Arkansas continued to thumb its nose at the Big 12, upsetting No. 7 Texas 67-61 Tuesday, just one week after handing Oklahoma its only loss of the season.
Texas twice held leads of seven points but could not overcome the combination of poor shooting from A.J. Abrams, a dismal performance from outside the arc and Connor Atchley in street clothes (Texas’ starting center was sidelined following the blow he took to the mouth Friday against Appalachian State, requiring 30 stitches in his tongue). True freshman Varez Ward logged his first start of the season as Texas opened with a three-guard lineup.
Texas wraps up its tough non-conference slate with an 11-3 mark while Arkansas improved to 12-1. It was Arkansas’ 43rd straight home win against non-conference foes and eighth straight home win over a nationally-ranked team. Abrams entered the game averaging 19 points but was just 3-of-16 from the field for seven points. As a team, Texas was all of 1-of-16 from three-point range (6.3 percent) which contributed to a 24-of-70 (34.3 percent) evening from the field. Four Longhorns scored in double figures, with Damion James leading the way with 17 points (8-of-15). Dexter Pittman and Gary Johnson each recorded a double-double, but it was not enough to offset the off-night from three of Texas’ guards. While Abrams was shooting less than 19 percent, Ward and Dogus Balbay combined for an 0-5 outing.
Arkansas didn’t exactly set the world on fire with its 24-of-62 (38.7 percent) showing, but hit just enough its three-pointers (5-of-17, 29.4 percent) to pull away with little more than eight minutes left. Razorback F Michael Washington was particularly strong down the stretch; his three-point play in the waning seconds put this one on ice to lead all scorers with 22 points.
The Razorbacks grabbed an early 13-6 lead after Texas misfired on eight of its first 11 attempts. Matt Hill quickly replaced Clint Chapman after the sophomore was whistled for three personals within a minute. Johnson almost single-handedly narrowed the gap . He followed a pair of foul shots with consecutive put-backs to trim the deficit, 14-16. His jumper knotted the affair with little more than 11 minutes remaining until halftime. Pittman’s turnaround, one-hand slam put Texas in front, 19-18. Texas started asserting itself on the glass as the Hogs, in foul trouble, went zone with seven minutes left. Arkansas went more than five minutes without a FG (missing 15-of-17) when Damion James’ slam spotted Texas a 25-18 advantage.
Abrams went 0-7 from the field and the Horns missed all eight tries from three-point range during the opening frame. But Texas’ transition defense kept the home team out of sync as the Horns took a 31-27 lead into the locker room.
Pittman was whistled for his third personal 1:53 into the second period with Texas leading 33-29. Arkansas G Courtney Fortson picked up his third foul just seconds later. Neither team could buy a trey, combining for 1-of-20 outside of the arc until Rotnel Clarke drained a three-ball to trim the Longhorn lead, 37-34. As Abrams continued to draw iron, Pittman was benched with his fourth personal with 13:01 left.
The Horns went three minutes without a FG and saw their lead dwindle to 43-41 before Johnson ended the drought with a 10-foot jumper. Stefan Welsh’s three-ball made it a one-point game when Abrams momentarily got untracked, draining a deep jumper to make it a 47-44 contest. He followed with a trey from the left wing before James banked one to make it a two-possession game at 52-46.
But the game changed at the 8:22 mark when Michael Washington’s desperation three rattled home, cutting the Texas lead in half. A turnover led to a Walsh layup and it was a one-point game. Washington’s traditional three-point play saw Arkansas grab its first lead of the second period, 54-52, with 5:29 left. Fortson’s traditional three-point play extended the Razorback lead to five.
Texas had been rushing its shot, settling for jumpers rather than pounding the paint as it did during the first 15 minutes of play. Pittman’s three-point play followed by a James tip-in knotted the score at 57. But Welsh drained a trey on the inbounds pass to give Arkansas the lead for good. Texas responded by turning the ball over with 3:15 left and Fortson made them pay a runner in the lane.
Abrams’ off-balance runner pulled Texas within three with 2:12 remaining. The Horns forced a turnover but James’ short-armed an attempt with 75 seconds left. Justin Mason’s steal and put-back trimmed the Razorback lead to 62-61 with 48 seconds in regulation. But the Razorbacks sealed the deal when Washington juked Mason at the top of the key and slammed it home for an uncontested layup, drawing James’ fourth foul. His three-point play made it a two-possession game, 65-61, with 22 seconds left.
Abrams attempted a trey…and missed. He launched another trey…and missed. Another trey…and missed. It was just that kind of night for Abrams. And so went the Horns.
Texas opens league play 3:00 p.m. (CST), Saturday, against Iowa State at the Erwin Center.