Mike Anderson

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Turnovers, poor shooting cost No. 5 Texas A&M at Arkansas

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With 10 straight wins since a 13-point loss at Arizona State in early December, No. 5 Texas A&M emerged as the class of the SEC thanks to multiple scoring options, taking good care of the basketball and a solid defense. However those first two strengths weren’t present in Fayetteville Wednesday night, as the Aggies struggled to knock down shots and avoid turnovers.

The end result was a 74-71 loss at the hands of Arkansas, ending Texas A&M’s winning streak and also handing them their first loss in SEC play.

Entering Wednesday night no team in the SEC took better care of the basketball than Texas A&M, which turned the ball over on just 15 percent of its possessions in conference play. That wasn’t the case against Arkansas, as the Aggies coughed the ball up on 28.4 percent of their possessions (21 turnovers). Arkansas used pressure at times but it was more of the token variety, looking to take time off of the shot clock as opposed to speeding things up to the “Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball” level that we’d grown accustomed to seeing from Mike Anderson-coached teams.

But Texas A&M made more mistakes in the half-court, with four starters having at least three turnovers on the night (Jalen Jones had five and Alex Caruso four, and some dubious offensive foul calls didn’t help either). Texas A&M was fortunate that Arkansas was unable to convert those turnovers into more points on the other end, as the home team scored 15 points off of Aggie turnovers.

Yet in dodging that bullet Texas A&M was unable to get over the hump as multiple key scorers struggled offensively. Outside of Danuel House (24 points, 7-for-12 FG) and Tyler Davis (14 points, 3-for-6 FG, 8-for-9 FT) the efficiency wasn’t there for a team that in conference games ranked second in the SEC in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Arkansas remained solid defensively, forcing Texas A&M to make challenged looks and at 39.6 percent shooting the Aggies were unable to do so at a high enough clip to get the win.

The question now is what do we make of Texas A&M, whose lead atop the SEC is down to one game in the loss column with their loss (LSU and Kentucky are 6-2, with South Carolina 5-2). While impressive in their seven wins to open SEC, Texas A&M’s best wins came at home against Florida and LSU.

The Aggies should still be viewed as the favorites to win the SEC, but they won’t lack for challengers either with games against each of the three teams directly behind them in the standings yet to be played. And the other games left on the schedule won’t be easy either, especially if the Aggies don’t take care of the ball as they have for the majority of their games this season.

Billy Kennedy’s team uncharacteristically struggled with turnovers against Arkansas, which was able to do enough to get the win.

Beard set to make return to action for Arkansas after arrest

Marcus Paige, Anton Beard
Associated Press
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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) Arkansas point guard Anton Beard will make his return to the court on Saturday after missing the season’s first nine games following a summer arrest on forgery charges.

Beard, named to the Southeastern Conference’s All-Freshman team last season for the Razorbacks (5-4), was arrested in July after Fayetteville police said he was seen using and exchanging counterfeit $20 and $50 bills.

He entered a pre-trial diversion program last month in an attempt to avoid prosecution, and Saturday’s game in North Little Rock with Mercer (8-2) will mark the end of his semester-long suspension.

“He feels grateful to have the opportunity still to be here,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “I am sure there are a lot of things he wants to correct. How do you correct that? By going out and doing the right thing. So, it’s a life lesson for him.”

Beard averaged 5.8 points in 18.9 minutes per game last season for the Razorbacks, who were 27-9 and finished runner-up in the SEC. He started the season’s final 16 games, including a pair in the NCAA Tournament, and he shot 35.2 percent on 3-pointers while also averaging a steal per game.

The 6-foot point guard wasn’t made available to speak publicly before his season debut, but Anderson said he’s been practicing with the Razorbacks for the last two weeks in preparation for his first game.

Arkansas has struggled at times this season to replace last season’s SEC Player of the Year, Bobby Portis, as well as second-leading scorer Michael Qualls. The Razorbacks were 2-3 following a pair of losses to Georgia Tech and Stanford in New York, but they have won three of four games since.

Without Beard, point guard Jabril Durham has flourished while averaging a team-high 30.8 minutes per game. The senior is second in the country with an average of 8.1 assists per game, and he’s also averaging nearly two steals per game.

Anderson said while Beard’s return will cut into Durham’s minutes somewhat, he expects both to become more efficient with their play – and that the two are likely to see action at the same time as Arkansas tries to extend its winning streak to three games.

“He’s not the savior,” Anderson said of Beard. “He’s just going to be a guy that’s going to come in and try to get back into the rhythm of things, because right now our guys are playing at a pretty good level.”

Arkansas lands four-star junior college forward Arlando Cook

Mike Anderson
Associated Press
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One week after announcing that he’d de-committed from Nevada, one of the top junior college prospects in the Class of 2016 has decided to play his college basketball in the SEC.

6-foot-9 power forward Arlando Cook, currently a sophomore at Connors State College in Oklahoma, announced via Twitter Thursday afternoon that he will sign with Arkansas when the early signing period begins later this month. Cook averaged 11.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game as a freshman, and his commitment is an important one for a program that currently lack front court depth.

Cook joins fellow forward Adrio Bailey in Arkansas’ 2016 recruiting class to date. The Razorbacks took a hit to their front court options during the summer as it was announced that Ted Kapita was not cleared to join the program. Originally expected to attend prep school and join Arkansas in 2016, Kapita wound up signing on with the ill-fated AmeriLeague whose CEO was none other than convicted con man Glendon Alexander (he went by the name of Cerruti Brown in this endeavor).

That took Kapita out of the equation, and with Kennesaw State transfer Willy Kouassi being in his final season of eligibility Mike Anderson and his staff had some significant holes to address in their front court rotation. Current juniors Moses Kingsley and Dustin Thomas (Colorado transfer; sitting out this season) will be available in 2016-17 as will redshirt freshman Trey Thompson.

But Arkansas needed another option, especially one who can hit the ground running and be a key contributor immediately. Cook’s verbal pledge takes care of this issue.