Arkansas coach Musselman upset in SEC tournament loss to Aggies

Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr. (3) looks to pass as Texas A&M guard Dexter Dennis (0) defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in the quarterfinals of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, Friday, March 10, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/John Amis)

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman made it very clear he wasn’t happy with a loss to No. 18 Texas A&M and an early exit at the Southeastern Conference Tournament.

Razorbacks assistants had to restrain Musselman a couple times during a 67-61 loss Friday night in the quarterfinals in which the Aggies rallied from a 13-point deficit.

After the game, a student journalist tweeted that his phone was grabbed and thrown to the ground by an Arkansas staffer who was walking behind Musselman as he left the court.

The Kentucky Kernel, the independent student newspaper at the University of Kentucky, put out a statement after the incident that involved its journalist.

“The Kentucky Kernel is appalled by the actions of the Arkansas men’s basketball program. … no journalist, especially a student journalist, should be subjected to violence for simply doing their job,” the statement said.

Musselman didn’t mention any outbursts when he met with reporters postgame.

“If you get down 7-0 in the foul count at any level, whether it’s CYO, college, the NBA, it affects your aggressiveness defensively, especially a team that shoots foul shots percentage-wise as well as Texas A&M has all season long,” Musselman said.

Wade Taylor scored 18 points to help Texas A&M (24-8) advance for the second straight year to the semifinals, where it will play Vanderbilt, which beat Kentucky.

Arkansas (20-13) now must wait until Sunday’s NCAA Tournament bracket announcement to learn its postseason fate.

Musselman said it was going to take some time to get over this stinging loss.

“For much of the game we had a lead. I mean, we had a lead for 27 minutes or whatever,” Musselman said. “Obviously we played a very good first half and a poor second half. I give Texas A&M credit for their second-half play.”

Coach Buzz Williams said his second-seeded Aggies were not good in the first half and it didn’t help that Taylor was in foul trouble early.

“We tried to play him offense for defense as best we could,” Williams said. “Nine turnovers is not good. Nine blocked shots is not good. The reason they shot 55% is 18 times we gave them the ball and never got our defense set.”

Henry Coleman III had 16 points and 11 rebounds for Texas A&M. Dennis Dexter and Tyrece Radford each added 11 points.

Nick Smith led Arkansas with 16 points and Makhi Mitchell finished with 15.

Jordan Walsh made a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Razorbacks a 38-25 lead at halftime.

Texas A&M trailed 40-27 early in the second half before surging to take a 46-45 lead on Dexter’s jump shot with 10:26 remaining.

Coleman said none of the Aggies panicked.

“Our leaders stepped up and said the right things,” Coleman said. “Coach came in and prepared us for the second half. We weren’t really playing Texas A&M basketball in the first half. I thought our ability to get downhill, control the free-throw line and control the glass was a huge key.”

Big Picture

Texas A&M outrebounded Arkansas 43-26 and had a 36-28 scoring edge in the paint. … Arkansas had nine steals in forcing Texas A&M into 15 turnovers. The Razorbacks used that to give them a 15-5 scoring difference in fast-break points. They also had a big advantage in blocked shots at 11-2.

Up Next

Arkansas will wait to see where it will play next. Texas A&M heads to the semifinals in the SEC tourney against Vanderbilt.