It was a doubleheader.
The University of Arkansas at Little Rock, which has won five consecutive games, was home with a 2 p.m. tipoff, and the University of Arkansas opened SEC play against Texas A&M in Bud Walton Arena at 6:30 p.m.
The Aggies are coached by Buzz Williams who was thought to be a candidate for the UA job, but he had what was then a huge buyout at Marquette, and the Razorbacks settled for John Pelphrey.
Williams landed at Virginia Tech, and then the Texas native got a chance to come home to the Aggies where he coached under Billy Gillespie from 2004-2006.
Williams came with a good game plan for the Hogs: Slow them down and make them shoot from the perimeter.
With 8:59 remaining, the Aggies had closed a nine-point deficit to 52-50 with defense. Arkansas was 4 of 18 from the field, 1 of 8 on threes in the second half at that point.
Isaiah Joe got a three, but the Aggies answered, and it looked like it was going to down to the wire, but Joe got a steal that led to a Mason Jones field goal.
Desi Sills followed with a steal that made it 63-55, and after the Aggies pounded it inside for a dunk, Joe pulled up and hit a three. He'd add one more to make the final score 69-59.
It was a masterful game between two coaches who knew exactly what they were doing and their opponent was doing.
Every time the Aggies threatened, the Razorbacks' defense would turn the heat up, and that's something the sellout crowd in Bud Walton understands. Defense wins games.
A&M had 17 turnovers that the Razorbacks converted into 17 points. The Aggies got seven points off turnovers. The difference was the margin of victory.
Against an aggressive Aggie team, the Hogs protected the ball, suffering just nine turnovers.
In the end, Williams and the Aggies couldn't slow down the Hogs for 40 minutes. The Hogs didn't play their best game and their three-point shooting was off because of A&M's perimeter defense.
In the first half, the Aggies did a great job of controlling the tempo until inside the final three minutes.
It was two defensive-minded teams testing the will and patience of each other, and both were struggling with making threes.
Then with 2:32 to play before the break, Jones hit a three, Jimmy Whitt got two and Jones hit another three.
With time running out, Sills launched a long prayer that was answered off the glass for another three.
Closing the opening half on a 9-1 run gave the Hogs the biggest lead of the game at 42-33.
As for the Trojans, it was a New York afternoon.
Kamani Johnson, from Brooklyn, scored 30 points and Markquis Nowell, from Harlem, had 29 as the Trojans fought off Texas-Arlington 92-89
The Mavericks fired 26 threes and the Trojans 18. There were steals, dunks, tip-ins and blocked shots that made it a fun game to watch.
Like the Razorbacks, the Trojans bench is short.
Darrell Walker used only seven players, but that changes next week when Nikola Maric and Marko Lukic gain their eligibility after sitting out 18 games following a glitch in their paperwork. Maric is from Bosnia and Lukic from Belgrade.
UALR had to get legal assistance in dealing with the NCAA, but it will be worth it. Plus, Kris Bankston is scheduled to return from injury.
The Trojans are 10-5 and 5-0 in the Sun Belt and play Georgia Southern on Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the Jack Stephens Center.
Also, like the Razorbacks, they are an exciting team to watch as they play all out from start to finish and are well-coached and well-prepared.
Sports on 01/05/2020