Hogs' dive reaches five as Aggies roll over UA

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Sunday, February 24, 2019
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford goes up for a shot during a game against Texas A&M on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Fayetteville.
Photo by Charlie Kaijo
Arkansas forward Daniel Gafford goes up for a shot during a game against Texas A&M on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas men's basketball team bottomed out Saturday night.

Needing a victory at home over Texas A&M to snap a four-game losing streak, the Razorbacks flinched. The Aggies made two-thirds of their shots in the second half, outmuscled the Razorbacks on both ends and won the rebounding battle by 10 to snatch an 87-80 victory before an estimated crowd of 9,180 at Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks lost their fifth consecutive game -- a first under eighth-year Coach Mike Anderson -- and their sixth at Walton Arena this season.

"I thought they played with more edge than we did," Anderson said. "Just a little more tougher I think than us."

Anderson made several references to Texas A&M's 35-25 rebounding edge and its propensity to come up with loose balls and second-chance points, on which the Aggies held a 16-11 edge.

"It's nice to finally get a win here," said Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy, whose Aggies (12-14, 5-9 SEC) snapped a 10-game losing streak in Fayetteville, their last five in the old Southwest Conference and their first five as a member of the SEC.

Arkansas (14-13, 5-9 SEC) fell into a tie with the Aggies for 10th place in the SEC while hitting the new low under Anderson, who has never had a losing season.

The Razorbacks have lost five consecutive games for the first time since dropping their last six in 2009-10 in John Pelphrey's second-to-last season.

Texas A&M hit 16 of 24 shots (66.7 percent) in the second half and a season-high 58.3 percent for the game. The Aggies held Arkansas to 30-of-63 shooting (47.6 percent).

"We did a good job of handling their press and got some easy baskets in transition that we were able to finish and made some timely threes that I think ... helped us win the game," Kennedy said.

Texas A&M, which improved its SEC win total on the road to three, never ceded the lead in the second half after going up 38-37 at intermission on a Savion Flagg layup with two seconds left in the half.

Arkansas got within one or two points several times in the second half but couldn't get on top. Trailing 64-62 with less than six minutes remaining, Arkansas' Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones missed three-point tries, then point guard Jalen Harris couldn't get a putback dunk attempt to go down.

The Aggies quickly raced down court with the rebound, and Flagg buried a three-pointer as part of his team-high 22 points.

Flagg's three-pointer sparked an 11-2 run by the Aggies that started chasing fans to the exits after three consecutive TJ Starks layups made it 75-64 with 2:28 to play.

"Basically at the end of the game, we let go of the rope, simple as that," Arkansas center Daniel Gafford said. "They were coming down and executing everything that they could, they were getting stops on defense, we were turning the ball over. We were trying to fight back but they fought harder."

Said Anderson: "That's when pride has got to kick in."

Texas A&M clinched the victory with a series of drives to the hole by guards Starks and Wendell Mitchell in the closing minutes as the Razorbacks struggled to get a stop.

The Aggies avenged a 73-71 loss to Arkansas on Jan. 5 in College Station, Texas, to split the season series. It marked the fourth split between the old Southwest Conference rivals in the five seasons the teams have played twice as SEC rivals. Texas A&M notched its first victory at Arkansas since a 93-76 decision on March 1, 1986.

Mitchell fought through foul trouble to score 20 points on 7-of-9 shooting for the Aggies. Josh Nebo added 14 points and Starks had 11 for Texas A&M.

The Aggies finished 25 of 34 at the free-throw line, including 10 of 14 in a flurry during the final two minutes as Arkansas fouled to try to get back in the game.

Gafford led the Razorbacks with 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting and added 13 rebounds. Joe contributed 20 points on 5-of-12 shooting, and Mason Jones added 11 points off the bench.

The first half was filled with drastic runs and six lead changes.

Arkansas broke on top 5-0 on a Desi Sills' three-pointer and a Joe jumper.

The Aggies scored the next eight points, including back-to-back three-pointers from Mitchell.

Arkansas put up the next eight, on a Gafford three-point play, a Joe three-pointer and Gabe Osabuohien's steal and layup for a 13-8 Arkansas lead.

The next significant run was when Arkansas scored six in a row after Texas A&M grabbed a 19-18 lead.

The Razorbacks led 28-23 after a Sills' layup, but the Aggies embarked on a 13-0 run over a span of 2:38 in which the Razorbacks were 0 of 4 from the field and committed 3 turnovers.

Texas A&M owned the boards during that span and piled up a 21-11 lead on the glass in the first half.

Sports on 02/24/2019

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