COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M freshman Davonte Fitzgerald led the way with 17 points as the Aggies toppled Arkansas 69-53 in Reed Arena in the teams' Southeastern Conference opener.
A&M (10-4) entered the contest shooting 29.9 percent from the 3-point line, but finished 7 of 17 (41.2 percent) against the Razorbacks (11-3) in an unusual display of collective hot hands from the outside. Meanwhile the Aggies' defense held Arkansas to 4 of 19 percent (21.1 percent) from the 3-point line.
Arkansas fell behind 5-0, but rallied to lead much of the first half, including 31-30 on a Bobby Portis three-point play with 2:59 left before intermission. It was still tied at 33 on an Alandise Harris jumper with 1:33 to play in the first half.
A&M scrambled to a 35-33 halftime lead, then won the first four minutes of the second half by 8-2 as the Hogs made just 1 of 7 from the field. The Aggie lead swelled to 51-39 with an 8-0 run. The lead crested at 69-50 as the Hogs scored only two field goals -- both by Bobby Portis -- in the last six minutes.
The Hogs have struggled on the road under coach Mike Anderson, going just 2-23 in his three years. They were playing their first true road game of the year after playing four neutral site games, three in Maui.
Anderson said the poor shooting -- often from close range -- may have been because of jitters.
"Nerves -- you saw it on the first play of the game," Anderson said. "Bobby caught it on the high-low, a chip shot. It goes in almost every time. Then, our next time, Coty Clarke had it inside.
"We had guys who normally shoot well and it just didn't happen."
A&M won the second half, 34-20. Anderson said he thought the Hogs were in good shape at halftime, trailing just 35-33.
"We had a window of opportunity, down just two at the half," Anderson said. "We were right where we needed to be. But we gave up a back-door and a 3-pointer coming out of the halftime locker room.
"We got back in it, then they made a run and I thought we let our poise get away from us, and tried to make things happen after one or two passes.
"Our guys are hurting in the locker room. They have to get over the nerves, the nerves were there in the second half and we couldn't weather the storm."
Fabyon Harris and Searcy, Ark., native Jamal Jones chipped in 15 and 14 points, respectively, for the Aggies, while Rashad Madden led the Razorbacks with 12. The Razorbacks' leading scorer entering the game, Michael Qualls, was held to two points in making 1 of 12 shots from the field.
Clarke scored 9 points with 10 rebounds and four assists. Anthlon Bell and Harris added 8 points. Portis, just 3 of 10 shooting, scored 7.
A&M was not bothered by the Arkansas defense, committing just 11 turnovers. The Hogs had 14 with Madden and Harris each committing three.
Arkansas threatened to slice A&M's 56-48 lead with five minutes remaining, but Aggies forward Kourtney Roberson offered up a monstrous slam dunk and on the opposite end of the floor, A&M guard Jordan Green collected a blocked shot and hustled the length of the floor for a layup, in lifting A&M to a 60-48 margin with 4:51 on the clock.
Earlier in the half, A&M stretched its lead to double digits for the first time at 49-39 with 12:17 remaining when Fitzgerald smoothly drained a 3-pointer from just left of the top of the key.
The Hogs made 7 of 14 from the line, but were under 50 percent until Clarke sank three straight with 1:12 left.
Arkansas plays host to Florida at noon Saturday. The Gators opened SEC play with a 74-58 home victory over South Carolina.
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