Dudley E. Dawson is a reporter for Hawgs Illustrated. A graduate of the University of Arkansas, he is a voter for the Heisman Trophy.
Aggies gave Hogs all they could handle
Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams directs his players during a game against Arkansas on Saturday, March 6, 2021, in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE — Entering Saturday, Arkansas had won four more games than Texas A&M had played this season.
But the No. 12 Razorbacks got all they could handle from the Aggies in their 87-80 victory at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas rallied from a 15-point deficit in the first half, and from another deficit late.
The Razorbacks outscored the Aggies 11-2 down the stretch and exhaled when Texas A&M's Quenton Jackson missed a three-point attempt that would have tied the game at 81 with 27 seconds to play. Jackson scored 23 points and made 5 of 8 three-point attempts.
Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said Jackson's attempt was a set play the Aggies had not yet run.
"It’s exactly what we wanted," Williams said. "Our guys did a great job down three, side out (of bounds). Short clock, exactly what we wanted.
“I don't necessarily watch the flight of the ball always as I watch a shooter's feet. And so I was watching (and) I thought his feet were lined up. So in my opinion, it was a good shot and it was the shot we wanted. We were trying to shoot and make a three to tie the game.”
Moses Moody led Arkansas with a career-high-tying 28 points, including a clutch three-pointer with 56 seconds left that gave the Razorbacks a 79-78 lead.
Jalen Tate added 22 points, Davonte Davis 12, Justin Smith 11 and JD Notae 9. Davis also had six rebounds and five assists.
Notae was perfect on four free throws in the final minute and Davis capped the scoring with a steal and dunk with four seconds left.
It was the 11th straight SEC win for Arkansas (21-5, 13-4 SEC) in what was its first meeting with Texas A&M (8-9, 2-8) this season. The teams had two games postponed in February due to covid-19 issues that cost the Aggies six other games.
“They are very good passing team would be a higher characteristic that I think most would say,” Williams said of the Razorbacks. “They play with four guys, for sure, that can pass, dribble and shoot at all times. And many times five, and today they played small, so to say, more so than normal.
“When (7-3 Connor Vanover) was out — (he) played 13 minutes — so for 287 minutes, they were playing with switchboard guys that could all pass dribble and shoot and that could guard multiple positions.
“And because they pass the ball so well, they're able to play fast in transition. And then in the half court because they can all beat you off the bounce. They force help whether you're in zone or man, and it creates uncontested shots for them.”
Both teams shot 51.8% (31 of 61) overall from the field and each had 14 assists, but Arkansas limited its turnovers to 11 while Texas A&M had 17.
The Aggies were playing only their second game since a 68-61 win at Kansas State on Jan. 30. Texas A&M lost 63-57 to Mississippi State at home on Wednesday.
“Today we shot, more balls, or the same number of balls as a top-10 team,” Williams said, “and so the thing that hurt us today from a margin standpoint is we just had too many turnovers and that wasn't the case obviously on Wednesday.”
Williams was asked if he had any idea his team was on the verge of playing Arkansas so tough.
“I don't know how to discern or articulate the right answer to that, because I've never experienced it, nor has any player or staff member been through what we have been through,” Williams said. “That's not to say that we're the only ones that have went through something like that I know it's happened to multiple programs throughout the country.
“What I will say is, I think, on Wednesday against Mississippi State we were better than we were on Jan. 30 against K-State. And what took place from K-State until Mississippi State was three practices with our (entire) team and eight practices with parts of our team. Three of those eight with only four scholarship players.”
Williams said having early shooting success against Arkansas — Texas A&M made 14 of its first 25 shots, including 7 of 10 three-pointers — helped his team likely overcome any conditioning issues it might have had.
“I do think how it started, relative to the rhythm, I think anytime you're able to make consecutive baskets, it kind of gives the team a level of confidence,” Williams said. “And we don't have enough evidence to play with a great deal of confidence just because it's this the first week we've played in so long, but I do think our guys are playing with a level of confidence and almost liberated, if that's the appropriate word, after what they've been through.”
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