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Arkansas 69, Texas A&M 59

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Don’t let the final score fool you — we held our own in a hostile, sold-out Bud Walton Arena

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

Coming into this game, I thought we were screwed on three different levels.

First, in overall quality. Arkansas was an 11-1 squad with a series of solid non-conference victories to their name and a legitimate shout to join the AP Top 25. Secondly, in contrasting styles. Arkansas plays as fast as they can, and they are very good at it… especially at home. By contrast, we have to slow the game down as much as possible to have a chance. Finally, and perhaps most crucially, Bud Walton Arena is a straight up house of horrors for this program. With the exception of last year’s stunning victory in Fayetteville, this team hadn’t won a game in Arkansas in 30 years.

Quality. Style. Location. Three huge components in college basketball, all working against us in an almost comically lopsided fashion.

And we dug in and gave Arkansas all they could handle.

Box Score

First Half

Full marks to the guys - they did a great job dealing with a very difficult road environment. The game stayed pretty dang close for the majority of the half, and it was only a super late (and backbreaking) 9-1 run to close the period that provided the halftime difference.

Halftime Score: Arkansas 42, Texas A&M 33

Second Half

Y’all, we just never went away. We forced eight consecutive missed shots during a really solid stretch in the middle of the half, and I’ll be damned if we didn’t find ourselves down 52-50 with only nine minutes remaining. The Razorbacks generally kept the game in the “two to three possession” range down the stretch, but it’s a loss that offers a great deal of hope moving forward.

Final Score: Arkansas 69, Texas A&M 59

Quotes

Buzz on the gameplan:

I think we have to shorten the game in order for our roster to have its best chance [...] I thought we handled an incredible college basketball environment in many respects about as well as we could [...] It’s just so hard for us to overcome the turnover rate that we have [...] We have to get the same number of field goal attempts that the opponent does, it’s just hard. 58-45 is a hard number for us to overcome. Typically, it comes from two things, either we turn it over too much and or we are getting obliterated on the offensive glass. We have done better on the offensive glass as of recently and today we just gave them the ball too many times.

Buzz on Andre Gordon

For a freshman, first game on the road who’s not a point but because of where we’re at is having to play the point, has grown up a lot in the month of December, he’s trying to do what we are asking him to do. His teammates have done a really good job of helping him grow because his teammates know he has to play the point and they understand the burden that is for him, but I thought he did some really good things for us.

Additional Notes

  • Andre Gordon was our best player today. He scored 15 points on 6-10 shooting, but I was more impressed by his ball handling. Bud Walton Arena can eat point guards alive, and I thought he did a very nice job, especially as a true freshman.
  • Mitchell appears to be back in the mix, clearing 20 minutes of game action for the first time in a month. He responded well, grabbing 13 rebounds and 5 boards.
  • Josh Nebo’s 13 rebounds led the Aggies to yet another edge (34-27) in the rebounding battle… our fifth straight. Arkansas admittedly runs a small lineup, but things continue to trend well on this front.
  • We shot 55% (17-31) from inside the arc, and 28% (4-14) from outside the arc. If only there was something we could do with that information. For those wondering, we retained our position as Literally The Worst Three Point Shooting Team In America out of 353 eligible programs.

Overall Thoughts

When I’m scanning the SEC schedule, the game at Arkansas is always the first contest I toss in the loss column. In that context, I’m thrilled with our effort from Saturday.

OIe Miss comes to town tomorrow for our SEC home opener, and they were wiped off the floor in their recent trip to Wichita State. This is a game we can win.

BTHO Ole Miss