Story Poster
Buzz Williams
Henry Coleman III
Jace Carter
Texas A&M Basketball

Recent downturn accentuates importance of success against Arkansas

February 19, 2024
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Press conference video courtesy of Texas A&M Athletics.


Basketball games are kind of like stocks. Their values tend to appreciate with time.

Victories in February and March usually are more valuable than those in November and December.

That’s seemingly the case for Texas A&M, which had its NCAA Tournament stock drop last week because of losses to Vanderbilt and Alabama.

The Aggies (15-10, 6-6) aim to stop that downward trend on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Reed Arena against Southeastern Conference rival Arkansas (12-13, 3-9).

The recent losses have dropped A&M to No. 45 in the all-important NET rankings.

The NCAA Tournament selection committee uses the NET as a guideline to pick the teams in the 68-team March Madness field.

Though A&M has posted six Quadrant 1 victories, the Aggies’ stock would suffer with a loss to Arkansas, which would be a Quad 3 opponent.

Therefore, the Aggies should have a heightened sense of urgency.

“I don’t know that a coach would necessarily say that any game is not urgent,” Texas A&M coach Buzz Williams said on Monday. “I think from a value standpoint — I understand some are Quad 1, Quad 2, Quad 3 — I understand that.

“I don’t know that a coach would necessarily say that any game is not urgent. I think from a value standpoint — I understand some are Quad 1, Quad 2, Quad 3 — I understand that. But the value? You win a Quad 1 (game) that’s huge. But I don’t know if it’s necessarily different than losing a Quad 3.”
- A&M head coach Buzz Williams

“But the value? You win a Quad 1 (game) that’s huge. But I don’t know if it’s necessarily different than losing a Quad 3.”

He’s right. A&M has six Quad 1 victories. Only four teams in the nation — Houston, Purdue, Arizona and Connecticut — have more.

But the Aggies have four Quad 3 losses, including a heartbreaking 78-77 setback to the Razorbacks last month. They can’t afford another Quad 3 loss.

“It’s important for us to go get this one, especially with the kind of week we had last week,” A&M junior guard Jace Carter said. “(We’re) Trying to move forward. This is definitely a good place to start.”

Actually, the start is a good place to start. The Aggies got off to a slow start in Fayetteville. They were scoreless the first four minutes and later fell behind by 20.

They rallied to take the lead, but lost on a buzzer-beating jumpshot by Arkansas guard Tramon Mark.

That final shot was the knockout punch, but the Aggies were staggered at the foul line. Arkansas converted 31-of-40 free throws.

Those free throws enabled the Razorbacks to overcome a 41-point scoring outburst by A&M guard Wade Taylor IV.

Williams acknowledged keeping the Razorbacks off the foul line will be a top priority in the rematch.

“How can we defend the ball, keep the ball in front, not get in rotation and amidst all that not give them points at the free-throw line?” Williams said. “All the different varieties of ball guards they have are all very good at getting the ball downhill. We have to keep them out of the paint and we have to defend without fouling.”

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Texas A&M converted only 32.4 percent of its field goals in January’s meeting in Fayetteville.

The Aggies get help in that quest with the availability of 6-foot-8 forward Henry Coleman III. He sat out the first game with an injury.

“It was hard. My voice can only do so much. I really wanted to be out there with the guys whether I score 30 points or don’t score at all. I just want to be out there with the guys and compete.

“To not be out there on the floor hurt me a lot. But I’m back. I’m feeling a lot better. I’m ready to go.”

This time it’s the Razorbacks who may be without key contributors.

Trevon Brazile, a 6-foot-10 forward, has missed the last six games with knee soreness. Forward Jalen Graham sat out Arkansas’ 71-67 loss at Mississippi State on Friday. His status is uncertain. Guard Keyon Menifield Jr. missed the second half against the Bulldogs with a groin injury.

However, the Aggies will be more focused on doing what they typically do in victories — getting offensive rebounds and minimizing turnovers to maximize scoring opportunities.

Those scoring opportunities often come at the free-throw line. The Aggies always set a goal to make more free throws than their opponent’s attempts.

“I just think we need to be consistent,” Carter said. “The games we are successful we are getting fouled a lot, we’re rebounding the ball at a high rate like we usually do. We’re just being us, being predictable.

“In some of the games we’re losing it’s just little errors we’re making down the stretch or throughout the game that adds on. I don’t think it’s one specific thing that’s above the others. We just have to figure it out down the stretch and put it together.”

 
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