FAYETTEVILLE – Texas A&M coach Gary Blair walked away from Bud Walton with a victory on Sunday, 10 years after his final game with the Razorbacks.
Four Aggies scored in double figures and No. 24 Texas A&M defeated No. 23 Arkansas 63-51 Sunday at Bud Walton Arena.
Courtney Williams led the Aggies with 16 points, Adrienne Pratcher scored 13 points and Kelsey Bone and Courtney Walker each added 11. Bone also recorded a double-double by pulling down 14 rebounds as the Aggies out-rebounded the Razorbacks 45-30.
"We played two of the better rebounding teams in these last two games and we're not a big team, so we have to collectively rebound as a team,” Arkansas coach Tom Collen said. “We don't have a player like Kelsey Bone who can grab 13 or 14 rebounds every game and grab everything off of the defensive glass. We don’t have that kid so we have to collectively rebound as a team. Some nights we do it and some nights we don't.
“That may not be a battle we win against some teams, but if you lose that, you have to win some other battles. We won the turnover battle, but we didn’t win the 3-point shooting battle and that was the battle we needed to win, I think.”
Arkansas used a runs of 7-0 and 9-0 to cut Texas A&M’s lead to eight points and six points respectively in the second half, but the Aggies kept responding. Texas A&M matched both runs, recording 7-0 and 9-0 runs of its own to extend its lead to double digits on both occasions.
“We came out in the second half ready to take on the team and we battled back,” said Arkansas guard Calli Berna, who finished with six points, seven assists and five rebounds. “We didn’t make as many shots as we should have, but the fact that we didn’t give up is something that will have to carry us the rest of the season.
Arkansas never came closer than the six-point deficit at the 8:37 mark in the second half.
Sarah Watkins led the Razorbacks’ second half surges, scoring 15 points in the final period. She finished with 19 points.
"She's a good high-post player,” Texas A&M coach Gary Blair said. “For this team, unfortunately, she has to play the low post so much, but she would be a great four-player and sometimes you don't have everything you want. I'm sure Tom is going to recruit more post-players and everything, but Watkins is a good player. She had a good game, she has a good mid-range game and she gets physical in there.
Texas A&M (12-5, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) outscored Arkansas 18-4 in the first 7 minutes, 42 seconds of the game, however, and never surrendered the lead.
“Any time you get behind in the SEC, it’s going to be a hard fight to get back up,” Berna said. “Every team is capable of hitting shot after shot and that’s what they were doing. It makes it that much harder and puts that much more pressure on you to make shots because you know you have to have those to win the game.
“A key for us is to not put ourselves in that position. You can’t have a perfect season and never get down, but if we can stay in the battle, we’ll have the chance to pull it out.”
The Aggies led 30-17 at halftime with the help of poor shooting by the Razorbacks. Arkansas shot 24 percent in the first half, while Texas A&M shot 59.1 percent.
"We're disappointed with the loss and we really didn't play very well in the first half,” Collen said. “We missed a lot of shots. We got the shots that we wanted and thought we were going to get, we just missed them. I don’t think their defense bothered us, we adjusted to it fine, and we just didn't make our shots.”
Arkansas (12-3, 0-2) returns to the hardwood on Thursday, when they host LSU at Bud Walton Arena.