GAME NOTES: The Texas A&M Aggies will wrap up a three-game homestand at Reed Arena on Wednesday night when they play host to the Arkansas Razorbacks in the SEC lid-lifter for both teams.
Arkansas recently finished up a seven-game homestand of its own by winning all seven contests, including its most recent bout with Texas-San Antonio on Saturday, 104-71. Although the Razorbacks (11-2) traveled to the Maui Invitational in late November, earning a win over Minnesota sandwiched between losses to California and nationally-ranked Gonzaga, this will mark their first true road game.
After suffering their first home loss of the season on New Year's Eve to North Texas (61-41), Texas A&M bounced back in fine fashion on Saturday afternoon with a 63-46 victory over Texas-Pan American. The Aggies are now 9-4 on the season, including 9-1 at Reed Arena.
Although the teams have met 149 times in their histories, only two matchups have come as SEC foes. Arkansas leads the all-time series, 97-52, with each team winning at home in two contests last season.
The Razorbacks made 50 percent of their astounding 80 field goal attempts in their 33-point victory over UTSA in what was their third 100-point outing of the season, earning extra possessions thanks forcing an eye-popping 28 turnovers. Bobby Portis was a factor all over the floor with 19 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. Rashad Madden poured in 15 points, Michael Qualls scored 11 off the bench and in total 13 players registered at least one field goal in the win.
Arkansas is no stranger to these types of explosive performances, as it ranks seventh in the nation in scoring 87.2 ppg on 49.4 percent from the field, 37.1 percent from 3-point range and 71.3 percent from the free-throw line. Its scoring (+20.5) and turnover (+7.1) margins are also tops in the SEC as well. Qualls, despite starting just over half the games, leads the team with 13.7 ppg, with Portis (12.8 ppg), Alandise Harris (10.5 ppg) and Madden (10.2 ppg) also playing well. Each of the team's top five scorers shoot at least 50 percent from the field, and 12 players net 3.1 ppg or greater to contribute to a deep bench.
It was far from Texas A&M's best offensive performance in their most recent bout, as it shot 41.2 percent from the field, including just 7-of-26 from beyond the arc (.269), but it was still able to cruise to the 17-point victory by holding UTPA to only 17-of-51 shooting from the field (.333). Jamal Jones led all scorers with 16 points, while Alex Caruso stuffed the stat sheet with 13 points, six assists, four steals and three blocks. Fabyon Harris finished with 10 points and Kourtney Roberson, despite going scoreless, helped out with 10 rebounds.
The Aggies are typically an underachieving offensive squad, as they rank last in the SEC in putting up just 69.6 ppg, but what they lack in explosion they make up for with stout defensive play, ranking second in the league in allowing just 60.6 ppg. They also live in the green with their rebounding (+2.5) and turnover (+0.6) margins. Roberson is rock-solid in the frontcourt, tallying 11.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg and nearly a block per contest, while shooting 60.4 percent from the floor. Jones (9.7 ppg) and Caruso (9.5 ppg) are on the cusp of the double-digit scorers' club.
The big question in this matchup is whether or not the Aggies' strong defensive pressure can slow down the Razorbacks' unrelenting offensive attack. Texas A&M will certainly have a shot to do so on its home floor, but expect the Razorbacks' superior talent to come through in the end.
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