FAYETTEVILLE — In something of an inverse of the last matchup between the two, Arkansas basketball defeated Texas A&M 76-73 on Saturday in overtime.
Arkansas (14-5, 4-3 SEC) started hot, making 3 of 4 from 3-point range while holding the Aggies without a field goal for the first four-and-a-half minutes. But Texas A&M (15-4, 4-2) wouldn't go away and forced the Razorbacks into overtime with leading scorer JD Notae on the bench with five fouls.
On Jan. 8, Arkansas started hot, too, but had to come back from down as many as 17 to make it a one-point game late. That attempted to come from behind failed. Saturday, it was Arkansas fighting to stave off a comeback.
"I give our guys a lot of credit to be able to lead a game for 41 minutes," Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. "It was a great basketball game to watch, a great basketball game to participate in."
Arkansas didn't score for the first minute-and-a-half of overtime, but free throws by Au'Diese Toney, a three-point play by Davonte Davis and a dunk from Jaylin Williams helped the Razorbacks get ahead. A Stanley Umude dunk punctuated the win.
"Growing up, I always dreamed about playing," Umude said. "This is the environment that I pictured myself playing in, so it's a dream come true. ... And the dunk, (Davis) threw me a great pass, I had a good step on the guy and just took off."
Arkansas led by as many as 16 in the first half, but Texas A&M went on an 8-1 run late to cut the lead to four at halftime. The Aggies got within one in the second half, but Notae woke up on offense.
Notae made two early 3-pointers, then missed his next seven shots. When Texas A&M got close midway through the second half, though, the SEC's leading scorer made three of his next four to help Arkansas extend its lead to 10. Notae finished with a team-high 17 points.
"You don’t have to watch us too long to know we run a lot of things through him and with him," Musselman said of losing Notae in regulation. "When it went into overtime, it was, ‘Hey, forget anything that happened in the first 40 minutes. ... The one thing we’ve got to hang our hat on is we’ve got to defend at the same level we have been,’ because we’re defending at a level that’s really elite right now."
Texas A&M didn't let up. Its transition defense was a major factor in keeping the game close. Arkansas had no fast-break points in regulation and the Aggies blocked four layups.
With about four minutes to play, A&M was back within two. Williams forced an Aggie turnover and Toney went for a fast-break layup only to have it blocked by A&M's Quenton Jackson. The Aggies got the rebound and scored to tie the game at 56.
A Notae layup and a pair of Umude free throws gave Arkansas a small lead with just over a minute to play. Notae fouled out, but Chris Lykes free throws made it a six-point game. But Umude fouled on a 3-pointer, Texas A&M made all three free throws and made a 3-pointer to tie the game at 64 and send the game to overtime.
Jackson, Texas A&M's leading scorer this season, fouled out during overtime. With both teams' best shooters on the bench, Arkansas managed to survive to win its fourth straight since that close loss to the Aggies on the road.
Arkansas shot 35% from long range despite being the second-worst 3-point shooting team in the conference. It held the Aggies, the league's best team from 3-point range, to 31%. Williams had his fourth double-double of the season with 14 points and 11 rebounds.
"Obviously, it's a lot more fun when we're winning," Umude said. "You could tell we were feeding off each other's energy. We've just got to keep it going, keep preparing how we've been preparing, and we'll just let the rest take care of itself."
Arkansas travels to Ole Miss on Wednesday (6 p.m. CT, SECN).
This article originally appeared on Fort Smith Times Record: Arkansas basketball wins fourth straight 76-73 over Texas A&M