Davis comfortable in driver's seat vs. Gardner-Webb

By: Scottie Bordelon Scottie Bordelon's Twitter account
Published: Saturday, November 13, 2021
Arkansas guard Davonte Davis drives to the lane on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, as he is pressured by Gardner-Webb guard D’Maurian Williams during the second half of the Razorbacks’ 86-69 win in Bud Walton Arena.
( Andy Shupe)
Arkansas guard Davonte Davis drives to the lane on Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021, as he is pressured by Gardner-Webb guard D’Maurian Williams during the second half of the Razorbacks’ 86-69 win in Bud Walton Arena.

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas coach Eric Musselman pointed out Saturday that sophomore guard Davonte "Devo" Davis is having to make a big adjustment this season.

The third-year coach said Davis, who starred for the Razorbacks in the back half of last season as an off guard, has essentially moved from the passenger seat in Arkansas’ offense to behind the wheel following the loss of pass-first guard Jalen Tate. 

Davis took the Razorbacks on an enjoyable ride against Gardner-Webb, guiding them to an 86-69 victory with a strong first half.

Davis’ play in the season opener against Mercer was a key talking point because he did not score in a game in which he played multiple minutes for the first time since an 85-72 win over Abilene Christian on Dec. 22, 2020. He also finished with just one assist against an uncharacteristic five turnovers.

Davis was one of three Arkansas players to reach double figures in scoring Saturday with 10 points. He also led the Razorbacks with six assists, fulfilling his role as the team’s facilitator at the guard spot.

"If we're going to be good, we need Devo to be good,” Musselman said. “Plain and simple, if Devo doesn't have a good season, the Arkansas Razorbacks aren't going to have a good season.”

More from WholeHogSports: Complete coverage of Arkansas' win over Gardner-Webb

  Gallery: Arkansas defeats Gardner-Webb 86-69

Davis’ six assists matched a career high. He also finished with a half-dozen in Arkansas’ home wins over Georgia and LSU last season.

His passes generated 13 points. Three times he found Connor Vanover, who led the Razorbacks with 19 points, and Stanley Umude knocked down a left-wing three-pointer late in the first half then later added a dunk on a cut to the rim.

“I know Coach Muss has been talking about needing a point guard, so I’m just going to continue to evolve and continue to get better at the point guard position,” Davis said. “I didn’t play much last year at the guard position, so it’s just (about) becoming a true point guard to get everyone involved so it can help the team out.”

Three of Davis’ assists came during Arkansas’ 27-5 push in the final 6 minutes, 25 seconds of the first half.

“I think he’s great,” Vanover said of Davis. “I think we all expect him to really do this kind of stuff. I expect him to have a lot of assists every night. He’s really good, he has really good vision, can see everybody on the court.

“He knows how to make really good passes and he finds people.”

Davis going scoreless and not attempting a field goal in Tuesday’s game came as a surprise. The fact that his first bucket of the season came on a three-pointer from the top of the key was fairly unexpected, as well.

But it was an area of his game that was a major point of emphasis in the offseason. Davis knocked down 2 of 3 attempts from distance against the Runnin’ Bulldogs, matching his season total as a freshman over 13 attempts.

“I think it’s important for Devo’s individual development and for our team development that when he feels like he’s open (to shoot the three),” Musselman said. “Today in shoot around, the arch that he shot the three-ball with, I said, ‘Hey, your shot looks great, man. The arch is awesome.’ And I thought both of those had great (arch). 

“If you shoot a line-drive shot — this is anybody — and it goes 9 1/2 feet, it’s not going to go in. And so for all shooters, you’ve got to have great arch on the ball to give it a chance to go in. And I thought he had great arch. I thought he stepped up there and shot them with confidence.”

Arkansas outscored Gardner-Webb by 15 points in Davis’ 29 minutes. He added two steals, giving him five for the season. 

According to KenPom data, he currently holds a steal percentage of 4.6, which ranks in the top 20 among SEC players.

“I don’t look for shots, but if they come to me then they come,” Davis said. “I just continue to play the game and whatever I can do to help the team, I’ll do that.”


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