COLLEGE STATION, Texas — It’s a new year. And a new team.
But no matter how much Arkansas promised things had changed, it sure looked an awful lot like Razorback road teams of old at Texas A&M on Wednesday night.
The Razorbacks, who were confident they could get off to a fast start on the road in their Southeastern Conference opener, turned in another ugly performance during a 69-51 loss in front of an announced crowd of 5,539 in Texas A&M’s Reed Arena.
Arkansas (9-5, 0-1 in SEC) shot 42.3 percent from the field and 26.7 percent (4-for-15) from the free-throw line. The Razorbacks struggled to get out in transition against a physical half-court opponent, were plagued by personal fouls once again 24), and bullied on the glass (51-27) by Texas A&M (11-3, 1-0 in SEC).
“It was a terrible game on our part,” Arkansas guard BJ Young said. “It was not one of our best efforts. We didn’t rebound well. We didn’t shoot well.”
It led to Arkansas’ worst loss of the season, eclipsing the 15-point defeat against Arizona State on Nov. 23. It also set the mark for the lowest scoring performance of the season, easily topping the 67 points in its first road game – the loss at Michigan.
It came against a Texas A&M that suffered a 53-51 home loss to Southern on Dec. 22. But Fabyon Harris scored 17 points, Elston Turner added 15, and Kourtney Roberson tallied 13 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Aggies to their first win as an SEC member. Arkansas, meanwhile, saw its five-game win streak end and its road record under coach Mike Anderson dip to 1-11 the past two years.
“Obviously, A&M probably wanted it more than we did,” Anderson said. “It was their first SEC game and I thought it was reflected in their hustle play. They won on their hustle play (Wednesday). Coming in, I thought that’s what we were a team of, a team that hustles, gets after it and scraps and claws.”
But Arkansas’ troubles began in the opening minutes when forward Marshawn Powell picked up two quick fouls and went to the bench with 14:15 remaining.
He did not play the rest of the half, although the Razorbacks showed some promise behind Young in building a 21-16 lead. The success quickly unraveled behind missed free throws, personal fouls and rebounding woes.
Texas A&M took advantage of Arkansas’ shortcomings to end the first half on a 13-3 run, taking a 29-24 lead into the locker room despite shooting just 31.3 percent from the field. Turner scored the biggest bucket, knocking down a 3-pointer in the closing minutes to tie the game at 24-24 and kick off a decisive spurt.
The first minute of the second half was the most telling of the game. Texas A&M missed its first shot, but an offensive rebound gave the Aggies another look. Turner responded by knocking down another 3-pointer to push the lead to 32-24.
On the other end of the floor, Powell turned the ball over and it led to two free throws by Harris to give the Aggies a 34-24 lead. It eventually grew to 36-24 before Arkansas ended its lengthy scoring drought with a basket by Mardracus Wade.
“We panicked as soon as the game went wrong,” Young said about the second half. “We tried hard, but as soon as something started going wrong for the team panic set in. it was just, once that happens, it just goes downhill from there.”
The entire half went that way for the Aggies, whose lead ballooned to as much as 23 points in the second half. The performance even caught Texas A&M off guard.
“I was surprised,” Harris said of the blowout win. “I looked at Kourtney and was like, ‘Bro, we’re about to blow them out.’”
One big reason for Arkansas’ woes was the fact Powell — the Razorbacks’ second-leading scorer (15.2 points a game) — struggled throughout the night.
The junior was scoreless on 0-for-2 shooting Wednesday. He also committed five turnovers in a season-low 12 minutes. Powell hadn’t gone scoreless since playing one minute against Texas Southern during the 2010-11 season.
“He got frustrated,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “I think coach Anderson, obviously, must’ve been frustrated with him. I’m glad he only played 12 minutes because he’s really a good player.”
But Powell wasn’t the only Arkansas player to take the blame for the disappointment. Everyone had a hand in the rebounding woes, where Texas A&M turned 19 offensive rebounds into 21 second-chance points. The same could be said at the free-throw line, where five players combined to go 4-for-15 from the stripe.
Young, who scored 13 points on 6-for-12 shooting, was the only Arkansas players in double figures Wednesday night. The other four starters — Powell, Hunter Mickelson, Mardracus Wade and Rickey Scott — combined to score 15.
The loss dropped Arkansas coach Mike Anderson to 0-7 against Texas A&M in his coaching career. It also gave Arkansas the dubious distinction of being Texas A&M’s first SEC win in both football and men’s basketball after the 58-10 loss at Kyle Field last September.
The basketball team will try to rebound from the loss in its SEC home opener against Vanderbilt (6-6) on Saturday night.
“They did what they’re supposed to do,” Anderson said about Texas A&M’s performance. “Urgency takes another step. But there’s a lot of basketball. It’s one game. One game does not define your season.”