Arkansas vs. Texas A&M Advance

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE –  The groundhog saw his shadow three days after the Texas A&M Aggies last played a men’s basketball game.

Coach Buzz Williams’ Aggies, 8-7 overall/ 2-6 in the SEC,  finally are supposed to play  at 7:30 Saturday night on the SEC Network, hosting nationally 24th-ranked  Arkansas, 17-5 overall/ tied  for second with LSU, 9-4 in the SEC at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas.

 Thursday afternoon Reed Arena  was a warming center this week for those frozen without heat in the College Station/Bryan vicinity.

Too many covid-19 positive tests and contact tracing postponed four Aggies game. one originally scheduled Feb. 6 against Arkansas at Walton Arena in Fayetteville,  since they defeated Kansas State, 68-61 in a Jan. 30 SEC/Big 12 Challenge game in Manhattan, Kan.

The fifth, and they hope final, postponement, stemmed from the SEC postponing all of last Thursday’s games, including A&M vs. Alabama, because of this week’s snow, ice and power outages slamming the South.

Their momentum from upending Kansas State long postponed, the Aggies should take the court raring to play though not necessarily pick up the pace against Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks that like to run.

I think they do a great job of playing the game at their pace,” Musselman said Thursday of Williams milking the shot clock and slowing the game down. “Coach Buzz does an awesome job. We can try to play at a certain pace, but you’ve also got to understand that if the game is at their pace you’ve got to be able to win the game playing both styles of play.” They’re really good defensively.”

Forward Emmanuel Miller leads the Aggies averaging 14.7 points and 7.8 rebounds.  Though he now comes off the bench as sixth man, Aggies senior Savion Flagg is a familiar thorn in Arkansas’ side.

Aggies guards Jay Jay Chandler  also is  veteran Aggie.

 “Miller has done a great job on the glass and has had a really good year,” Musselman said.  “We know from last year that Chandler and Flagg and those guys can score the ball. They’re all returners that played well last year. I think  Andre Gordon at the point guard is a good basketball player.”

Because A&M strives shortening the game, “shot selection becomes really important,” Musselman said.

“That’s one of the areas that I think we’ve drastically improved,” Musselman said.  “If the game is at a little bit slower pace, you can’t take bad shots. You’ve got to make sure shot selection is really good, which is some of the stuff we’ll talk about today and tomorrow.”

The Hogs, complementing each other well offensively and defensively,  have won seven consecutive  SEC games in part by doing more attacking the basket and less impatiently settling for shooting  threes.

Musselman’s men responded well to their first national ranking, AP media voters bestowed No. 24 on them Monday, in beating well regarded Florida Tuesday night at Walton.

Any concerns about heads swelling a bit since the Aggies are rusty and four games south of SEC .500?

“We’re practicing, man,” Musselman said before putting the Hogs through their paces Thursday.  “We’re not patting anyone on the back and no one is taking a bow, I can tell you that. We’re putting on our hard hats and going to work.  Obviously our guys are on the Internet and see what’s out there, but we have two road games (Saturday and March 2 at South Carolina)  and it’s really hard to win on the road in the SEC, in case anyone doesn’t know.”

Pending on how the Aggies manage to make up five postponed games before the SEC Tournament, the Hogs have three home games with the next two at Walton Feb. 24 and Feb. 27 against first place Alabama and LSU.

Both are rematches with Alabama and LSU beating the Hogs in Tuscaloosa, Ala. and Baton Rouge, La.

“We have two overly, really difficult games at home,” Musselman said.  We have four games down the stretch and each is going to have its own theme and identity of how those things roll out.  But our concern is how do we win against Texas A&M, not to worry about anything other than our four remaining regular season games.”

ARKANSAS  (16-5, 8-4)

F-Justin Smith        6-7    Sr.     11.8 pts.         6.4  rebs.

C-Connor Vanover 7-3    So.      7.9                5.5

G-Jalen Tate            6-6   Sr.     11.1                3.6

G-Moses Moody      6-6   Fr.     16.2                5.6

G-Davonte Davis     6-3   Fr.       7.2                3.6

TEXAS A&M  (8-7, 2-6)

F-Emmanuel Miller  6-7 So.     14.8 pts.   7.7 rebs. 

C-Jonathan Aku      6-10 So.      1.9          2.9

G-Jay Jay Chandler 6-4  Sr.      8.4           2.5

G-Andre Gordon      6-2  So.     9.3            2.2

G-Jaxon Robinson   6-5  Fr.     2.3            1.2

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