Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Same old story: UA flat on road
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, right, reacts after a foul was called on Rashad Madden, center, during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Bryan College Station Eagle, Stuart Villanueva)
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson has talked about this being a new season with a new team, but the Razorbacks had the same old problems on the road Wednesday night.
Texas A&M beat Arkansas 69-53 at Reed Arena before an announced crowd of 5,102 in the SEC opener and the Razorbacks’ first road game this season.
“I’ve seen Arkansas play better, but Arkansas is a good team,” Aggies Coach Billy Kennedy said. “That was a great team win.”
Arkansas (11-3, 0-1 SEC) fell to 2-19 in road games in Anderson’s three seasons, with both victories coming at Auburn, where the Razorbacks don’t play this season. The Razorbacks are 3-25 in out-of-state games under Anderson, including 1-2 this season at the Maui Invitational, where they beat Minnesota and lost to California and Gonzaga.
Arkansas has lost six consecutive SEC road openers since winning 76-70 at Auburn on Jan. 10, 2008, in John Pelphrey’s first conference game as the Razorbacks’ coach.
The Aggies (10-4, 1-0) broke Arkansas’ seven-game winning streak. The Razorbacks’ last loss had been to Gonzaga, 91-81, on Nov. 27.
Freshman forward Davonte Fitzgerald led Texas A&M with 17 points, making 4 of 7 shots and 7 of 8 free throws. Senior guard Fabyon Harris scored 15 points and Jamal Jones, a junior guard from Wynne who played at Searcy High School, added 14 points and eight rebounds for the Aggies.
Junior guard Ky Madden led the Razorbacks with 12 points. Senior forward Coty Clarke scored nine points, and junior forward Alandise Harris and sophomore guard Anthlon Bell scored eight points each.
“We’re disappointed in our performance,” Anderson said. “In our locker room right now, we have some guys that are really upset and mad at themselves because they had a tremendous opportunity.”
Arkansas freshman forward Bobby Portis struggled in his first SEC game, shooting 3 of 10 from the field and scoring 7 points after combining to hit 21 of 24 shots in the previous 3 games. Sophomore forward Michael Qualls, the Razorbacks’ leading scorer coming into the game at 13.7 points, was 1 of 12 from the field and had a season-low 2 points.
“Arkansas is a good team, but we know they struggle on the road a lot,” Fabyon Harris said.
Texas A&M had 11 turnovers while Arkansas had 14, and the Aggies outscored the Razorbacks 17-12 in points off turnovers.
The Razorbacks shot 36.2 percent from the field (21 of 58) and made 7 of 14 free throws. They hit 4 of 19 three-pointers. The Aggies hit 7 of 17 three-pointers.
“We had some turnovers at the wrong times,” Anderson said. “Guys turning down shots and making turnovers.”
Arkansas is 1-11 in its past 12 SEC road openers and is 5-18 overall since joining the conference.
Jones and Fitzgerald hit back to-back three-point baskets to give Texas A&M a 49-39 lead with 12:21 left, prompting Anderson to call a timeout. Qualls then turned it over and the Aggies got an 18-foot jumper from Fitzgerald to make it 51-39 at the 11:32 mark.
Madden scored on a drive and hit a three-pointer to pull Arkansas within 51-44 with 8:22 left. Jones hit two free throws at the 6:55 mark to push the Aggies’ lead to 56-44.
Arkansas didn’t pull closer than 10 points the rest of the game.
“We missed a lot of layups, and I thought that was nerves,” Anderson said. “I bet we missed 10 layups.”
Clarke said the Razorbacks lacked the aggressiveness they’ve played with this season.
“We shot ourselves in the foot this game, just not being aggressive, being conservative, missing easy layups,” Clarke said. “It’s things we can control. It’s not things the other team did. We beat ourselves this game.”
TUESDAY’S GAMES Tennessee 68, LSU 50 Alabama 68, Vanderbilt 63
WEDNESDAY’S GAMES Texas A&M 69, Arkansas 53 Florida 74, South Carolina 58 Georgia 70, Missouri 64, OT Kentucky 85, Mississippi State 63
T0DAY’S GAME All times Central Auburn at Mississippi, 6 p.m.
Sports, Pages 15 on 01/09/2014