten start to the season on the line when it travels to Tennessee on Sunday.

Arkansas hosts LSU on Sunday.

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