Nashville, (TN.) — After a Thriller against Auburn yesterday, Arkansas plays Texas A&M for the third time this year. The Hogs are already in the NCAA Tournament by most advanced metrics and expert opinions, but a win against the Aggies could push Arkansas from an 8-seed to a 7-seed.
The Hogs started much faster against the Aggies than they did last night. Nick Smith Jr. got the ball rolling with back-to-back 3-point baskets. In Fact, Arkansas failed to take a 2-point shot in the first 4:49 of the game.
One of the biggest critiques of this year’s team was its inability to score at any significant rate from outside the paint, so most teams have just packed it in under the basket. Whether it was scripted like that or not, the early 3-point shooting certainly opened up A&M’s defense.
A&M’s Dexter Dennis tied it up at the 17:21 mark at 6 a piece, but Arkansas went on a 16-6 run in the next 10 minutes to extend the lead to 22-12. Arkansas held the 10-point lead for most of the time left. However, Jordan Walsh made a 3-point buzzer-beater to grow the lead to 13 before the half.
Arkansas led 38-25.
Arkansas dominated the first half but completely disappeared in the second. The Aggies opened up the second half with a huge run. In the first 10 minutes, A&M produced a 21-7 run to take their first lead since the Aggies led with just 47 seconds ticked off the clock.
The lead changed 4 more times and then it was all Texas A&M for almost the remainder of the game. In the last minute of the game, Arkansas had a chance—however small—to play themselves back into the game with great press defense.
Makhi Mitchell decided to show off his guard skills and stole the ball from Wade Taylor IV at mid-court for a dunk to cut the lead to 4. A&M mishandled the subsequent inbound and turned the ball over to Arkansas, again. Unfortunately, Arkansassquandered their chance with 3 missed shots in a row.
Hogs lose 67-61.
Just like many times this season, Arkansas has played almost entirely different from one half to another. And, like many times this season, Arkansas blew a double-digit lead in the second half.
Arkansas played lights-out defense in the first half. They had 9 blocks, 5 steals, and 9 forced turnovers in the first twenty minutes, and they held A&M’s best player, Wade Taylor IV, to just 2 points. In the second half, Arkansas recorded just 2 blocks, 4 steals, and 6 forced turnovers. Taylor also got his, as he scored 16 points in the half for a total of 18.
The Razorbacks allowed A&M to shoot 42% (24-57) of its field goals but held it to just 10% (1-10) from 3-point range. Arkansas was abysmal on the boards. They were out-rebounded 43 to 26! The Aggies had 17 offensive boards, just 9 less than Arkansas’s total. Arkansas forced 15 turnovers and stole 9 of them. The Hogs finished with 11 blocks.
Arkansas shot 41% (22-54) from the field for the game after shooting 54% in the first half. Its 3-point shooting aged just as well. The team shot 25% (5-20) from the arch, going 0-8 in the second half. The Hogs recorded 11 assists to 12 turnovers and only scored 28 paint points after knocking down 48 against Auburn the day before.
Nick Smith Jr. and Makhi Mitchell led the team in scoring with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Mitchell and Devo Davis recorded team-high boards with 6 a piece, followed by Anthony Black with 4. Smith recorded a game-high 4 assists. Black was the only other hog to record more than 1 with 2 of his own.
Arkansas ends the season with a 20-13 record and now awaitsSelection Sunday to find out their NCAA Tournament seedingand opponent.