Scottie Bordelon is a reporter for the Hawgs Sports Network. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas and previously covered high school sports for the Times Record in Fort Smith and the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. He was the 2022 Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year.
Analyzing Arkansas' 67-61 loss to Texas A&M
Arkansas guard Anthony Black (0) defends the ball from a pair of Texas A&M defenders, Friday, March 10, 2023 during the second half of the 2023 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament quarterfinal at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
In the first halves of Arkansas’ last two meetings with Texas A&M, the Razorbacks looked and played like a team that could contend for an SEC championship.
Arkansas carried a nine-point lead into halftime in College Station, Texas, on Feb. 15 behind a 52% shooting performance and stout interior defense.
On Friday, the Razorbacks led by 13 points at the break after freshman wing Jordan Walsh banked in a last-second three-pointer.
As well as Arkansas played in those halves, it was equally as miserable after halftime. For the second straight matchup, the Aggies held the Razorbacks to 23 second-half points and stormed back to beat them somewhat convincingly in regulation.
Texas A&M eliminated Arkansas from the SEC Tournament with a 67-61 victory in the quarterfinal round. The loss was the Razorbacks’ fifth this season when leading by at least 10 points, joining road games at Vanderbilt, Missouri, Texas A&M and Alabama.
They also blew leads of 13 and 15 points to South Carolina and Auburn, respectively, but managed to escape with wins.
Clearly frustrated while sitting for his press conference after the game, Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said he has historically had teams that consistently performed well in the second halves of games. This team does not fit that profile.
The 23 points scored after halftime Friday were tied for the second fewest in a second half this season. The Razorbacks scored 22 after halftime during their 60-40 win over LSU on Jan. 24.
Arkansas’ offense seemingly vanished Friday. The Razorbacks’ starting backcourt combined to shoot 3 of 18 after the break, and wing Ricky Council was 1 of 6 from the field.
Freshman guard Nick Smith led Arkansas with 16 points, but he turned in a 6-of-20 shooting night. He misfired on his last 7 shots from the field and scored 1 point in the final 15 minutes, 20 seconds.
Junior guard Davonte Davis did not score in the last 7:55 and freshman Anthony Black had 2 points in the final 10 minutes. Arkansas scored a dismal 0.657 points per possession after halftime, according to StatBroadcast, and that is with 9 points from forward Makhi Mitchell on 4 of 4 from the field.
For the season, Arkansas has scored 39.8 second-half points per game, so it is hard to place singular blame on the offense. The defense was atrocious in the second halves of a number of games.
Entering Friday, the Razorbacks had allowed 36.7 second-half points per game, according to CBB Analytics. That was 6.2 points more than it gave up in the first half on average.
The site shows Arkansas had also allowed opponents to hit 44.6% of their field goal attempts after the break, up from 39.4% in the first half. The Aggies shot 36.7% in the first half Friday night and 48.1% in the second half as they scored 42 points.
Texas A&M, led by a combined 28 second-half points from Wade Taylor (16) and Henry Coleman (12), also cashed in at the free-throw line, sinking 16 of 22 attempts after halftime. The Aggies were 2 of 2 at intermission.
“It's not the first time it's happened in a second half,” Musselman said. “We're young. I mean, halftime speech has been the same for the last eight years. Adjustment has been the same. We're just a young team.
“Winning and closing games, it's not easy for teams. Tonight was an example of that again for us.”
Black said Arkansas got easier, high-level shots in the first half, and after halftime the Aggies started flying around on defense “and we just got to throwing the ball away and missing shots.”
That has happened quite a few times to the Razorbacks throughout a frustrating and up-and-down season.
If it happens again, it may very well be the last time for this group.
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