Texas A&M rally proof Arkansas can do it, too

By: Nate Allen
Published: Monday, January 13, 2014
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson reacts to a call in the second half of Saturday afternoon's game against Florida at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Photo by Michael Woods
Arkansas coach Mike Anderson reacts to a call in the second half of Saturday afternoon's game against Florida at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE - Granted that Texas A&M seems about the last team that the Arkansas Razorbacks would look to for inspiration.

Perhaps they should. For Coach Billy Kennedy’s Aggies of College Station, Texas have become the latest definition that in the long college basketball season, perpetual gloom can instantly lift to sweet success.

Right now, especially should Arkansas lose Tuesday night to Kentucky at Walton Arena, things would seem perpetually gloomy to these Razorbacks and their fans with an 0-3 SEC start following their 11-2 nonconference glow.

It was just New Year’s Eve that the Aggies were embarrassed at their Reed Arena in a 61-41 blowout by the North Texas Mean Green, a currently not so mean 9-7.

Two games later the Aggies opened the SEC season at Reed embarrassing Arkansas, 69-53, about play for play like A&M embarrassed Arkansas, 69-51, in last season’s SEC opener shortly after the Aggies had lost at home to Southern University of Baton Rouge.

Given Arkansas laid an egg at A&M last season and went 1-8 on the 2013 SEC road, most SEC observers probably wrote off last Wednesday’s rout of the Razorbacks as another round of Arkansas road kill rather than attributing it to A&M’s prowess.

But Saturday at Knoxville,Tenn., against a Tennessee Volunteers team that thumped Wake Forest and Virginia, the Aggies rallied from down 14 at half to nip the Vols’ 57-56 on Antwan Space’s three-pointer with seven seconds left.

So A&M , one of the nonconference jokes with that 20-point home loss to North Texas, now shares the 2-0 SEC top spot with Florida, Kentucky and Georgia. A&M will be favored to improve to 3-0 hosting 0-2 South Carolina on Wednesday night.

These Razorbacks have the stuff to quickly change their fortunes, too, even if they don’t hurdle Kentucky though that admittedly would sap spirits at Walton Arena should Arkansas’ two marquee home games of the SEC season, Florida and Kentucky, elapse without an Arkansas victory.

But even if that proves the case, there is no reason to give up on these Hogs considering the effort they put forth Saturday before 18,040 at Walton against Florida. They just couldn’t close the deal when they were two seconds away from winning 66-64 in regulation before losing 84-82 in overtime, an overtime they had chances to extend but failed.

Saturday’s blown chance to upend the 10th-ranked Gators will of course haunt the Hogs but most every basketball season is fraught with ghosts that must be conquered.

The feeling here, given the shambles he inherited three years ago, and the headway made improving the Hogs’ endeavors off the court and athleticism on the court, that in Mike Anderson Arkansas has the coach eventually to conquer the ghosts even as they haunt Arkansas two games deep into the SEC.

Sports, Pages 16 on 01/13/2014