No. 5 Texas A&M came into its game at Bud Walton Arena on Wednesday night riding a 10-game winning streak.
It left with that streak snapped and reasons to be frustrated.
The Aggies fell to Arkansas 74-71 in an ugly affair that saw 50 fouls called, including 29 in a second half that never allowed either team to establish any sort of consistent run of play. That’s not to excuse Texas A&M’s effort, of course. After all, the Razorbacks’ high-pressure defensive scheme forced 21 turnovers and held the the Aggies to 39 percent shooting from the field.
For those reasons alone, Arkansas certainly deserved to come away with a win. Moses Kingsley scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, and Dusty Hannahs and Anthlon Bell each scored 17. Basically, Mike Anderson’s group played the exact kind of game that it wanted to coming into this one: an uptempo game that saw them establish themselves in the paint as well as knock down 3-pointers against a 3-point defense that often can give up plenty of open looks.
However, the Aggies will have plenty of reason to be upset, both at themselves for allowing play to be dictated by Arkansas and at the officials for taking over the game and ruling against them. The game was officiated poorly on both ends, but two crucial calls against Texas A&M on the offensive end late clearly could have been the difference in the contest.
The first one came with 3:54 left in the game and Arkansas up 66-63. Jalen Jones gathered for a layup that he made, but was called for an offensive foul after making contact with a defensive player that was clearly in the restricted area. Then, with a 71-69 Arkansas lead, Alex Caruso was called for another offensive foul near the basket on a lay-up attempt when he made contact with a still-clearly moving Razorback defender. It’s hard to say that those points wouldn’t have changed the complexion of the game had they been called correctly. And that doesn’t even take into account the ticky-tacky nature of the calls all night, as seen by the sheer number of fouls referenced earlier.
In the end though, this one goes in the books as a loss for the Aggies and it tightens up the race in the SEC. Texas A&M now sits at 7-1 in the league and 17-3 overall following the result, only a single game ahead of Kentucky, LSU and South Carolina. Things also don’t get easier for the Aggies, as they now have to go on to play Iowa State at home over the weekend, on the road at Vanderbilt, and at home against South Carolina.
Wednesday night certainly wasn’t Texas A&M’s, in regard to both the things they could and could not control. But now they need to move on as these next three games are going to be critical in telling us whether or not Texas A&M is a legitimate Final Four contender, or simply just a contender near the top of a down SEC.