FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — Gary Blair’s best effort to fight back tears while remembering his time at Arkansas failed.
The emotional Texas A&M coach had plenty of reasons to cry, both because of his memories of 10 seasons in Fayetteville and the No. 5 Aggies’ buzzer-beating 52-50 win over the Razorbacks on Sunday.
Achiri Ade’s putback as time expired helped Texas A&M (14-2, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) overcome a difficult performance and give the school three straight wins after back-to-back losses — including a disappointing defeat in the closing seconds to No. 3 Texas in North Little Rock two weekends ago.
Ade, who finished with 10 points and 15 rebounds, made sure this homecoming ended in winning fashion for Blair, who is now 4-0 against his former school.
Blair, who still has family in northwest Arkansas, even planned to take the Aggies to his Fayetteville home for a barbeque before heading home to College Station after the last-second win.
“It’s good to be back home,” Blair said. “… I had a lot of people cheering for me in the stands, but the majority of the Arkansas people were doing what they were supposed to. They should be cheering for Arkansas.”
Courtney Williams led the Aggies with 18 points, but it was Ade who corralled Jordan Jones’ miss in the closing seconds and banked in the winning basket as time expired — helping to overcome a 33.9 percent (19 of 56) shooting effort.
The winning play came after Blair called a timeout with 24 seconds remaining, following a basket by Arkansas’ Jessica Jackson that tied the game at 50-50. Ade’s points matched a season high, and her 15 rebounds were one off her career-best of 16.
“Once I saw (Jones) go up, I just tried to get a body on somebody, get the miss and take my time with the last shot,” Ade said. “… The worst thing that could happen was overtime, so I just had to take my time with the last shot and just go up.”
Jackson led the Razorbacks (10-4, 0-2) with 18 points despite hitting 7 of 22 shots, while Kelsey Brooks added 15 points on 4-of-16 shooting.
Brooks, the SEC’s leading scorer with an average of 16.6 points per game, was held to 0 for 8 from the field in the second half as Texas A&M forced 10 turnovers in the half while rallying for the much-needed win.
“It’s very disappointing, but at the same time they’re a really good team and we hung with them literally until the last second of the game,” Brooks said.
Blair was 198-120 in 10 seasons at Arkansas from 1993-2003 before leaving for Texas A&M, where he won a national championship in 2011.
The Aggies struggled to remain perfect against their coach’s former school for much of Sunday. They trailed by as many as five points early in the second half after Melissa Wolff scored inside to put the Razorbacks up 34-29.
Texas A&M rallied for a 43-40 lead after a basket by Courtney Walker — though Arkansas tied the game 50-50 Jackson’s drive with 31 seconds remaining.
Ade, however, had the final answer on the other end as time expired.
“We’re just as good as Texas A&M,” first-year Arkansas coach Jimmy Dykes said. “We didn’t come here to play the game; we came here to win the game, and they just made one more basket than us.”
Arkansas led 28-25 at halftime despite hitting just 9 of 31 shots (29 percent) in the first half, thanks in large part to having only two first-half turnovers. The Aggies’ pressure, however, forced 10 turnovers by the Razorbacks in the second half, which Blair said “was probably the difference in the ball game.”
Texas A&M: Sunday was the second trip to Arkansas in two weeks for the Aggies, who lost 67-65 to No. 3 Texas in North Little Rock on Dec. 21. The SEC women’s tournament is also in North Little Rock’s Verizon Arena this season.
Arkansas: Jackson and Brooks finished a combined 11 of 38 from the field for the Razorbacks, who also only hit 4 of 23 3-pointers.
Texas A&M travels to No. 8 Tennessee
Arkansas is at No. 17 Mississippi State on Thursday, its second of three straight games against ranked opponents.
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