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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

A&M grinds out victory over Arkansas

Photo by Robert O’Brien

Graduate G Dexter Dennis (0) reacts after the Aggies retain possession of the ball in the final seconds of Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas at Reed Arena on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2022.

Texas A&M men’s basketball came into its game against Arkansas with a lot of hype surrounding the program. With its record sitting at 18-7 overall and 10-2 in conference, A&M found itself with the opportunity to continue its strong run of form and avenge one of its two losses in the SEC.
In their last matchup, the Aggies lost in relatively easy 81-70 fashion to the Razorbacks. While the maroon and white fought hard and kept the game within 10 points for most of the matchup, the team didn’t have much of an answer for the Razorbacks’ interior defense. In the rematch, the Aggies hoped for a different result in front of their home fans.
From the outset, both teams played with great physicality.
A pair of early 3-pointers gave Arkansas an early 8-4 lead. As was the case in Fayetteville, the sheer length of senior forwards/centers Makhi and Makhel Mitchell were giving A&M fits in the interior. The twins altered most of A&M’s early inside shots.
Defensive intensity continued to be the main theme of the first half. The Razorbacks continued to lead 10-4. A 3-pointer from graduate guard Dexter Dennis got the Aggies to within 10-7 of the Razorbacks.
Going into the under-eight minute timeout, the maroon and white continued to battle and started to build a bit of momentum despite still trailing 11-9. Points continued to be hard to come by for both teams, but the Razorbacks were starting to give ground to the Aggies.
With the Mitchell twins on the bench, A&M started to find success attacking the paint. The problem for A&M was that Arkansas was also finding its offensive stride. Arkansas led 26-21 with just over three minutes remaining in the first half.
A 4-0 run by the Razorbacks forced the Aggies to call a timeout with two minutes remaining in the half. The Razorbacks were finding success by capitalizing on maroon and white miscues.
A 3-pointer at the buzzer from junior guard Hayden Hefner ended the half on a high note for the Aggies. However, they still trailed 33-24 going into halftime.
The first half was reminiscent of the first matchup between the Razorbacks and the Aggies. The Razorbacks’ defensive pressure continued to give the Aggies fits, but they managed to keep them at arm’s length. Statistically, Dennis and the senior guard led the way for the Aggies with 5 points apiece.
Going into the second half, A&M’s defense wasn’t the issue. Coming out of the game with a victory would come down to A&M’s execution on the offensive end.
The Aggies came out firing in the second half, going on a 9-2 run to get within 35-33 of the Razorbacks. Sophomore guard Wade Taylor IV led the way to start the half. Taylor’s 11 points over the course of four minutes gave the maroon and white their first lead since the game’s infancy. Reed Arena was rocking.
A&M’s defensive adjustment in the second half was to switch to a 3-2 zone to try to keep the ball out of the paint. Early on, this change was mostly successful, but it did allow Arkansas with open 3-pointers.
Both teams trading baskets led to the game being deadlocked at 42 with under 12 minutes remaining. A&M made a habit of attacking the paint. The difference from the first half was that A&M showed zero hesitation and went right at Arkansas’s shot blockers.
A 7-0 run from the Razorbacks swelled their lead back to 49-44 over the maroon and white. The Aggies’ offense was starting to stagnate with just over nine minutes left in the game.
A&M responded to get within 3 points, 51-48, of Arkansas. Much of the spurt could be attributed to continued excellent play from Taylor. Another Taylor 3-pointer coming out of a timeout tied the game at 51.
A layup from Dennis off of an offensive rebound gave A&M a 55-53 lead with three minutes left in the game. For the ensuing minute, the score remained the same, with each missed shot adding intensity to the game.
Dennis said the Aggies’ mindset was to take the critical moments of the game one play at a time.
“Just being locked in [and] in the moment,” Dennis said. “Trying to get stops and execute the game plan in [critical situations].”
With 34 seconds remaining, A&M took a 57-53 lead on a putback layup by junior forward Henry Coleman. On the next possession, a charge from junior forward Andersson Garcia put A&M in the driver’s seat for the victory. The most impressive part of the play was that Garcia had four fouls. A Radford block put the exclamation point on the 62-56 win for A&M.
The most impressive player in the game for A&M was Taylor. Taylor had 18 points in the game, with 16 of them coming in the second half. In addition to his scoring, Taylor also did a great job of distributing the ball to his teams.
Taylor said his teammates’ belief in him propelled him towards a strong second-half performance.
“Shoutout to Hayden Hefner,” Taylor said. “He hit that big shot going into halftime and it was good momentum [shifter]. I told him he really kept us in it with that. [The] shot showed us we were still good and with each other. Coming out in the second half we wanted to get stops because [they lead] to offense. I just came out and continued to play how I play. Shoutout to my teammates at halftime for telling me to keep going.”
Wednesday marked a statement victory for the Aggies. Despite the adversity, the maroon and white persevered and pulled out a win over a talented Razorback squad. With games against Tennessee and Alabama looming, the Aggies will have to continue to play at this high level to remain near or possibly at the top of the SEC.
A&M coach Buzz Williams gave credit for the recent run to his players.
“I have such respect and admiration for who our guys are. Do I think we are in this position exclusively because of our talent? No. Do I think we are in this position exclusively because of our coaching? No. I think we are in this position because of the character of the people [on this team].”
Up next for the Aggies is a road trip to face the Missouri Tigers at Mizzou Arena in Columbia, MO, on Saturday, Feb. 18. Tipoff is set for 5 p.m.

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