Hogs handle Aggies

Razorback senior forward Jalen Graham (#11) from Phoenix, AR drives to the basket against Texas A&M Tuesday night at 
Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, AR.

By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas won its third SEC game in a row on Tuesday night defeating Texas A&M 81-70.

The Aggies didn’t arrive in Fayetteville until around noon on Tuesday. Their flight Monday got sent to Wichita (Kan.) and then they drove to Tulsa, spent the night and then to Fayetteville. The Razorbacks led for 37 minutes and never trailed, but the Aggies wouldn’t go away. Eric Musselman was pleased with how his team responded to a late run by A&M and throughout the game.

“We figured coming into the game that Texas A&M would play extremely hard and it would be a 40-minute game just like almost every game is that we play them,” Musselman said. “Give our guys a lot of credit. We’re still tinkering with some of our defensive schemes. Tonight the blocked shots were really big between the two Mitchell twins … Changing the starting lineup, I don’t know what we’re going to do for Saturday. Maybe we continue to kind of alter based on who we play against or maybe we’ll eventually settle into a starting lineup. I’m not sure.”

Both Makhel and Makhi Mitchell started on their birthday. Makhel had nine points, 13 rebounds, seven blocks and one steal. Makhi added six points, five rebounds, three blocks and one steal. Makhel talked about flirting with a triple double.

“It just all led up from practice,” Makhel said. “Coach emphasizes going vertical and stuff. Me and my brother actually put in our own drills that could help us defensively in a game, and it showed tonight with the seven blocks and also rebounding as well. It just started in practice.”

Davonte “Devo” Davis played his usual good game. He had 19 points, one rebound, four assists and a steal. But it was Makhel’s game he wanted to talk about afterward.

“Terrific,” Davis said. “I ain’t never played with somebody blocking as many shots as tonight. Last year we had Jaylin Williams taking charges, like five, six, seven a game. He gets blocks, so it’s different for me. But I like it. It helps us. It’s a different dynamic for sure from previous years. I know Makhel will continue to keep it up along with our other bigs as well like Khi, JG (Jalen Graham), Kamani (Johnson) and those guys.”

Makhel talked about he and his twin brother combining to put up big numbers on their birthday.

“It’s amazing,” Makhel said. “It’s always good to play with my brother and stuff. We get out there and share the court together, do our jobs and go by the game plan and execute.”

Musselman admitted he got some help in making up his mind on the starting lineup Tuesday night.

“As I left tonight heading to the arena, one thing my wife said was, ‘Make sure you start the Mitchell twins, because it’s their birthday,’” Musselman said. “I said, ‘Yeah, OK. Thanks, Danyelle.’ Both of them were good. I mean, that’s a lot of blocked shots. We’re doing some unique things with Makhel defensively on where we place him the last two games.

“We’ve been trapping a lot more at half-court than we have all season long, so we’re adding some defensive stuff, much like we have the last couple years. We have to continue to do that. We have to continue to try to figure out new and different things that maybe the opponent hasn’t seen us do much.”

Musselman also added what he feels make Makhel such a good interior defender.

“Great anticipation,” Musselman said. “I think he gets off the floor way better maybe than someone his size and weight (usually does). He does get off the floor quickly. He anticipates. Long arms, he takes pride in blocking shots. I thought he had some great verticality, too, maybe where he wasn’t credited with a blocked shot, but he altered some shots.

“(Julius) Marble and (Henry) Coleman are two really physical guys down low and I thought he did a great job tonight of battling down there. Both of (the Mitchells), when they were in the portal, one of the things that was really important to us was looking at their analytic defensive numbers. Before they got here they were good analytically from a defensive standpoint, and they’ve certainly carried that on here, as well.”

The Razorbacks led 42-34 at intermission. One thing that helped keep the game as close as it was the 17 turnovers committed by Arkansas to only eight for the Aggies. An area the Razorbacks dominated though was bench scoring 17-0.

Ricky Council IV had 19 points as well as six rebounds, four assists, one block and a steal. Jordan Walsh came off the bench to add 12 points, seven rebounds, one assist and a steal. Anthony Black finished with 11 points, five rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Graham added five points and two blocks off the bench.

The Aggies were led by Wade Taylor IV with 18 points. Coleman was outstanding for the Aggies adding 18 points, 15 rebounds and four steals. Tyrece Radford had 17 points.

Arkansas (15-7, 4-5) will now be at South Carolina on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. to face the Gamecocks. South Carolina (8-14, 1-8) was beaten 66-51 by Mississippi State on Tuesday night. Saturday’s game will be on the SEC Network. 

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