The losing streak on the road is over, and the Razorback men’s basketball team (15-6, 4-4) will have a wealth of momentum when it travels to face a struggling Texas A&M Aggies team (13-8, 2-6) on Tuesday.
The Razorbacks come from helping the Southeastern Conference claim its first ever SEC/Big 12 Challenge by narrowly beating the Oklahoma State Cowboys 66-65 on Jan. 27. Meanwhile, Texas A&M lost at No. 5 Kansas 79-68.
The Razorbacks were never meant to come into College Station, Texas, this season as the team with the better record, but that’s exactly the case. The Aggies were poised to finish third in the conference by the media and started out the season going 11-2 in non-conference play. TAMU then took a sharp decline at the beginning of conference play, losing its first five games.
The Aggies still have their core five players starting and are averaging around the same numbers as last season, but many players have missed games with injuries, which added to the Aggies’ recent subpar performances. The Aggies boast a deadly frontcourt with junior center Tyler Davis averaging 14.4 points and 8.8 rebounds per game. Davis is paired with the media’s preseason pick for SEC Player of The Year in sophomore forward Robert Williams, who is nearly averaging a double-double with 10.4 points and 9.8 rebounds.
“They had some guys out, but I’m sure they’re finding their chemistry,” Anderson said. “Guys like Williams and Davis can get you a double-double every night. We know our league is really good, and when you don’t come out ready, man, you can lose some games quite easily.”
With that frontcourt, it’s no surprise that Texas A&M thrives on defensive efficiency. The Aggies are No. 6 in the country in adjusted defensive efficiency, allowing 91.5 points per 100 possessions. Still, the Razorbacks’ offense is not without its merits. The Hogs score an average of 116 points per 100 possessions and rank at No. 24 in adjusted offensive efficiency, according to Kenpom.
Simply put, the Hogs have a better offense, and the Aggies have a better defense. Whichever team adjusts and plays well on its weaker side of the floor could hold the key to the victory.
“We can’t come out on our heels, we have to come out on our toes,” Anderson said. “I think our defense has got to be the key. We’ve got to come out much more aggressive.”
Senior guard Daryl Macon celebrated his third SEC Player of The Week honor of the season on Monday after three 20-point performances last week. The Hogs’ second-leading scorer was crucial in victories over Ole Miss on Jan. 20 and Georgia on Jan. 23 after draining free throws in clutch time.
“I just think he’s playing some of his better basketball right now,” Anderson said. “He’s a lot more relaxed. He’s doing more than scoring for us. He’s rebounding and assisting at a high level. I even think he can still play even better than how he is right now.”
The Little Rock native was a definite starter for most of the season but has recently shifted to more of a sixth-man role, coming off the bench for the past few games and filling up the stat sheet.
While the Hogs are led by their senior guard duo of Macon and Jaylen Barford, Anderson said he doesn’t want the box score to show just those names with big numbers.
“It can’t be just those two guys (Barford and Macon),” Anderson said. “We have to get Daniel (Gafford) going. C.J Jones is very capable of coming in and scoring for us. And we need to get performances like the one Dustin Thomas just gave us.”
Thomas had his best game of the season against the Cowboys, scoring nine points and grabbing 10 rebounds to go along with three assists.
The game is set to tip off at 8 p.m. and will air live on ESPNU.