For a while it looked like ice cold shooting from deep would doom the Hogs in their SEC opener, then Arkansas erupted for four straight three’s to take a late lead. Then it looked like awful free throw shooting in the final minute would doom them, but Arkansas made just enough to escape College Station with a 73-71 win over Texas A&M.
Jalen Harris led the team with 15 points and nine assists, but had some crucial misses at the free throw line when the Hogs had a bigger lead. He went 1-4 from the line in the final minute. Then Desi Sills took his turn. He had the best first half of his career scoring 13 points in the opening frame, but he went 1-2 with 27 seconds left as his only points of the second half. After an Aggie free throw cut it to a 71-69 lead.
Isaiah Joe then had his turn with 12 seconds left and went, you guessed it, 1-2. A late layup by A&M cut it to a one point game with just two seconds left. Joe stepped up and went 1-2 again but A&M couldn’t get a last second shot off and the Hogs escaped.
A big help for the Hogs while their shooting was freezing cold was the offensive rebounding. Arkansas outrebounded the Aggies 47-42, won the battle of second chance points, and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds. That effort was led by Daniel Gafford, who finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds, and Gabe Osabuohien, who had three offensive rebounds of his own.
This win is huge for the Hogs because they have often had to climb uphill after a slow start in SEC play. This is the first time Arkansas opened SEC play with a win on the road since 2015. Arkansas needs road wins if they want to qualify for postseason play, and this was one of two winnable ones. The rest Arkansas will likely be significant underdogs so this one was crucial. It wasn’t pretty but it got the job done. That’s something that is becoming more and more common with this group.