Arkansas vs Texas A&M: KK Robinson’s Gambit Not Yet Paying Off

KK Robinson, Makhel Mitchell, Arkansas vs Texas A&M, Arkansas basketball, Texas A&M basketball
photo credit: Texas A&M Athletics / Arkansas Athletics

LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs Texas A&M

Pregame Tidbits

Because of sleet and ice in Northwest Arkansas, the Texas A&M basketball team was unable to land in Fayetteville on Monday. Instead, the Aggies’ flight was diverted to Wichita, Kan., and they took a 2.5-hour bus ride to Tulsa, where they stayed the night. They then took a bus the rest of the way to Fayetteville, about 2 hours, earlier today.

The UA has announced that the game is still on for 6 p.m. CT. However, it has cautioned fans to “use their best judgment” when deciding whether or not to come. Much like last week’s game against LSU, most parking lots will be free and open, there will be no shuttle service and only a limited number of concession stands will be open.

Arkansas is once again changing its starting lineup, with both of the Mitchell twins – Makhi and Makhel – in the starting five. Jordan Walsh is out the lineup to make room for Makhel. It’s the third time the Mitchell twins have started together, with the other times coming against Alabama and Vanderbilt.

11:21, 1H – Arkansas 17, Texas A&M 12

Fresh off a 25-point performance against Baylor, Ricky Council IV seems to be feeling it again. He’s already got 7 points on a perfect 3-of-3 shooting, including a corner 3. He also has a couple of assists.

The Razorbacks are hot out of the gates, starting 7 of 11 (63.6%) from the floor. Five different Aggies have scored. It might be a larger margin for Arkansas, but it has turned it over three times and allowed Texas A&M to grab four offensive boards.

HALF – Arkansas 42, Texas A&M 34

Arkansas briefly extended its lead to 10 with a fast-break 3-point play by Jordan Walsh, but Buzz Williams immediately called a timeout and the Aggies responded with five straight points.

That bucket by Walsh was the Razorbacks’ last field goal for nearly four minutes, a drought snapped by a 3-point by Devo Davis. Anthony Black also got a tip-in in the closing seconds to give the Hogs an 8-point halftime lead.

Offensive rebounding is keeping the Aggies in it so far, as their 12 offensive boards have led to 10 second-chance points. Arkansas is also turning it over too much, with eight first-half turnovers.

FIRST HALF STATS – Arkansas vs Texas A&M

10:31, 2H – Arkansas 60, Texas A&M 49

Arkansas scored the first four points of the half, stretching its lead to 12, but it was short-lived. Texas A&M quickly dug back into it with more offensive rebounds and some bad offensive possessions by the Razorbacks.

The Aggies got it down to six before Arkansas got it back out to 10. But just like the last time, Texas A&M fought back and cut that lead in half, pulling within five thanks to five straight points by Tyrece Radford. However, a Walsh 3-pointer and Davis layup have put the Hogs back up by 11.

Ricky Council IV and Devo Davis have 13 points apiece, while Walsh has 10 and Makhel Mitchell has 8. Radford leads the Aggies with 14.

FINAL – Arkansas 81, Texas A&M 70

Davonte Davis’ fourth 3-pointer of the game put the Razorbacks up by 13, their largest lead of the night, with 7:52 remaining. However, the Aggies answered with an 11-2 run to quickly cut their deficit to four with 4:10 left.

That was as close as Texas A&M got, as Arkansas managed to finish off the victory without trailing a single time.

Davis threw down a dunk a the buzzer to give him 19 points, matching Council for the team lead. However, the star of the night was Makhel Mitchell, who had 9 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocks in 32 minutes.

FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs Texas A&M

Starting Lineups

Texas A&MArkansas
#0 – G Dexter Dennis#0 – G Anthony Black
#4 – G Wade Taylor IV#4 – G Davonte Davis
#23 – G Tyrece Radford#1 – G Ricky Council IV
#15 – F Henry Coleman III#15 – F/C Makhi Mitchell
#34 – F Julius Marble#22 – F/C Makhel Mitchell

Arkansas vs Texas A&M Preview

After yet another heartbreaking loss, the Arkansas basketball team doesn’t have long to lick its wounds before returning to the hardwood.

Just three days after a three-point loss at No. 17 Baylor, the Razorbacks are back in action Tuesday evening, as they return home to host Texas A&M in the first of 10 straight critical SEC matchups to close the regular season.

Aside from the final outcome, a 67-64 loss to the Bears that ended with a missed 3-pointer at the buzzer, Arkansas did several positive things Saturday that it can build upon moving forward — such as shooting 50.9% from the field, dishing 16 assists and limiting an elite offensive team to a season-low 33.9% shooting.

“We gave ourselves an opportunity to win against a really, really good team,” head coach Eric Musselman said postgame. “Execution in a lot of different areas, I thought we were good. I thought the players did a really good job of clock management and gave ourselves an opportunity to potentially put the game into overtime.”

As much as that loss hurt, the Razorbacks now must shift their focus to an Aggies squad off to a roaring start in SEC play under the leadership of fourth-year coach Buzz Williams. Texas A&M basketball sputtered out of the gates in non-conference play and is 15-6 overall, but it is tied with Tennessee for second in the conference standings at 7-1 in league play.

“They have a veteran team,” Musselman said. “They really know their roles… The last two years they’ve struggled in non-conference and once they’ve gotten to conference play they’ve played with great confidence. It’s a team that plays really, really hard.”

What to Expect from Texas A&M Basketball

Wade Taylor paces the Aggies offensively with 14.8 points per game on 35% 3-point shooting. The 6-foot sophomore attempts roughly six 3-pointers per game while also contributing 4.0 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals in 26.9 minutes.

Expect Devo Davis to employ his elite defensive prowess against Taylor after turning in another defensive masterpiece against Baylor on Saturday, limiting the dangerous Adam Flagler to a season-low 5 points on 1 of 11 shooting.

Tyrece Radford provides a unique challenge for the Hogs. Despite being only 6-foot-2, Radford is capable of playing several positions on the court. He contributes 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game for Texas A&M and acts as a walking mismatch against most teams. His ability to get to the free throw line will provide another element to the challenge of defending him – especially given the Hogs’ high foul tendency during conference play.

Radford has a free throw rate of .615, meaning he attempts roughly .615 free throws per field goal attempt. This rate is matched by only one Razorback: Kamani Johnson – who actually shoots more free throws than field goals. The length of Anthony Black or strength of Ricky Council IV could come in handy when slowing down Radford and keeping him off the charity stripe.

Henry Coleman, a 6-foot-7 junior, acts as the team’s center most of the time. He leads the team in rebounding at 5.8 per game to go along with 10.0 points and 1.1 assists per game. Most importantly, he leads the team in offensive rebounding at roughly 2.0 per game. It will be interesting to see who earns this defensive matchup because the Aggies also start Julius Marble – a 6-foot-8 junior – alongside Coleman. The Hogs will once again need to rebound as a team to limit Texas A&M’s second-chance points.

These four Aggies will likely be at the forefront of Musselman’s scouting report and defensive gameplan, as he hinted at in his postgame press conference after the Baylor game.

“Taylor is a guy that can make threes, he’s got really good quickness,” Musselman said. “Radford is a matchup problem for everybody in the SEC, not just us. He can play the 2, 3, 4. Marble is a guy inside and can make mid-range shots. And then Coleman is a guy that plays extremely hard, so two big, physical guys that offensive rebound at a high rate. It’s a team that is playing really well in conference play.”

Former Arkansas guard KK Robinson will make his return to Fayetteville for the first time since transferring to Texas A&M over the summer. After never establishing a consistent foothold with the Razorbacks, the Little Rock native took his talents to College Station in hopes of an expanded role and more consistent minutes in the backcourt.

That hasn’t been the case, though. Robinson has played 10-plus minutes only once in his last eight games dating back to Nov. 25. His one game playing 10 minutes came against South Carolina on Jan. 14 when the Aggies jumped out to a 21-5 lead in the first 9 minutes, led by as many as 46 and ultimately won the game by 41 points. Otherwise, the former Hog hasn’t seen any semblance of a consistent role on his new team.

As a team, Texas A&M doesn’t shoot particularly well from 3-point range. It shoots 32% from long range on the season, but only 30% against SEC teams – including 26% in its last four games. Taylor is the clear leader from beyond the arc with his 6.0 attempts per game on 35% shooting, but the Aggies also have four other players shooting at least 33% on one or more attempts per game.

What to Expect from Arkansas

The Razorbacks’ 3-points loss to Baylor on Saturday was their fourth game of the season losing by exactly three points – including their third such loss in the last nine games. Arkansas played its best half of defense to date in the first half against Baylor, holding the Bears scoreless over the final four minutes of the first half and taking a 33-27 lead into halftime.

Unfortunately, the recurring themes of foul trouble, turnovers and allowing too many free throws was once again too much for the Hogs to overcome down the stretch. Watching the game from a Razorback fans’ perspective, it’s hard not to question many of the calls made by the officials.

But, yet again, Arkansas can only control what it’s capable of changing. It allowed too many second-chance points, shot 6 of 11 from the free throw line and couldn’t generate enough points off turnovers to overcome any potentially questionable calls.

“The one thing that you always want from your basketball team is to play as hard as they possibly can,” Musselman said postgame. “Anybody that was here walked away and saw a great basketball game. I feel for the locker room. They’re giving it all they have.”

Arkansas has been playing the right way through the majority of their last five games, though you wouldn’t know it from the 2-3 record over that span. A mixture of turnovers, foul trouble and prolonged lapses on the defensive side of the ball has cost the Razorbacks three of their last five games despite putting together respectable efforts in all of them.

Another potential reason for Arkansas’ inability to close out games is its growing list of injuries. Of course, Trevon Brazile (ACL) is out for the year and Nick Smith Jr (knee) remains sidelined indefinitely with no updates on his progress, but the players taking the court for the Hogs are also becoming more and more banged up.

“Makhel Mitchell was supposed to be out 1.5-2.5 weeks,” Musselman said. “He comes back and misses one game and suits up and gives us great minutes on a bad ankle. Anthony Black is extremely banged up. He continues to suit up and put forth an incredible effort. Ricky Council, obviously with the minutes he’s played, has been banged up.”

Devo Davis extended his elite offensive stretch with another 16-point outing against Baylor. This is Davis’ sixth consecutive game scoring at least 16 points. Prior to this stretch, Davis had never scored 10-plus in five consecutive games during his 2.5 seasons at Arkansas.

In total, the 6-foot-4 junior is averaging 16.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steals on 48% – 44% – 79% shooting splits over his last six games. Unfortunately, the Hogs are only 2-4 in that stretch despite holding leads in the second half of each of these games other than the loss to Alabama where they trailed by two with under five minutes to play.

What to Watch in Arkansas vs Texas A&M

Arkansas basketball has the 10th-tallest team in the country, according to KenPom, and is starting to use that to its advantage offensively. Makhi and Makhel Mitchell have been more effective in the pick-and-roll of late, while Jalen Graham continues to show up elite footwork in the post. Texas A&M should provide another huge opportunity for the Razorbacks’ frontcourt.

Though the Aggies play hard and are an above-average offensive rebounding team, their average height ranks 258th nationally with a starting frontcourt featuring players standing 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-8. Arkansas typically starts three players over 6-foot-7, including Makhi Mitchell who stands closer to 6-foot-10. Watch for Arkansas to attempt to command the paint on both sides of the ball in this intriguing matchup of play styles.

This also extends to Ricky Council IV (6-foot-6) and Anthony Black (6-foot-7), who have seen a few post touches in recent games when they’re guarded by shorter guards. Exploiting mismatches might be the best offensive strategy for this Razorback team that has not excelled in creating plays off the dribble.

Texas A&M ranks No. 67 in adjusted defensive efficiency, though they’re only allowing opponents to shoot 45% from inside the 3-point arc on the season – including 43.5% against SEC teams. Back in Bud Walton Arena, the Hogs absolutely have to take advantage of a smaller defensive matchup to get back in the win column.

On the flip side, Texas A&M has not been overly bothered by good defensive teams. On the season, the Aggies are 3-2 against teams in the top 20 of adjusted defensive efficiency – including 2-0 against Florida (No. 8). Arkansas ranks No. 12 in this metric, but it’ll clearly still have its hands full slowing down the Aggies defensively.

Game Prediction: Arkansas vs Texas A&M

Arkansas continues its steady improvement while also receiving a boost from the hometown crowd. Texas A&M basketball is playing better than perhaps many expected at this point in conference play, but the Razorbacks are also better than their record indicates.

With big performances from the frontcourt alongside the trio of Devo Davis, Anthony Black and Ricky Council IV, Arkansas will put the Aggies away late in the second half of a tightly contested game. In the end, the Razorbacks’ size will be too much for Texas A&M to overcome. Arkansas builds on its recent improvement and starts what hopefully becomes an extended winning steak.

Arkansas, 76-69

How to Watch Arkansas vs Texas A&M

Date: Tuesday, Jan. 31

Location: Bud Walton Arena (Fayetteville, Ark.)

Tipoff Time/TV Schedule: 6 p.m. CT (ESPN2)

ESPN BPI: Arkansas has a 71.2% chance to win, favored by 5.9


More coverage of Arkansas basketball from BoAS…

Facebook Comments