Early on at Arkansas, Battle has been as advertised

Arkansas guard Khalif Battle (0) celebrates after making a three-point shot, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, during the second half of the Razorbacks’ 80-75 win over the Duke Blue Devils at Duke Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Visit nwaonline.com/photo for the photo gallery.

FAYETTEVILLE — Scoring comes naturally to Arkansas’ Khalif Battle.

The transfer guard, who made previous stops at Butler and Temple, holds a career average of 13.1 points in 78 games. After a freshman season with the Bulldogs in which he put up 3.0 points in 11.0 minutes per game, Battle blossomed into a gifted scorer at the college level.

In 45 games with the Owls, Battle averaged 17.8 points and gained a reputation as one of the best-scoring off-guards in the country. Through nine outings as a Razorback, he has been as advertised.

Battle eclipsed 1,000 career points Monday as Arkansas beat Furman 97-83. He scored 25 points, including 20 in a second-half start.

“I mean, he’s a dynamic scorer,” Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman said. “There’s not many players in college basketball that can have 20 in a half. Certainly he can create his own shot [and] he’s a high-volume free throw attempt player.

“When your team needs points in a hurry, he just rises up over people. If you crowd him, he beats you off the bounce and draws free throws.”

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Entering Saturday’s game against No. 19 Oklahoma at BOK Center in Tulsa, Battle is 0.2 points behind guard Tramon Mark (17.0) for the team scoring lead. He has scored 20-plus points five times this season and in back-to-back games twice.

Dating to his final season at Temple, Battle has reached the 20-point mark more often than not, doing so in 10 of his last 15 games played.

In that stretch, he has averaged 18.5 points.

“When coaches call on you, you've got to be ready,” Battle said.

As a team, Arkansas is shooting 35.1% from three-point range, and Battle’s accuracy has been key to that figure rising compared to previous seasons. He is 20 of 45 (44.4%) beyond the arc, and his makes have come in a variety of ways.

Battle is 14 of 30 (46.7%) on catch-and-shoot threes and 6 of 15 (40%) on off-the-dribble attempts. While an obvious threat in the half court and in transition, Battle has also made at least 3 threes on baseline-out-of-bounds plays.

CBB Analytics shows he is 18 of 32 (56.3%) this season on threes inside 25 feet.

Here is a breakdown of Battle’s three-point makes and attempts this season:

Catch-and-shoot

Left corner: 3/7

Left wing: 3/11

Top of the key: 1/2

Right wing: 3/4

Right corner: 4/6

Off-the-dribble

Left corner: 1/1

Left wing: 4/7

Top of the key: 0/1

Right wing: 0/5

Right corner: 1/1

In addition to his shooting, Battle ranks ninth nationally in fouls drawn per 40 minutes played (8.2), according to KenPom data. The mark is second best among SEC players behind Auburn forward Johni Broome.

Battle is 57 of 70 at the free throw line. His 70 attempts are 30 more than second most on the team and 15 more than any other player in the conference. Alabama guard Mark Sears is second with 55 attempts.

Battle drew 5 fouls and was 7 of 8 at the line against the Paladins earlier this week.

“He’s good. I watched him on film,” Furman coach Bob Richey said Monday. “I told our staff, I mean, he was really, really, really talented. We tried to keep him off his right hand and we didn’t do a good job of that. He still got to it.”

If Battle puts together another big scoring game Saturday, it will come against one of the best defensive teams in the country in the opening five weeks of the season.

Oklahoma, which is 8-0 after a 21-point win over Providence on Tuesday, sits 13th nationally in defensive efficiency, according to KenPom. Only two players have scored more than 17 points against the Sooners this season.

“When you have a guy that can shoot, dribble and draw [free throws], it makes him really hard to guard,” Musselman said. “And he has deep range. All those things factor into his ability to have an impact on the game offensively.”