FAYETTEVILLE – With Southeastern Conference play underway, few teams will expect to get out-rebounded when they play the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Still, Arkansas did not expect to get manhandled on the glass the way it did in Wednesday night’s 69-51 loss to Texas A&M. The Aggies grabbed a season-high 51 rebounds and out-rebounded the Razorbacks by 24 boards in their first conference victory as an SEC member.
“Going into that game, that is all we have been emphasizing,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “Since the Michigan game, that’s all we have been emphasizing. So for us to get to this point here, it’s got to be emphasized even more. And that is, the preparation, the effort and the attitude. Rebounding is effort and not only the first effort, but the second effort and the third effort.”
Texas A&M showed plenty against the Razorbacks. The Aggies shot just 36 percent from the field, but recorded 19 offensive boards. It led to 21 second-chance points.
“We weren’t just satisfied to put a body on somebody,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “We also chased some long rebounds down and made some effort plays we hadn’t consistently made this year.”
The best example came at the start of the second half, when the Aggies missed a shot on their opening possession. But an offensive rebound led a 3-pointer by Elston Turner, giving Texas A&M a 32-24 lead.
“On the first play, our defense was typically good enough to stop them, but then they come up with the loose ball or rebound and Turner hits a three,” Anderson said. “Then we go down our next few possessions and turn the ball over and before you know it, the game is going in the other direction. It’s like at some point, you have to stop the bleeding and we just didn’t.”
In addition to a lack of effort, part of Arkansas’ rebounding woes against Texas A&M may have had to do with the lack of playing time for Marshawn Powell. Powell got into foul trouble early and played just 12 minutes in the loss.
The redshirt junior is the Razorbacks’ leading rebounder (5.4 rebounds per game) and second-leading scorer (14.1 points per game), but the Aggies held him scoreless and he recorded just two rebounds. Powell also committed five turnovers in addition to four fouls.
“I think Marshawn will be fine,” Anderson said. “I think it’s just him getting back into the flow of things. Obviously he is a big part of what we do and it will be important for him to be out on the floor. With that being said, he is going to have to play through some of those situations –and that’s partly my doing – letting him play through some of those situations of getting some of those early fouls, because it’s important to have a guy we can go to. Whether it’s underneath the basket in the post, or picking and popping, he’s one of the most experienced forwards on our basketball team.
“Hopefully he’ll find his stride. He’s been pretty good so far this year and now that the SEC play is here, we want him to be even better. He wants to and I thought you saw him trying too hard in the second half.”
Another leading cause for concern as the Razorbacks opened conference play was their inability to make the simplest of shots – even the free ones. Arkansas missed 11 of its 15 free throw attempts against the Aggies, which Anderson credited to a lack of composure shown by his young basketball team.
“The mental toughness has to get there,” he said. “We have to be mentally tougher, especially when adversity takes place. You find a lot out about your team when adversity takes place and I thought for a while, after they came out in the second half and hit us, we lost a lot of our poise.
“You look at the game, the game was won at the free throw line. We made 4 out of 15. That’s not going to get it. Four of 15 at the line and 22 of 27 for Texas A&M and that’s the difference in this basketball game.”
Despite the disappointing loss to open conference play in Anderson’s second season as the Razorbacks’ head coach, he said the goals he laid out when he returned to Fayetteville are still in place.
“I think in any year, (a postseason tournament) is what you look forward to,” Anderson said. “When we started the year, that was our goal and that still is our goal. Certainly when I came here, I made the statement ‘we want to be an elite program’ and we will be an elite program. Everything is a work in progress and we’re going to continue to work and it’s going to happen. I have no problem about that.”