Hogs find a way, get Aggies sweep

Arkansas guard Tramon Mark, the team's leading scorer, fouled out and was not on the floor for the close of the Razorbacks' loss at Mississippi State. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Arkansas guard Tramon Mark, the team's leading scorer, fouled out and was not on the floor for the close of the Razorbacks' loss at Mississippi State. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

A struggling University of Arkansas men's basketball team did what three other SEC teams -- all nationally-ranked this week -- could not.

The Razorbacks found a way to beat Texas A&M at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.

Arkansas held on for a 78-71 victory over the Aggies on Tuesday night despite missing three injured players and having a second road game in four days.

Earlier this season, Texas A&M knocked off No. 5 Tennessee, No. 17 Kentucky and No. 24 Florida at home.

But the Aggies couldn't beat an Arkansas team that had fallen under .500 with a 71-67 loss at Mississippi State last Saturday.

"This team played their hearts out," Coach Eric Musselman said of his Razorbacks.

Junior guard Tramon Mark led Arkansas (13-13, 4-9) with 26 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists in 36 minutes despite playing with a painful right shoulder that caused him to go to the locker room during the first half.

"Coach Muss drew up a game plan for us and I feel like we executed it," Mark said. "We made mistakes like every team does, but I feel like tonight we made our mistakes and we fought through them.

"That's something we hadn't been doing most of the season."

A key part of Arkansas' game plan was limiting shots by Texas A&M guards Wade Taylor and Tyrece Radford, who finished a combined 8 of 28 from the field and 0 of 6 on three-pointers.

Taylor, who scored 41 points at Arkansas earlier this season when the Razorbacks won 78-77 and came into Tuesday night's game averaging 19.4 points per game, had 11 points, 9 assists and 4 turnovers. Radford, averaging 15.5 points, scored 12.

"From a preparation standpoint, we watched a lot of film [Monday] in short segments," Musselman said of Arkansas' defensive strategy. "Obviously the game plan was to try to limit [Taylor's and Radford's] touches. I thought we did not a good job, but a phenomenal job of that."

Arkansas 6-10 senior Makhi Mitchell had a career-high 22 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocked shots in 33 minutes off the bench. He hit 6 of 9 shots and 10 of 12 free throws.

Mitchell's scoring high had been 21 points -- in the previous game at Mississippi State.

"Last game at Mississippi State on the road, we were supposed to get that one," Mitchell said on the Razorback Sports Network postgame radio show. "That wasn't the outcome we wanted, so that made us hungry for this game right here."

Injured Razorbacks who missed the game included forwards Trevon Brazile (knee) and Jalen Graham (shoulder) and guard Keyon Menifield (groin).

"Like Coach says, when a guy's out it's next person up," Mitchell said.

Arkansas senior guard Khalif Battle, who didn't play in the first game against Texas A&M because of what Musselman said was a coach's decision, started Tuesday night and had 15 points, 4 rebounds, assists and 2 steals in 35 minutes. He was 3 of 15 from the field, but hit 9 of 10 free throws.

It was an especially damaging home loss for the Aggies (15-11, 6-7) and their NCAA Tournament hopes, considering Arkansas came into the game at No. 136 in the NCAA Evaluation Tool rankings.

Texas A&M shot 20 of 60 from the field (33.3%), including 10 of 38 (26.3%) in the second half when the Aggies had a stretch of 16 consecutive misses.

Shockingly, the undersized Razorbacks outscored the Aggies 19-7 in second-half points and had a 28-24 edge on points in the lane to complete their first regular-season sweep of the Aggies since 2017.

"Just not quite good enough," Texas A&M Coach Buzz Williams said on the Aggies' radio network postgame show. "Pick any category, not good enough.

"I have to do a better job. I have to find different ways to make adjustments to give our guys a better chance."

Arkansas went ahead for good at 39-37 on Mitchell's layup with 17:02 left.

The Razorbacks pushed their lead to 59-49 at the 6:40 mark on a three-point play by Mark.

Texas A&M pulled within 61-58 on a driving basket by Taylor with 2:44 left. El Ellis was called for fouling Taylor on the play.

Taylor missed the free throw and Aggies forward Andersson Garcia grabbed the rebound, but Radford missed a three-point attempt that could have tied the game.

Mark gave the Razorbacks some cushion by hitting a three-pointer, drawing a foul from Solomon Washington and making the free throw to complete a four-point play for a 67-58 lead.

The Razorbacks made 11 of 14 free throws in the final 1:39 --including Mark going 4 of 4 and Battle 3 of 4 -- to close out the game. They hit 28 of 34 free throws for the game.

"They just had too much success at the rim," Williams said. "And when they weren't at the rim, we were fouling too often."

Arkansas senior guard Jeremiah Davenport, playing power forward because of the injuries, had 9 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals.

Freshman guard Layden Blocker, who guarded Taylor with plenty of help from his teammates, had 5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.

Jace Carter led the Aggies with 14 points and Henry Coleman added 12.

"I thought our competitiveness, our toughness, will to win, it was at a high level against Mississippi State, and we carried that over to another 40 minutes tonight," Musselman said. "I think we played our best 80 minutes of basketball in our last two games.

"Everybody has worked extremely hard. We had not a good shoot-around, but a phenomenal shoot

around today.

"Sometimes when you're struggling, it's hard to have the energy and the enthusiasm. But I think the staff and players have done a great job of continuing to try to get better.

"I thought tonight was a reflection of a team that is getting better."

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