The No. 12 Razorback men’s basketball team (21-5, 13-4 Southeastern Conference) overcame a double-digit deficit to finish the regular season with an 87-80 victory versus Texas A&M (8-9, 2-8) Saturday evening at Bud Walton Arena.
With 12 minutes to go in the first half and the game tied at 19, the Aggies began a 16-2 run. Ironically, the opposing team’s run is what ignited the Hogs’ offense.
“When I looked up and saw that we were down 14, I realized this could get real ugly real fast,” freshman guard Moses Moody said in a postgame press conference.
Slowly but surely, Arkansas managed to claw its way back into the game. By halftime, the Razorbacks had brought the Aggies’ lead down to just three.
“After we realized that we could take the lead from 14 to three in that short period of time, we knew we should be winning this game,” Moody said.
Moody paced all scorers with 28 points and strengthened his case for SEC Freshman and SEC Player of the Year awards.
Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman and senior guard Jalen Tate made their pitches for Moody to receive the hardware.
“I think he’s continued to get better all season long,” Musselman said in a postgame press conference. “He’s a go-to player on one of the two best teams in the league.”
Tate, who added 22 points of his own in the win, was more direct with his assessment of Moody’s postseason award contention.
“Honestly, I think he is a shoo-in for both of the awards,” Tate said in a postgame press conference. “He’s put in the work (and) made the sacrifices.”
With Tate finishing his fifth year in college and Moody a projected lottery pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, according to CBS Sports, it is likely they both played their last game in Fayetteville on Saturday.
Arkansas trailed by two when Moody drained a 3-pointer with just 55 seconds left to play. The Hogs stole the ensuing inbound pass and sealed the victory with an emphatic dunk from senior forward Justin Smith.
The Razorbacks will have a chance to extend their SEC win streak as they head into the conference tournament as the No. 2 seed before they begin their March Madness journey.
“We want to play for a championship,” Tate said. “Now we’ve got to go out there and do it (in) these next couple tournaments.”
Musselman acknowledged the pressure that comes with the national recognition his team has been receiving but praised his team’s ability to come out on top despite not playing to its best ability.
“There is going to be a game of runs in the NCAA Tournament,” Musselman said. “I think it was vital for us to play a game like this…(where) we did not play our most cosmetically-pleasing game but still found a way to win.”
Arkansas has a double-bye in the SEC Tournament and will face the winner of the Georgia-Missouri game Friday, March 12 at 6 p.m. in Nashville.
“I am going to assume that on Monday we will be ranked in the top ten,” Musselman said. “So with that comes responsibility and the opposing team has a little bit extra motivation.”
The AP Poll named the Arkansas Razorbacks the No. 8 team in the country Monday morning. This is the first time the Hogs have been in the Top 10 in 26 years.