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.