Arkansas coach Mike Anderson, right, talks to Arkansas's Anthlon Bell (5) in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Texas A&M, in Fayetteville, Ark., Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)
Danny Johnston
February 24, 2015

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) On a night when Nolan Richardson was the center of attention, Arkansas put on an early vintage display of Hawg Ball for its former coach.

Led by Bobby Portis' 22 points, the No. 18 Razorbacks narrowly held off a furious second-half rally after that - settling for an 81-75 win over Texas A&M on Tuesday night.

With Richardson in attendance while being honored with a banner in the Bud Walton Arena rafters at halftime, Arkansas (23-5, 12-3 Southeastern Conference) played the same harassing, pressure style it once did under Hall of Fame member Richardson.

The Razorbacks led by as many as 25 points in the first half, forcing 16 first-half turnovers by the flustered Aggies (19-8, 10-5). It was a performance reminiscent of Richardson's heyday, one current Arkansas coach - and Richardson protege - Mike Anderson preaches and fully enjoyed on Tuesday.

''It looked like 40 minutes of hell, part two,'' Anderson said. ''That's what it looked like, and I'm sure (Richardson) enjoyed it.''

The Razorbacks have now won seven straight games and 10 of 11 overall while solidifying their hold on second place in the SEC heading into a showdown at No. 1 Kentucky on Saturday.

Arkansas has also won 12 games in SEC play for the first time since the 1994-95 season, when Richardson led the school to the second of back-to-back national championship game appearances.

Danuel House led Texas A&M with 28 points, while Kourtney Roberson had 14 - 12 in the second half - as the Aggies recovered from their first-half shock to close with 74-72 on a layup by House with 1:30 remaining.

Ky Madden and Michael Qualls, however, hit free throws in the closing minute to help Arkansas extend its lead and improve to 16-1 at home this season.

''The first 10 minutes of the game, I saw they brought coach Richardson back, and it looked like they brought Corliss Williamson and Lee Mayberry back,'' Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. ''I really thought the first five minutes there were dominant, and there wasn't a whole lot we could do.''

The Razorbacks opened the game on a 10-0 run in the battle for second place in the SEC, eventually extending their lead to 33-9 over the flustered Aggies.

At one point, as Arkansas took a 46-21 lead on free throws by Qualls, Texas A&M had as many turnovers (15) as it did shot attempts. The Aggies, who matched their season worst with 21 turnovers in a loss to Dayton, had with 16 turnovers of those in the first half.

Anthlon Bell came off the bench to score all 14 of his points in the half, leading an Arkansas offense that hit 18 of 33 (54.5 percent) shots and 8 of 16 3-pointers. The junior was 4 of 5 from behind the arc in the half, while Portis was 6 of 7 from the field, and Madden and Alandise Harris each added 11 points for the Razorbacks.

''It was fun, because everyone was clicking on all cylinders,'' Portis said. ''I feel like almost every shot that I took or (Bell) took was going to go in.''

Led by a 44-23 rebounding advantage, the Aggies recovered in the second half and closed the Razorbacks lead to 74-72 on House's layup.

They couldn't, however, overcome the first-half fury of Arkansas - which appears to have secured its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008.

TIP-INS

Texas A&M: After committing 16 first-half turnovers, the Aggies - who entered the game having won 10 of 12 games - had only five in the second half ... Jalen Jones had 13 rebounds to lead the rebounding edge, including six on the offensive end.

Arkansas: Portis, second in the SEC in scoring at 17.4 points per game, topped the 20-point mark for the first time in four games. The sophomore has scored in double figures in 23 straight games, and he's finished in single digits only once this season.

BLOCK PARTY

For the second straight game, Arkansas set a season best in blocks - finishing with 12 as a team. Harris led the Razorbacks with four, including a dramatic left-handed block of Roberson in the first half.

UP NEXT

Texas A&M hosts Auburn on Saturday.

Arkansas is at No. 1 Kentucky, which it has defeated three straight times, on Saturday.

You May Like