Arkansas hangs tough, loses to No. 2 Texas 96-85

They say everything is bigger in Texas. That is certainly true of the Univeristy of Texas basketball team.

Arkansas battled early, but the Longhorns were too big, too strong, and too talented inside for Arkansas Tuesday night, as the Razorbacks fell to #2 ranked Texas 96-85 at Bud Walton Arena. Texas’ starting front court of Dexter Pittman and Damion James scored a combined 41 points inside for the Longhorns, and reserve big guy Gary Johnson added another 16 points.

Marshawn Powell drew the assignment of guarding the 290-pound Pittman at times with Mike Washington out of the game with foul trouble.

“It was like a little point guard trying to guard Shaq,” Powell said. “That dude is a man.”

Rotnei Clarke lead the Hogs with 24 points, and freshman forward Powell was impressive, scoring 18 points and leading the Hogs with 6 rebounds and 4 steals.

Suspended guard Courtney Fortson energized the Hogs in his return to action Tuesday night after a 14-game suspension. Fortson scored 19 points, and added 7 assists in the losing effort.

“Obviously, he does a lot of things for our basketball team. I know he opens me up for a lot of opportunities to score, and he does that for everyone else,” Clarke said of Fortson’s return to the lineup. “It’s really good to have him back playing with us.”

Arkansas gave the Longhorns all they could handle early. The Hogs led by as many as 6 points in a back-and-forth first half, and went into the locker room tied at 48-48.

Texas was just too much for the Hogs inside in the second half, though. Pittman and James scored the Longhorns’ first 9 points after the break to build an 11-point lead for Texas early in the period. Arkansas was able to fight back to within a basket of the Longhorns three times in the second half, but Texas pulled away in the closing minute for the win.

“They’re the best team in the country. They’re tough to stop, especially when you have a force down there like Dexter Pittman who is as strong as he is, and can get a bucket almost any time he wants,” Clarke said.

The silver lining for the Hogs is that they now have all of their players back from suspension, and looked as though they’ll be much better equipped for the upcoming conference season with the return of their floor general, Fortson.

Arkansas kicks off SEC play on Jan. 14 when the Hogs take on Mississippi State in Starkville. The game will be televised by ESPN U.