FAYETTEVILLE -- Texas A&M hadn't lost in 53 days, but none of those were in Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas forced 21 turnovers while making only one in the last 10 minutes to outlast the No. 5 Aggies, 74-71, Wednesday night before a loud 10,548 at Bud Walton.
The Aggies remain winless in three trips to Bud Walton and have not won in Fayetteville since 1987. The Hogs are 56-14 against the Aggies in Fayetteville. The Hogs snapped a three-game losing streak.
None of that was lost on A&M coach Billy Kennedy after the Hogs celebrated after a D.J. Hogg 30-foot miss at the buzzer. The Aggies had thumped the Hogs, 92-69, in College Station in the SEC opener on Jan. 2. What changed?
“We were different and Arkansas had something to do with that,” Kennedy said. “This is the toughest place to play in the league. Arkansas played well. Arkansas played really well.”
Arkansas guard Anthlon Bell said, “We have the best fans in America. The students were here the whole time and our fans were passionate. They came in (tonight) and gave us a lot of energy.”
A&M had dominated inside while rolling to a 7-0 league start and hadn't lost since a Dec. 5 trip to Arizona State, but it was the Hogs that went inside-out to lead all but 67 seconds. With Moses Kingsley scoring 18 points and drawing three charges, the Hogs won the battle of the paint, 30-26.
“We attacked,” said Mike Anderson, the Arkansas coach. “We brought energy from the start. I thought we did a good job of attacking in the second half. Our spacing was good and we were able to get Moses some one-on-one matchups.”
The Hogs (10-10, 4-4) led by as many as 10 in the first half, but A&M pulled ahead on a Danuel House 3-pointer with 6:36 left, 58-57. The Hogs never trailed after Manny Watkins scored on back-to-back trips for a 63-60 lead at 5:01.
The big bucket of the game was a corner fallaway shot by Dusty Hannahs with 2:32 left on an inbounds pass from Jabril Durham as the shot clock was winding down. That gave the Hogs a 69-64 lead. The Hogs didn't make many mistakes the rest of the way although three missed free throws in the last 1:09 made it interesting.
Hannahs gave the Hogs some breathing room by canning two from the foul line with 6.4 seconds left. He was among several defenders hounding House at the end, with Hogg the only option at the end.
“Give Arkansas credit,” Kennedy said. “Arkansas hasn't been winning the close games and hit big free throws at the end. They made big shots at the end of the shot clock and they caused our turnovers. You can't make 21 turnovers and expect to win on the road, not in this place.
“We gave up 30 points in the paint. We hadn't been outscored in the paint. Our senior guards didn't handle it very well and were not organized. We've won a bunch of games, but we haven't been in a lot of close games. We were not organized at the end and we have to do better.”
The Hogs have lost more than their share of close games.
“Arkansas just played better than we did,” Kennedy said. “They had been turning it over at the end and made some mistakes on the road. They didn't in this game.
“Mike's got good kids, you can tell they have good character. Over the course of a season, you win with character.”
Told that later, Anderson said, “I appreciate Billy saying that. We do have character. They have not wavered. They see the game through my eyes. We had everyone contribute. Keaton Miles had four blocked shots in nine minutes. That's energy.”
Kingsley, Durham (17) and Bell (17) gave the Hogs 52 points. Kennedy reminded that that same trio scored just 36 in the game in College Station.
“When those three score over 50, they are tough to beat,” he said. “When we make 21 turnovers, that's not too good.
“Hannahs shot at the end of the shot clock was a big shot. He made some big shots and big free throws and he had only two turnovers. I know at least three of those shots were very tough. We were there with him.”
Hannahs took the pass with 3 seconds on the shot clock with his back to the basket in the dead corner. He had set a screen at the top of the key and sprinted towards Durham.
“We were trying to run the play and I set the screen,” he said. “I ran hard to the ball. I know there wasn't time to get a shot fake and I just jumped away and turned. I got some separation.”
Still, the Hogs had to sweat Hogg's long miss at the end. With some of the tough breaks at the end of games in losses at LSU and Georgia, was there worry?
“It was painful to watch,” Hannahs said of the time Hogg's shot was in the air. “I know it's painful for others, but it's more painful to us.
“With our luck, you think it might bounce off the shot clock and go in.”
Bell said, “We just knew we had to keep at it. We cut out the mental mistakes and got stops and rebounded the ball. We took charges. We made plays.”
The Hogs had to weather some tough luck in the first half, when they were not getting to the line despite aggressive moves to the basket. The Aggies shot the game's first 14 free throws. The Hogs didn't get to the line until 1:18 left in the half and only shot four in the opening half.
“You have to adjust to the way the game is being called and we did that,” Anderson said. “We did get to the line in the second half.”
The Hogs shot 20 foul shots in the second half, although they made just 60 percent. A&M finished with 35 free throw attempts, 11 more than the Hogs.
Both teams have home games in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge on Saturday. A&M plays host to Iowa State. The Hogs get Texas Tech at 3 p.m.
Dusty Hannahs celebrates after the victory.
Manny Watkins floats past Alex Caruso for a layup.
Watkins looks to the bench after a critical made basket.
Photos by Anthony Reyes