Arkansas' season has been defined by a series of missed opportunities, but the Razorbacks cashed in on their biggest opportunity of the year against #5 Texas A&M in Bud Walton.
The Hogs were blown out when they opened SEC play back on January 2nd in College Station, losing 92-69. The Aggies were undefeated in conference play and are still the favorites to win the league. Especially coming off three emotional losses, it was easy to count them out. How much more could they be expected to give?
Not the case, though, not the case. The Hogs came out hot and led the entire first half save for a couple of brief ties, and were up by seven at halftime. The second half was much ore back and forth with the Aggies taking a small lead a few times, but each time, the Razorbacks answered and snatched it back, resulting in the program's first win over a top 5 team since memorably knocking off Florida in 2013.
Just another Bud Walton story.
It was a crazy game. There were 25 fouls called on both teams but the Aggies shot 11 more free throws. They out rebounded Arkansas 42-28. But Arkansas forced 21 turnovers, took 11 more shots and made a few more threes. The Hogs made four of their last five shots including Dusty Hannahs knocking down a pair of clutch free throws, and fortunately, DJ Hogg missed a three that would have sent the game to overtime. The Hogs drew a few charges that A&M coach Billy Kennedy said he wasn't pleased with. Hannahs hit a crazy turnaround fade-away off an in-bounds pass with three seconds on the shot clock. Manny Watkins hit a big layup late while drawing a foul.
The win was a much-needed boost to the team morale. The Hogs are at the end of probably the toughest stretch of their schedule, and are now set up well to close strong after the SEC/Big 12 Challenge against Texas Tech on Saturday. They won't play A&M again nor Kentucky. LSU and South Carolina both come to Bud Walton. There's potential for a great close to the season.
Game shoutouts start with Arkansas' three leaders. Hannahs, Anthlon Bell and Moses Kingsley combined for 52 points. Trey Thompson led off the bench with seven points and used all five of his fouls. Keaton Miles came off the bench and added four blocks in nine minutes of action.
A&M fans are of course upset over some of the fouls and non-fouls, but again, they also shot 11 more free throws and called both teams for an equal 25 fouls. And there were some bad calls against Arkansas too. A three-point foul against Watkins with 1:20 left and one second on the shot clock was atrocious, for instance. Such is life in the SEC, when a game with 50 fouls called is quickly becoming the norm. The losing team in a close game will have legitimate gripes.
But for just the second time this season, and after being on the other end of the result on what feels like a hundred occasions, the Razorbacks made a few more plays than A&M and came out on the winning side.