Arkansas, Texas A&M set to meet in SEC showdown

FAYETTEVILLE – The Texas A&M basketball team had a difficult time playing outside of the conference.

That’s putting it mildly.

The Aggies lost to Murray State 88-79 and Colorado 102-75 in Conway, SC and to Boise State 86-71 in Fort Worth, Texas.

An 83-79 loss in Memphis wasn’t too bad for Texas A&M, but then the Aggies lost 67-62 at home to Wofford on December 20, falling to 6-5.

Since then, Texas A&M has been on the go.

The Aggies (15-6, 7-1 SEC) are 9-1 in their last 10 games before their matchup against the University of Arkansas (14-7, 3-5) tonight at 6 p.m. at Walton Arena.

“They struggled in the non-conference, and then they came to the SEC game and they really blew it away,” Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said on his television show Sunday night. “They play really, really confident basketball.

“They understand their role. They have many veterans back who have been in this system. They’re playing as well as any other team in the SEC right now.”

Among the returnees for the Texas A&M team, which finished 27-13 last season and lost to Xavier in the NIT championship game, are 6-2 senior guard Tyrece Radford, 6-0 sophomore guard Wade Taylor and 6-8 junior forward Henry Coleman.

Radford has averaged 16.6 points in their last 10 games and 13.6 points on the season and hit 97 of 120 free throws (80.8%).

Taylor averages a team-high 14.8 points and has hit 44 of 126 three-pointers (34.9%) and 80 of 96 free throws (83.3%).

Coleman, who joined Texas A&M from Duke last season, averages 10.0 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Two transfers this season — 6-9 junior Julius Marble from Michigan State and 6-5 senior Dexter Dennis fifth-year from Wichita State — are starters.

Dennis played at Wichita State with Arkansas junior guard Ricky Council, who is averaging a team-high 17.2 points and hitting 25 in the Razorbacks’ 67-64 loss at Baylor last Saturday.

Aggies coach Buzz Williams praised Arkansas’s starting guard trio of Council, freshman Anthony Black and junior Vomute “Devo” Davis.

“They have three ultra-talented perimeter players who could be said to be the best perimeters in the country,” Williams said.

Texas A&M is going 4-2 this season, including 3-1 in SEC games with wins at Florida 66-63, South Carolina 94-53 and most impressively Auburn 79-63 last Wednesday night to win the home of the Tigers break winning streak after 28 games.

Kentucky is the only SEC team to defeat Texas A&M 76-67 at the Rupp Arena.

Radford scored 30 points to lead the Aggies at Auburn. He hit 8 of 17 shots, including 3 of 7 three-pointers and 11 of 12 free throws.

“He’s a great player, a great athlete — one of the best athletes in the country,” said Auburn coach Bruce Pearl. “Big, strong, physical. I just didn’t have anyone to stay in front of him.”

Texas A&M is 16-15 in road games in Williams’ four seasons.

“I think our players continue to do a better and better job just by hearing our voices and trying not to get lost in the environment or what comes with playing on the street,” Williams said. “You have to be really, really tight in a lot of different ways to have any chance of winning on the street.

“So far I think we are progressing on the right track. I think we have to keep finding ways to be even better.”

The Aggies are 1-8 in Arkansas since joining the SEC for the 2012-13 season, with their only win of that 87-80 span in 2019.

The Mussleman’s Razorbacks are 3-0 against Texas A&M at Walton Arena, but the wins are 20 points aggregate, including 76-73 last season when the Aggies sent the game into overtime after going 20-4 were in arrears.

“It’ll surprise you if you don’t think it’s the best home court environment in the country,” Williams said.

Arkansas is 10-1 at Walton Arena this season, with their only loss to Alabama.

“We can’t turn the ball around,” Williams said. “We have to figure out how to protect the impact because they are so effective.

“And we have to figure out how to be present on the defensive glass and the offensive glass.”

The Razorbacks have back-to-back SEC games at home against Ole Miss and LSU — both 1-7 in conference — and they are tied with Vanderbilt in ninth place overall.

“Hopefully we grow in February,” Musselman said on his television show. “But we need to get some Ws.”

Despite struggling from Arkansas in the SEC game and Texas A&M, which is tied with Tennessee for second behind Alabama, the Razorbacks are ranked No. 28 by the NCAA Evaluation Tool (NET) and the Aggies are No. 44.

“We still have a lot to do,” Williams said. “We are grateful to be in the position we are in and [tonight] will mark halftime of the conference game.

“I think the effort and unity of our people and team has been remarkable over the first four weeks and we want to try to keep this juju going regardless of the results.”

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