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 a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year four times and has been inducted to the Arkansas Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame.
Hogs looking to slow Aggies' roll in SEC play
Arkansas guard Davonte Davis drives the ball by Aggies guard Andre Gordon on Saturday, March 12, 2022, during the second half of the Razorbacks' 82-64 loss against Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament semifinal in Tampa, Fla.
FAYETTEVILLE — Things were rough for Texas A&M’s basketball team in non-conference play.
That’s putting it mildly. The Aggies lost to Murray State 88-79 and Colorado 102-75 in Conway, S.C., and lost to Boise State 86-71 in Fort Worth, Texas.
An 83-79 loss at Memphis wasn’t so bad for Texas A&M, but then it lost to Wofford 67-62 at home on Dec. 20 to fall to 6-5. Since then, the Aggies have been on a tear.
Texas A&M (15-6, 7-1 SEC) is 9-1 in its last 10 games going into a matchup against Arkansas (14-7, 3-5) at 6 p.m. in Bud Walton Arena.
“They struggled in non-conference, and then they got to SEC play and have really taken off,” Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said Sunday night on his TV show. “They’re playing really, really confident basketball.
“They understand their roles. They have a lot of veterans back that have been in that system. Right now, they’re playing as good as any team in the SEC.”
Among the returnees from Texas A&M’s team that finished 27-13 last season and lost to Xavier in the NIT championship game are 6-2 senior guard Tyrece Radford, 6-0 sophomore guard Wade Taylor and 6-8 junior forward Henry Coleman.
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Radford is averaging 16.6 points over the last 10 games and 13.6 on the season. He has hit 97 of 120 free throws (80.8%).
Taylor is averaging a team-high 14.8 points, has hit 44 of 126 three-pointers (34.9%) and 80 of 96 free throws (83.3%). Coleman, who transferred to Texas A&M last season from Duke, is averaging 10 points and 5.8 rebounds.
Two transfers this season — 6-9 junior Julius Marble from Michigan State and 6-5 fifth-year senior Dexter Dennis from Wichita State — are starters. Dennis played at Wichita State with Arkansas junior guard Ricky Council, who is averaging a team-high 17.2 points and scored 25 in the Razorbacks’ 67-64 loss at Baylor last Saturday.
Aggies coach Buzz Williams had high praise for Arkansas’ starting guard trio of Council, freshman Anthony Black and junior Davonte “Devo” Davis.
“They have three ultra, ultra talented perimeter players that you could argue is the best perimeter (trio) in the country,” Williams said.
Texas A&M is 4-2 on the road this season, including 3-1 in SEC games with victories at Florida 66-63, South Carolina 94-53 and most impressively Auburn 79-63 last Wednesday night to break the Tigers’ home winning streak at 28 games.
Kentucky is the only SEC team to beat Texas A&M, 76-67 at Rupp Arena.
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Radford scored 30 points to lead the Aggies at Auburn. He hit 8 of 17 shots, including 3 of 7 three-pointers, and 11 of 12 free throws.
“He’s a great player, great athlete — one of the best athletes in the country,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “Big, strong, physical. I just didn’t have anybody that could stay in front of him.”
Texas A&M is 16-15 in road games in Williams’ four seasons.
“I think our players are continuing to do a better and better job of only hearing our voices and trying not to get lost in the environment or what comes with playing on the road,” Williams said. “You have to be really, really tight in a lot of different ways in order to have a chance to win on the road.
“So far I think we’re progressing in the right way. I think we’ve got to continue to find ways to be even better.”
The Aggies are 1-8 at Arkansas since joining the SEC for the 2012-13 season with their lone victory in that span 87-80 in 2019. Mussleman’s Razorbacks are 3-0 in Bud Walton Arena against Texas A&M, but the victories are by a combined 20 points, including 76-73 last season when the Aggies sent the game into overtime after falling behind 20-4.
“It’ll catch you off guard if you’re not thinking it’s the best home-court environment in the country,” Williams said.
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Arkansas is 10-1 in Bud Walton Arena this season with the lone loss to Alabama.
“We can’t turn the ball over,” Williams said. “We have to figure out how to guard the bounce because they’re so effective. And we have to figure out how to have a presence on the defensive glass and the offensive glass.”
The Razorbacks have won back-to-back SEC games at home over Ole Miss and LSU — both 1-7 in the conference — and they’re tied with Vanderbilt for ninth in the standings.
“Hopefully we’ll grow in the month of February,” Musselman said on his TV show. “But we’ve got to get some Ws.”
Despite Arkansas’ struggles in SEC play and Texas A&M being tied with Tennessee for second behind Alabama, the Razorbacks are No. 28 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) rankings and the Aggies are No. 44.
“We still have work to do,” Williams said. “We’re thankful that we’re in the position that we’re in, and [tonight] will mark the halfway point of conference play.
“I think the effort and cohesiveness of our staff and our team has been remarkable through the first four weeks, and we want to try to keep that juju going regardless of results.”
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