Freshman Starks leads Texas A&M past Arkansas 80-66
COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) Texas A&M might have found its point guard of the future - and its point guard of the present for a program desperately trying to make the NCAA Tournament. Freshman T.J. Starks scored 16 points and A&M used a strong second half to defeat Arkansas 80-66 on Tuesday night in Reed Arena.
"He's just grown up," A&M coach Billy Kennedy said of Starks, who's taken over the starting role the past two games. "When he gets coached, he handles it a lot better. He's maturing more than anything."
That newfound maturity was on display against the Razorbacks, as Starks commanded the offense and made 4 of 5 from 3-point range along the way.
"In the second half he did a better job of making the extra pass," Kennedy said. "He's always been a scorer first, and he's starting to learn how to run the offense and get other guys shots."
The Aggies clutched a 33-32 halftime lead despite committing 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes. A&M (14-8, 3-6 Southeastern Conference) came out hot in the second half, building a 44-34 lead a little more than two minutes in thanks to a dunk by Tyler Davis and 3-pointers from D.J. Hogg, Starks and Admon Gilder.
Hogg followed up that flurry with two more 3-pointers over the next couple of minutes, in showing some of the long-range form that made him so impactful early in the season for the Aggies.
"I just had to trust my shot and keep shooting," Hogg said. "It started falling and my teammates kept finding me. The bucket seemed to open up for everybody, too."
Meanwhile, Davis was the only rebounder on either team in double digits with 13, including 11 on offense.
"Our defense in the second half was not the brand we played in the first half," Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. "Before you knew it, we let their one-point lead blow up to double figures."
Texas A&M: Following consecutive road losses, the Aggies were desperate for a victory and they got one against a sloppy Arkansas squad. A&M, ranked fifth nationally to start SEC play before a steep drop off, needs to take advantage of a couple of consecutive home games against imminently beatable opponents in the Razorbacks and South Carolina on Saturday, and they're halfway to their goal after Tuesday night.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks finally slipped off the edge after their last five wins had come by a total of 12 points. They only trailed by a point at halftime, and it looked like it might come down to the wire again for the Razorbacks, but Arkansas will need to go back to the drawing board defensively following its soft coverage against A&M's hot hands in the second half.
Texas A&M: The Aggies play their second consecutive home game when South Carolina visits Reed Arena on Saturday. The Aggies will try to snap a two-game losing streak against the Gamecocks.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks play a second consecutive road game when they visit LSU on Saturday. Arkansas aims to avenge a stunning 75-54 home loss to the Tigers on Jan. 10.
STAT OF THE NIGHT
The game would have been even more of a blowout if the Aggies hadn't coughed up the ball so much early. Arkansas owned a 15-4 advantage at halftime in points off turnovers and finished with a 20-11 edge in that category.
A&M freshman guard Jay Jay Chandler gave fans a taste of what they have to look forward to over the next couple of years with an up-and-under, no-look reverse layup on a fast break midway through the first half.
HE SAID IT
"Relaxation. A breath of fresh air. It was a good feeling."
A&M's D.J. Hogg on sinking three consecutive 3-pointers early in the second half, after struggling from long range for much of SEC play.
Updated January 31, 2018