COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Texas A&M freshman Davonte Fitzgerald led the way with 17 points as the Aggies toppled Arkansas, 69-53, in Reed Arena in the teams' Southeastern Conference opener.
A&M (10-4) entered the contest shooting 29.9 percent from the 3-point line, but finished 7 of 17 (41.2 percent) against the Razorbacks (11-3) in an unusual display of decent shooting from the outside. Meanwhile the Aggies' defense held Arkansas to 4 of 19 (21.1 percent) from the 3-point line.
"It's definitely a man's game here in the SEC," the newcomer Fitzgerald said, smiling, of the game's physicality.
Fabyon Harris and Jamal Jones chipped in 15 and 14 points, respectively, for the Aggies, while Rashad Madden led the Razorbacks with a dozen points. The Razorbacks' leading scorer entering the game with 13.7 points per game, Mike Qualls, was held to two points in making 1 of 12 shots from the field.
Arkansas threatened to slice A&M's 56-48 lead with five minutes remaining, but Aggie forward Kourtney Roberson offered up a monstrous slam dunk and on the opposite end of the floor, A&M guard Jordan Green collected a blocked shot and hustled the length of the floor for a layup, in lifting A&M to a 60-48 margin with 4:51 on the clock.
Earlier in the half, A&M stretched its lead to double digits for the first time at 49-39 with 12:17 remaining when Fitzgerald smoothly drained a 3-pointer from just left of the top of the key.
In first-half action, the Aggies led 30-22 with 6:34 remaining to the break before Arkansas rattled off the next nine points to climb back in the contest. The former Southwest Conference rivals then traded baskets leading to A&M's 35-33 halftime lead.
A&M won its second consecutive league opener in its first two seasons in the SEC, after defeating the Razorbacks 69-51 in Reed to start league play a year ago. Arkansas lost its sixth consecutive SEC road opener. The Razorbacks lead the all-time series 97-53, as the programs faced each other in the SWC from 1915-1991.
The Razorbacks entered league action leading the SEC in scoring with 87 points per game, while A&M went into Wednesday night ranking second in scoring defense by allowing 61 points per game.
The Aggies are trying to make the postseason for the first time under third-year coach Billy Kennedy, after playing in the NCAA tournament from 2006-11 under the prior coaching staffs of Billy Gillispie and Mark Turgeon.
"It's a new season and a new year," Harris said.
The Aggies played without assistant coach John Reese, whom Kennedy said was dealing with a "situation." A&M had dismissed John Reese's son, sophomore guard J-Mychal Reese, last month after J-Mychal's repeated violations of department rules and regulations.
Kennedy hired John Reese, a former Bryan High coach, entering J-Mychal's senior season at Bryan High. John Reese was in his third season as an assistant under Kennedy.
While John Reese was not in the building, 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel was.
Manziel, who had declared himself eligible for the upcoming NFL draft earlier Wednesday, was introduced during a time out in the first half to raucous applause.