DALLAS, Texas. – Despite strong defensive play throughout along with a strong second half and 14 points from junior Rotnei Clarke, the Razorback men’s basketball team dropped their second game of the season to 25th-ranked Texas A&M in overtime, 71-62, at the American Airlines Center on Saturday afternoon.
Even though this is only the second loss of the season for Arkansas (7-2), both losses have come in overtime. Texas A&M (10-1) overcame a ten point lead that Arkansas took at the beginning of the second half to force overtime and held the Razorbacks to just two points in the extra period.
“Both teams fought and competed hard,” said Arkansas head coach John Pelphrey. “Overtime didn’t go well for us again, but it was good to be in that situation. One play could have won the game for us. We just have to learn from this and become stronger.”
The Hogs opened the second half with a big 7-0 run in the first two minutes of play after a couple of two point plays by sophomore Marshawn Powell and and three by junior Jeff Peterson. That run along with the 9-3 run at the end of the first half tallied up to a 16-3 Razorback run over nearly four minutes of game clock.
However, the Aggies, led by Khris Middleton, would slowly cut down the Arkansas lead and actually pull within one with 10 minutes to play. Middleton would finish the game to lead all scorers with 31 points.
It would then become a game decided at the free-throw line and Texas A&M would shoot 77 percent from behind the charity stripe in the game to keep Arkansas within their sights and force overtime. Arkansas would get a chance to win it in regulation, but after getting a hot-shooting Rotnei Clarke the ball, a strong Aggie defense kept the Razorbacks from getting a shot off at the buzzer.
In the overtime period, both teams would not get a field goal in the first 2:50 of play. The only point coming from a Middleton free throw for Texas A&M. However, Arkansas would miss their first five shots in overtime and allow the Aggies to go up nine. Clutch free throws down the stretch would be the deciding factor for the Aggies to give their team the victory.
Following Clarke in the point category for the Hogs was sophomore Julysses Nobles, who came off the bench to score 12. Senior Delvon Johnson, who was not as much of a force on the offensive side of the ball still made his presence known in the game on the defensive side as he racked up six rebounds and eight blocks. Those blocks puts his total up to 41 for the season.
The Razorbacks jumped out to the early 3-0 advantage in the first half after getting a three-pointer by Powell, but Texas A&M would then go on a 9-0 run for the next 2:45 and take a lead they would have for most of the first half. Much of the reason behind Texas A&M’s strong play early was their ability to crash the boards. Through just the first seven minutes of play, the Aggies held a 8-2 rebounding advantage.
However, the Hogs were able to keep it within four for the majority of the opening half by forcing turnovers and getting defensive stops. After the midway mark had passed in the half the Razorbacks already forced eight Aggie turnovers and actually pulled within one after a layup by Johnson near the eight minute mark. That layup made it 22-21 Texas A&M with 7:44 to play, the closest Arkansas had been since the opening minutes of the game.
After Texas A&M would get a couple of two point jumpers to push their lead to five, Clarke would score his first points of the game from behind the three-point line and bring the Hogs within two once again. Those would be Clarke’s first points since he was held scoreless against Mississippi Valley State.
Both teams would continue to trade buckets for the remainder of the half, but the Razorbacks would tie it up in the final two minutes after a steal by freshman Marvell Waithe and then an old-fashioned three point play by Nobles on the other end to make it 30-30 with 1:44 to play. Those points would be part of a 9-3 run that Arkansas would take into halftime and give them the lead by two going into the locker room, 35-33 Arkansas.
After two missed free throws by A&M, the Razorbacks were able to get the final shot of the first half. In just 4.7 seconds, Nobles would drive the court and into the lane to cap his strong first half with a running jumper and give the Hogs their first lead of the game since the opening minute. In all nine games this season, Arkansas has held the lead at halftime.
At the half, Julysses Nobles led all Arkansas scorers with 11 of his 12 points in the first half. Arkansas from the floor in the first half shot 38 percent, while holding Texas A&M to 43 percent.
The Razorback men’s basketball team returns home for the next game on the schedule against Texas Southern. The game will be played on Wednesday with the tip-off scheduled for 7 p.m. For all information regarding the men’s basketball team, be sure to log on to ArkansasRazorbacks.com.