Arkansas opens SEC play with 69-59 win over Texas A&M
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Arkansas had four players in double figures as the Razorbacks opened Southeastern Conference play Saturday night much the same way they handled nonconference competition — with a victory.
Arkansas (12-1) forced Texas A&M into 11 second-half turnovers, including four in a four-minute stretch late in the period, and dispatched the Aggies, 69-59.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from reigning Co-SEC Player of the Week Isaiah Joe gave the Razorbacks their biggest lead of the game, 10, with 3:52 left. Joe shot 6 of 14 from the field (5 of 12 from 3-point range) and chipped in 17 points, tied with teammate Mason Jones for the team high.
“Isaiah and Mason are going to have the ball in their hands the last eight minutes we play that’s a tight game,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “That’s just how it’s going to be every game. We’re going to make the opposition figure out how to get the ball out of their hands.”
Texas A&M (6-6), the worst field-goal and 3-point shooting team in the SEC entering the contest, had offensive issues all game. Despite shooting 47 percent from the floor, the Aggies made just 31 percent (5 of 16) of their 3-pointers and got most of their buckets on the inside. Arkansas countered with 17 points off A&M turnovers and shot 10 of 29 from beyond the arc.
“Those turnovers, (that) was a cushion that we couldn’t overcome,” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said. “The last minute and 10 seconds of the first half, kind of the same thing: turnover by the Aggies, made field goal by Arkansas. We have to get a shot at the rim. They shot 34 balls in the second half and we shot 19. We have to get the same number of field goal attempts as the opponent.”
Josh Nebo had a double-double for Texas A&M, scoring 10 points and collecting 13 rebounds. Desi Sills and Jimmy Whitt Jr. also finished in double figures for Arkansas, scoring 13 and 12 points, respectively.
Jones was Arkansas’ catalyst in the first half, making three 3s on his way to 11 points in the opening 20 minutes. Joe was the Razorbacks’ key in the second half when he made three 3s of his own and scored 11 of his points in the final 20 minutes. The week before Joe was named Co-SEC Player of the Week, Jones was named to the same honor. They are the second and fourth leading scorers in the conference.
“The combination of those two puts stress on you,” Williams said of Joe and Jones.
SHRINKING THE BENCH
Musselman continued his recent trend of playing a primary rotation of just seven players. Jalen Harris played 31 minutes off the bench and Reggie Chaney played 6:35 in a reserve role. Jeantal Cylla, who played just 10 minutes in four December games, played for less than a minute when starting forward Adrio Bailey left momentarily with a lower-body injury.
Arkansas: The last time the Razorbacks went this deep into January with just one loss was during its national championship season of 1993-94. That team didn’t lose its second game until January 19.
Texas A&M: The Aggies saw their three-game winning streak snapped.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks travel to Baton Rouge on Wednesday for a game against LSU.
Texas A&M: The Aggies travel to Oxford, Mississippi, to play Ole Miss on Tuesday.