The Arkansas Razorbacks capped a perfect 9-0 home conference record at for the first time since 1998 by beating Texas A&M 73-62 in Bud Walton Arena Saturday.
The Hogs finished 17-1 at home this season, the only loss being to then No. 6 Syracuse on Nov. 30. This was also Mike Anderson’s first victory over Texas A&M as a head coach, previously going 0-7 against the Aggies before Saturday’s game.
Arkansas led by 18 points with under 7 minutes remaining in the first half, giving indication that a blowout might have been in order. But the Aggies fought back and were able cut the lead to seven at halftime, and remained in striking distance for the remainder of the game.
The Razorbacks only shot 38 percent from the field compared to A&M’s 51 percent, but connected on seven three pointers and shot 28 for 36 from the free throw line, a much better average than the 5 of 13 shooting from the charity stripe against Missouri. Arkansas also out hustled the Aggies by grabbing 15 offensive rebounds and forcing 23 turnovers.
The Aggies were without the help of star shooting guard Elston Turner, who averaged 17.7 points per game this season as Texas A&M’s leading scorer. Turner injured his hand Wednesday against LSU and was deemed inactive just before tipoff.
“The first 10 minutes was where we struggled the most, but we had our opportunities,” said Texas A&M head coach Billy Kennedy.
According to Anderson, the Hogs saw success Saturday because they weren’t settling for jump shots like the team did in the blowout loss against Missouri.
Michael Qualls got his first start of the season and proved he’s worthy of a starting spot, scoring a career high 13 points, making 8 of 10 free throws in the process. Qualls said that his goal was to attack the basket and get to the line, something he was able to do quite effectively.
“He’s one of those natural guys, and he wants to win. It’s very evident,” Anderson said.
Guards Mardracus Wade and Anthlon Bell also contributed for the Hogs, each scoring in double digits and making five three pointers between the two. Arkansas had a collaborative scoring effort with five players scoring at least 10 points.
Marshawn Powell wasn’t in the starting lineup for the first time this season, but still played 24 key minutes, scoring 10 points in the process.
After a 27 point performance against Missouri, BJ Young wasn’t in the starting lineup against Texas A&M and finished with two points in 11 minutes. The win over the Aggies could have been Powell and Young’s last game at Bud Walton Arena, as the Students chanted “one more year” towards the two players. Powell allegedly told students after the game that he would not be returning next season for the Hogs.
Anderson said it was a coaches decision to not start Powell and Young, and hinted that “there were team rules that need to be abided by,” but didn’t specify further on why the team’s two leading scorers were not in the starting lineup.
The Hogs (19-12, 10-8 SEC) next head to Nashville to compete in the SEC Tournament, which starts Wednesday.
Arkansas is the No. 7 seed in the tournament and will play its first game on Thursday, March 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.
The Hogs open play with the Vanderbilt Commodores (14-16, 8-10 SEC), who is the No. 10 seed, with the winner moving on to take on the No. 2 seed Kentucky Wildcats (21-10, 12-6 SEC) on Friday, March 15.
The Razorbacks’ No. 7 seed is its highest since the league went to its current one division format last season and the Razorbacks’ 10 wins are the most by an Arkansas team since 2005-06 when the Razorbacks went 10-6 in league play.
Thursday’s meeting will be the third between Arkansas and Vanderbilt this season as the two squads split their home-and-home series this year. The Razorbacks defeated the Commodores, 56-33, at home on Jan. 12, before dropping a 67-49 decision to Vanderbilt a month later in Nashville. This is the first meeting between Arkansas and Vanderbilt at the SEC Tournament since the 2008 SEC Tournament quarterfinals in which the Razorbacks won 81-75.