The Texas A&M Aggies nearly lost a 17-point lead in the second half, but managed to outlast Arkansas 86-81 for their sixth straight win Saturday afternoon at Reed Arena.
Arkansas, faced with a three-point deficit with seven seconds left, called a timeout with Davonte Davis preparing to shoot his second free throw. Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman opted to have Davis miss the second free throw intentionally in hopes of an offensive and 3-pointer. Davis stepped across the free-throw line before his attempt hit the rim for a violation that gave the Aggies the ball.
After an Aggies time out, Marcus Williams caught a long inbounds pass, drew a foul and made two free throws to ice the game. Texas A&M improved to 13-2 overall and 2-0 in the SEC.
Arkansas (10-5, 0-3), desperately trying to avoid its fifth loss in its last six games, chipped away at the Aggies’ double-digit lead throughout the second half. The Razorbacks were down 79-78 with 1:06 left on a JD Notae basket. Notae had a game-high 33 points.
The Aggies made it a two-possession game at 82-78 on Quentin Jackson’s 3-pointer with 34 seconds left. Jackson finished with 16 points, and that was his only 3-pointer.
Officials called Williams for a blocking foul with 27 seconds left, leading to a pair of free throws by Davis, who scored 11 points. He made both to cut the Aggie lead to 82-80.
But Texas A&M answered with two free throws from Hassan Diarra to push the Aggies’ lead back to 84-80 with 14 seconds left.
The Aggies have won nine of their last 10 games. While they’re not receiving votes in the AP Top 25, the Aggies are making a case for votes under third-year head coach Buzz Williams.
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Jackson wasn’t the only Aggie in double figures. Four other Texas A&M players scored at least 11 points — Henry Coleman III (14), Andre Gordon (13), Tyrece Radford (12) and Wade Taylor IV (11). Coleman nearly had a double-double with nine rebounds.
Texas A&M overcame a sluggish first 10 minutes of the game, coupled with a hot start by the Razorbacks. The Aggies shot out of the gate in the second half, thanks to relentless defense and a scorching shooting. A 13-0 run built a 53-41 lead.
Notae wasn’t the only Razorback in double figures. Stanley Umude had eight of the Razorbacks’ first 17 points of the game. He finished with 10 points and fouled out with more than 13 minutes to play. Jaylin Williams added 10 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
The Aggies continued their best start since going 12-1 to open the 2015-16 season.
The Aggies remain in College Station to host Ole Miss on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.
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You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.