Matt Jones is the editor of the Hawgs Sports Network. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has a bachelor's and master's degree in journalism from the University of Arkansas.
Devo to Brazile a spark
Arkansas forward Trevon Brazile dunks against Old Dominion defender during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 13, 2023, in Fayetteville. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)
FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas guard Devo Davis didn’t have an assist more than 30 minutes into Monday’s game against Old Dominion.
The the senior guard helped bring down the house.
Davis’ heads-up touch pass to trailing forward Trevon Brazile led to a thunderous one-handed dunk that put the 14th-ranked Razorbacks ahead 68-60 with 9:30 remaining.
That's a beautiful sequence pic.twitter.com/s7tEcXK4HQ— Arkansas Razorbacks Men’s Basketball 🐗 (@RazorbackMBB) November 14, 2023
It was part of a decisive 14-5 stretch that helped Arkansas to an 86-77 victory at Bud Walton Arena. The Razorbacks (3-0) won their 38th consecutive non-conference game at home.
But it wasn’t easy.
The Monarchs (1-2) hit 11 of 24 three-pointers — including 9 of 11 during a stretch spanning both halves — to make Arkansas sweat.
"I think the state of college basketball right now is you've got to come ready to play," Arkansas fifth-year coach Eric Musselman said. "I haven't looked at the scores, but there's probably an upset tonight. It's every night now.
"It's just kind of the nature of how it is if you don't come in and play for 40 minutes."
Musselman was disappointed in several areas of his team's defensive play. Old Dominion made 31 of 71 shots and had 12 offensive rebounds as part of a 39-35 advantage on the board.
"Defensive rebounding, double F," Musselman said. "Transition defense, triple F. Guarding the three, there's no grade it was so bad."
Even after the Razorbacks went ahead 79-65 on a pair of Khalif Battle free throws with 5:06 remaining, the Monarchs had an 8-0 run that included three-pointers by R.J. Blakney and Devin Ceasar to cut the score to 79-73 at the final media timeout.
"I don’t think this was a case of Arkansas not taking us seriously," Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones said on his post-game radio show. "I think we forced them to play and they responded with, I think, some really good offense down the stretch."
Old Dominion trailed by 14 points in the first half, but pulled to within three points on multiple occasions after halftime. Bryce Baker’s three with 14:31 remaining cut Arkansas’ lead to 49-46.
Brazile answered with a three on the other end to kick off a 7-0 run that put the Razorbacks ahead 56-46 when Battle made two free throws with 13:12 to play.
It seemed Arkansas always had an answer, especially after halftime when the Razorbacks shot 17 of 30. Arkansas guard El Ellis scored 15 of his team-high 17 points in the second half on 6-of-8 shooting.
Ellis also had 8 assists, 3 rebounds and 1 steal in 34 minutes. He began a fast break that resulted in Brazile's big dunk with a rebound and long pass up the floor to Davis.
"I really thought the key for them pulling away coming down the stretch was putting the ball in Ellis’ hands," Jones said. "He scored a couple of baskets, but he really just facilitated everything and we just didn’t do a good job and weren’t able to keep him out of the lane."
For all of the defensive frustrations, Musselman said he was pleased with play on the other side of the ball, including a Musselman-era low of four turnovers.
"Taking care of the basketball, I don't know if I've ever had a team only have four turnovers against a high-steal team," Musselman said.
Five Arkansas players scored in double figures. Davis added a season-high 16 points to go with 5 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 steal.
"Devo impacts the game in a lot of ways," Battle said. "You don't just have to score."
Makhi Mitchell had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Battle scored 13 and Brazile had 11 points, 4 rebounds and 4 blocks.
The Razorbacks made 30 of 59 field goal attempts, but struggled at the line where they were 18 of 29.
Old Dominion guard Chaunce Jenkins led all scorers with 21 points. Ceasar added 18 and Blakney scored 14, including a three at the first-half buzzer that cut Arkansas’ lead to 37-31 at halftime.
The Razorbacks are scheduled to host North Carolina-Greensboro on Friday at 7 p.m. in their final game before a trip to the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in The Bahamas.
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