Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and Arkansas Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Like It Is:
Aggies able to cash in when needed
Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams celebrates a score against Arkansas during an NCAA college basketball game in College Station, Texas, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. (Meredith Seaver/College Station Eagle via AP)
It wasn’t so much the number of free throws Texas A&M shot as it was how many Arkansas missed.
In a 62-56 loss, the Razorbacks made only 7 of 14 free throws, and that included the front end of two one-and-one opportunities.
Arkansas led for more than 31 minutes, but the Razorbacks hit their fourth scoring drought of the night with almost six minutes to play, and the Aggies cashed in on every turnover and missed shot.
It was a game that had both teams on edge. Chippy is how they describe how both teams were to each other.
The big mystery, which should become more clear today, is why Nick Smith Jr. played only four minutes after making his much heralded return to the team against Mississippi State.
He didn’t see the floor in the second half.
Eric Musselman has been incredibly patient and protective during this on-off floor situation with Smith and his knee management. He knows what was going on Wednesday night, and he knows how much he can reveal, but the fans want to know because they care.
Grass grows faster than the scoring was during much of the first half.
Both teams picked up the pace to finish the first half, especially Arkansas which hit nine of its last nine field goals to take a 33-24 lead into intermission.
At one time, the Aggies had just three buckets on 18 tries, but the Razorbacks only led 11-9 because they were having their own struggles against the A&M man defense.
Musselman was forced to go to a smaller line-up because the Mitchell twins each got two fouls in a game that the referees controlled calling 21 total fouls, the same number of combined field goals the teams had.
The Hogs started to inch ahead after Davonte Davis went on a 5-0 run and Jordan Walsh followed with five more before Davis hit another three. The last four minutes of the opening half belonged to the Razorbacks, although the Aggies hit a three at the buzzer to go into the locker room with the momentum.
The Aggies were playing with an eye on the SEC lead after Tennessee knocked off Alabama which had been undefeated in SEC play.
A&M was two games behind the league-leading Crimson Tide going in to the game with the Razorbacks and two games ahead of the Vols.
The Aggies came out firing on all cylinders in the second half, hitting their first five shots including 3 three-pointers and a three-point play that gave them their first lead since they led 2-0 in the first minute.
It took blocked shots to slow A&M down, but they couldn’t stop the Aggies. After Davis shot Arkansas back into the lead, the Aggies got a pair of free throws to tie it at 42-42 with 11:37 to play.
The home team slipped ahead on a rebound basket, but Walsh got another three-point play and Black had a thundering two-handed dunk to put Arkansas back on top 49-44.
At that point, both teams were playing better defensively than offensively, and when they went to a TV timeout with 6:50 to play, the Razorbacks had a 51-48 lead that disappeared seven seconds later when the Aggies nailed their sixth three-pointer of the night.
A ragged couple of minutes let the Aggies edge ahead 55-53 on an uncontested lay-up with 3:14 to play.
In the closing three minutes, it was all about the home team which went to 11-2 in SEC play and remained undefeated on their home court.
Obviously it was a tale of two halves, and the Aggies took advantage of the Razorbacks’ reaching fouls — and sloppy passes that they turned into eight second-half points — hitting 18 of 22 free throws that secured the win.
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