A wardrobe change at halftime may have sparked Buzz Williams’ team, but a couple of questionable decisions in the closing seconds helped Arkansas come out on top in the end.
After Wade Taylor IV knocked down a 3 to give Texas A&M its first lead of the night with just 7.6 seconds left, Tramon Mark answered with a last-second floater that gave the Razorbacks a 78-77 win inside Bud Walton Arena on Tuesday.
For that play to go down the way it did, though, a lot had to happen — starting with Williams calling a timeout for the Aggies immediately after Taylor’s shot.
“We were out of timeouts so it actually benefited us that we could put our guys where we wanted to,” Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman said in his postgame radio interview. “Because in reality, we had no timeouts and we were in a scramble situation.
“I don’t even know if we had known who would have inbounded the ball. So the defensive timeout helped us get organized and was crucial for us to get the ball in the right guy’s hands even on the press break.”
Mark admitted to being nervous after Texas A&M took the lead, but didn’t think the timeout helped as much as his coach said. He was, however, surprised that the Aggies didn’t deny him on the in-bound pass and let him drive to the left, with his dominant hand.
Told not to take a 3-pointer under any circumstances and to attack the basket during the timeout, this played right into the Razorbacks’ plan. Mark got within about 5 feet before pulling up and sinking the game-winner over Jace Carter’s outstretched arm.
“I saw how they were playing me,” Mark said. “I thought they were going to play me tighter but they just kind of let me get a full head of steam, so I just went and I got a good look.”
It was a critical win for Arkansas (10-7, 1-3 SEC), whose season was teetering on the edge of disaster having blown a 20-point first-half lead following three straight double-digit losses to open conference play.
The Razorbacks winning in such dramatic fashion likely took some of the attention away from Williams’ unorthodox move to completely change his outfit at halftime. In addition to going from a suit and tie to a cashmere sweater, the Texas A&M coach also put on a different pair of glasses.
It nearly worked, as the Aggies slowly chipped away at their 14-point halftime deficit and finally took the lead late in the game.
However, Taylor’s shot and 41 points weren’t enough to take down the Razorbacks, who were led by Mark’s career-high 35 points. He was an efficient 8 of 15 from the field and did a lot of damage at the charity stripe, drawing 13 fouls that contributed to him being 17 of 22 on free throws.
It was the most free throw attempts by an Arkansas player since Corliss Williamson also took 22 against Ole Miss in 1995. According to HogStats, the only Razorbacks to take more in a single game did so more than 50 years ago — Martin Terry (24 vs. Texas A&M) in 1972 and Vernon Murphy (23 vs. Oklahoma) in 1971.
What it Means for Arkansas Basketball
A preseason top-15 team, Arkansas was expected to compete for an SEC title and high seed in the NCAA Tournament. Two months into the season, though, it isn’t even a lock for the NIT — much less the Big Dance.
They’ve dug themselves a much bigger hole than ever before, entering the day at No. 113 in the NET, but the Razorbacks have rallied after slow starts to conference play in the past and Mark’s shot was recognized on the national scene as a potentially season-altering play.
On a more micro level, Arkansas just needed a win, even if it was one it nearly blew down the stretch.
“When you lose like we have of late, your confidence can get shaken,” Musselman said. “All over the locker room, there’s probably 40 signs in there that say, ‘Bring your swagger back.’ When we played Duke, we had swagger. We thought we were going to win the game.
“I know it’s an exhibition game, I know nobody wants to hear it, I’m going to say it even though nobody wants to hear it — we had swagger when we played Purdue. We need that back and the only way to truly, truly get it back is to play well.”
It was just one win and moved them up only three spots to No. 110 in the NET, but the Razorbacks had to start somewhere if they’re going to turn the season around and Tuesday was a step in the right direction.
Big Day for Wade Taylor IV
The Razorbacks did a solid job against Texas A&M’s second-leading scorer, limiting Tyrece Radford to only 6 points on 2 of 15 shooting — well below his season average of 13.6 points per game.
Unfortunately for them, they were much less effective in their efforts to slow down the Aggies’ top scorer. Wade Taylor IV, the Preseason SEC Player of the Year, exploded for 41 points against Arkansas.
It was the most someone had scored against the Razorbacks since Jodie Meeks dropped 45 for Kentucky in 2009 and, according to HogStats, tied for the seventh-most ever by an opposing player.
“I mean, what an incredible, incredible performance all the way across the board for him, but he did take 32 shots,” Musselman said. “He can get his own shot at will because he’s such a special player.”
Musselman wasn’t exaggerating. Taylor took 32 shots and made 13 of them. That included 5 of 14 from beyond the arc. He also went 10 of 14 at the free throw line and added 6 rebounds, 1 assist and 2 steals in 39 minutes.
According to HogStats, it was the most documented field goal attempts by an opponent since future Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson took 36 shots in his 56-point effort against Arkansas in the 1958 NCAA Tournament.
“He is a really good player, very confident, especially when he gets going,” El Ellis said. “He just hit a lot of tough shots. We were trying to contain him but they were good looks for him but there was good defense on our end as well.”
Up Next for Arkansas Basketball
Now with one SEC win under their belt, the Razorbacks will try to start a winning streak when South Carolina comes to town this weekend.
The Gamecocks are 14-3 overall and 2-2 in conference play after dropping a tight home game against Georgia. They’re led by Meechie Johnson, who’s averaging 17.1 points this season after scoring 19 in a losing effort Tuesday night.
Tipoff is scheduled for noon CT and the game will be televised on SEC Network.
Other Arkansas Basketball Tidbits
- Thanks to there being 50 combined fouls, 73 combined free throws and eight replay reviews, the Arkansas vs Texas A&M game took 2 hours and 38 minutes to finish.
- Incredibly, the Aggies took 23 more shots than the Razorbacks and committed only two turnovers, but still lost. That’s happened only two other times in the NCAA since 2010-11, according to Sports Reference.
- Texas A&M was also plus-12 on the boards, grabbing a whopping 19 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second-chance points. Arkansas had only 9 second-chance points on three offensive rebounds.
- Davonte Davis was ejected with 4:41 remaining when he was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul for apparently kicking his foot into a Texas A&M defender’s groin as a drove to the basket. It’s the third time he’s been ejected during his Arkansas basketball career.
- The Aggies were without their third-leading scorer (11.9) and second-leading rebounder (8.0), as Henry Coleman III missed the game with an injury suffered in Saturday’s win over Kentucky. He averaged 13.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in three games against Arkansas last season.
Arkansas vs Texas A&M Highlights
Arkansas vs Texas A&M Box Score
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