No. 25 Texas A&amp,M 71, Arkansas 62

Stuck in the middle of a bench-clearing scuffle, Texas A&M

standout Khris Middleton held his arms high above his head trying

to stay out of the fray – and make sure the referees knew he

was.

Once everything got sorted out and play resumed, Middleton and

the rejuvenated 25th-ranked Aggies overcame a nine-point deficit

and went on to a 71-62 overtime win over Arkansas on Saturday for

their seventh straight victory.

”It woke us up mainly,” Middleton said. ”It let us know we

weren’t going to let these guys push us around.”

The first meeting between the old Southwest Conference rivals in

20 seasons got feisty when the Aggies (10-1) were calling a timeout

after Arkansas scored the first seven points of the second half for

a 42-33 lead.

Middleton scored 19 of his 31 points after that, including the

go-ahead free throw in overtime.

The scuffle began when A&M’s Dash Harris was knocked to the

ground when fouled by Jeff Peterson as he was crossing midcourt

just as Aggies coach Mark Turgeon was calling a timeout.

”We were sleepwalking,” Turgeon said. ”(The scuffle) seemed

like it really changed the game for us.”

After Middleton tried to help the players up, one of his

teammates got pushed into Peterson after Arkansas players were

already coming off the bench to greet their teammates for the fast

start. The pushing and shoving then escalated at midcourt near the

scorer’s table though no punches were thrown.

It took the officials more than 10 minutes to sort out the

situation. They looked at several replays, taking notes on a piece

of paper. Arkansas’ Marvell Waithe and Kourtney Roberson of Texas

A&M were ejected for coming off the bench and getting involved

in the fracas.

”I don’t know if something changed,” Arkansas coach John

Pelphrey said. ”We had to sit there as long as they did.”

Soon after play resumed, Harris had a steal and was heading to

the basket when he passed to Middleton trailing him for a basket.

Rotnei Clarke responded with a 3-pointer for the Razorbacks, giving

them their biggest lead at 45-35.

Texas A&M finally caught up when David Loubeau’s free throw

with 4:17 left in regulation tied the game 58-all. The next score

was Middleton’s two free throws with 2:05 left that gave A&M

its first lead of the second half.

Arkansas’ last field goal of regulation came when Mardracus Wade

had a breakaway layup for a 58-52 lead with 6:43 left. The

Razorbacks forced overtime when Julysses Nobles made two free

throws with 1:06 left.

”It came down to two defensive teams that couldn’t score and we

made more free throws than they did,” Turgeon said. ”Our defense

the last 10 minutes of the game was tremendous.”

The scuffle only added to an ugly game that included 42

turnovers, 51 fouls and no field goals for either team the rest of

regulation after Middleton had consecutive baskets for the Aggies,

the last with 5:42 left.

Arkansas missed 12 free throws in the game. That included two

misses by Clarke, a career 86-percent shooter, when the Razorbacks

could have grabbed the lead midway through overtime.

Middleton’s free throw with 3:48 left in overtime broke the

60-all tie, and put Texas A&M ahead to stay. There wasn’t

another score until Loubeau hit a short jumper after taking an

inbound pass from Middleton with 2:10 left.

Middleton was 10 of 16 from the field

”You could see it early, he felt it,” Turgeon said. ”We ran a

lot of plays for him. He was fantastic. He just didn’t have any

help. ”

Nathan Walkup had 15 points and was the only other player in

double figures for the Aggies, who played for the first time since

entering the AP Top 25 for the first time this season last

Monday.

Clarke had 14 points with four 3-pointers to lead Arkansas,

which had won four straight. Nobles scored 12 points.

Texas A&M had led throughout most of the first half until

Nobles drove for a layup to give Arkansas a 35-33 at the halftime

buzzer.

”It hurts to get this close and not be able to pull it off,”

Pelphrey said.

Texas A&M, which has won 10 of its last 14 games away from

home, played its first regular season neutral-site game in Dallas

since playing TCU at then brand-new Reunion Arena during the

1980-81 season. The site of that since-demolished building is just

down the road from the American Airlines Center, where the Aggies

played Saturday.

The schools played for the 148th time, the first time since a

SWC tournament game at old Reunion Arena in Dallas in March 1991.

Arkansas had won the last six meetings, and nine of 10, and has won

96 times in the series.

”This was a big game for Arkansas,” Turgeon said. `We’ve got a

bullseye on our backs and that’s OK.”