Devo helps Arkansas basketball hold off Georgia rally

Arkansas guard Davonte "Devo" Davis (4) covers Georgia guard Noah Thomasson (3), Saturday, Feb. 10, 2024, during the first half of a basketball game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. (Charlie Kaijo/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

FAYETTEVILLE — Playing his first game in 17 days, Arkansas guard Davonte “Devo” Davis made two winning plays to offset his mistakes in the closing minute Saturday against Georgia.

Davis had the go-ahead assist to Makhi Mitchell with 54.8 seconds remaining and made up for a turnover by contesting a three-pointer that would have given Georgia a lead moments later. Davis also made a free throw with 23 seconds to play to help the Razorbacks to a 78-75 victory over the Bulldogs at Bud Walton Arena. 

Arkansas (12-11, 3-7 SEC) won its first home game since Jan. 16 against Texas A&M. That game was played eight days before Davis’ last appearance during the first half of a Jan. 24 game at Ole Miss. 

Davis did not play in the Razorbacks’ three previous games for reasons not clear. He scored 4 points, had 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals, and Arkansas outscored Georgia by 8 points in his 35 minutes off the bench.

"He played really hard," Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. "He had some big loose balls and...he’s a guy that understands all four positions on the floor. We were able to play him at the 4 [position] tonight and our offense, our sets we could still get into them."

Handling the ball against a 1-3-1 zone, Davis was double teamed near half court with under a minute remaining. He fired a contested pass to Mitchell near the low block on the opposite side of the lane, and Mitchell turned for a layup that gave the Razorbacks a 74-72 lead. 

Justin Hill committed a bad-pass turnover on the other end, but Davis committed a turnover of his own moments later. Davis got back defensively to contest a Jabri Abdur-Rahim three-point attempt in transition, then rebounded the miss. 

Davis, Mitchell and Tramon Mark made 4 of 6 free throws the rest of the way to help clinch an exciting win.

Mark made 1 of 2 free throws with less than a second remaining to set the final score. Arkansas led 77-72, but Davis fouled Hill on a three-point attempt with 3 seconds remaining and Hill made all free throws. 

The teams combined for 15 ties and 10 lead changes, most coming late in the second half. 

"Two teams that were kind of desperate today, I thought," Musselman said. 

Arkansas led 47-35 after halftime, but Georgia responded with a 21-8 stretch to tie the game with 7:25 remaining. 

It was back and forth from there. 

A step-back three by Hill with 3:57 remaining gave the Bulldogs a 66-65 lead, their first since the 8:07 mark of the first half. 

Mark and Hill traded free throws, and Arkansas regained the lead 69-68 when Mitchell dove to retrieve a ball stripped loose by El Ellis, ran the floor and took a feed from Mark for a layup with 2:26 to play. 

A back-door pass from Russel Tchewa to Silas Demary put the Bulldogs ahead 70-69, but an Ellis three from the corner with 1:42 to play put the Razorbacks up 72-70. 

Hill hit a pull-up jumper to tie the game with 1:17 remaining. Davis found Mitchell for the go-ahead shot on the next possession. 

Arkansas did not show signs of rust playing its first game in a week, and the Razorbacks avoided a season sweep by Georgia. They avenged a 76-66 loss at the Bulldogs’ Stegeman Coliseum on Jan. 10. 

Georgia (14-10, 4-7) has lost 5 consecutive games since opening conference play 4-2. 

Arkansas used a 15-1 run late in the first half to take control for a while. The Razorbacks trailed 19-15 with 9:18 remaining in the first half, then held the Bulldogs without a field goal for 6 minutes, 18 seconds. 

Ellis’ three-pointer following a Georgia turnover gave Arkansas a 30-20 lead with 3:19 to play before halftime. Jalen Graham added six points during the Razorbacks’ big run. 

Dylan James made a layup at the first-half buzzer to cut Arkansas’ lead to 34-29 at halftime. 

The Bulldogs’ 1-3-1 zone gave the Razorbacks’ trouble for much of the second half and helped Georgia chip away at the 12-point deficit. The Bulldogs also abandoned the three-point line that resulted in several first-half misses and found good looks inside. 

“We got some stops off of our 1-3-1," Georgia coach Mike White said. "I thought [it] was really good. It just slowed them down a little bit. They're such a high-powered offense, and they've got several guys that can pass, dribble, shoot, space you, make plays off the bounce, and I thought that potentially it could decrease our filing amount."

Keyon Menifield led Arkansas with 15 points off the bench. Ellis added 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists, Mitchell had 14 points and 5 rebounds, Mark scored 13 points and Graham added 11. 

Ellis started despite not playing the two previous games at Missouri and LSU. 

"I thought his practice habits were really good," Musselman said. "With no mid-week game we had a lot of time to adjust a lot of different things. I thought he was extremely focused, and so he got the start tonight."

Demary led the Bulldogs with 19 points and Hill added 18, including 11 from the free-throw line. 

Georgia shot 26 of 54 (48%) overall and 4 of 18 (22%) from three-point range. The Bulldogs were 19 of 23 (83%) from the line. 

Arkansas shot 28 of 49 (57%) overall and 5 of 14 (36%) from three. The Razorbacks were 17 of 26 (65%) at the line, which included 4 consecutive misses during a stretch when the Bulldogs were closing the gap. 

“I loved the way that we continued to fight back in the second half to give ourselves a chance down the stretch," White said. "That's Step 1 in winning on the road in the SEC, and we did that and we had a chance. But ask a lot of coaches out there: Winning in Bud Walton is very difficult.”

Arkansas scored 21 points off 14 Georgia turnovers and out-rebounded the Bulldogs 28-27. Arkansas had 6 blocks, 9 steals and 44 bench points. 

Why Arkansas Won

The Razorbacks had an answer for every Georgia score over the final seven-plus minutes and made enough defensive stops. Arkansas made 6 of 8 shots and 10 of 12 free throws after the Bulldogs tied the game 55-55 with 7:25 remaining. 

Why Georgia Lost

The Bulldogs settled for too many long looks. They were 4 of 18 from three-point range, including 1 of 12 in the first half. Georgia shot 24 of 36 (67%) inside the arc. 

Player of the Game

This could go any number of ways, but Makhi Mitchell’s presence was key down the stretch. 

Mitchell scored 10 of his 14 points in the final 5 minutes. He also assisted El Ellis’ go-ahead three-pointer with 1:42 remaining and rebounded a missed Georgia three that would have tied the game with under 10 seconds to play. 

Mitchell shot 4 of 6 from the floor and 6 of 8 from the free-throw line. In addition to his 14 points, he added 5 rebounds, 3 blocks and 1 assist in 25 minutes. 

"I thought his eight free throws attempted and then being able to convert six of them was extremely important," Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said, "especially down the stretch in the second half."

7 Up

Arkansas has won seven consecutive games against Georgia at home. The Bulldogs have not won at Bud Walton Arena since a 60-59 victory on Feb. 2, 2011, in John Pelphrey’s final season as the Razorbacks’ head coach. 

Georgia has a 3-14 all-time record in Fayetteville, including 3-13 at Bud Walton Arena. The Bulldogs lost their only game at Barnhill Arena in January 1993. 

Arkansas improved to 4-2 against Georgia under fifth-year coach Eric Musselman. The Razorbacks lead the all-time series 27-17. 

Up Next

Arkansas will host No. 6 Tennessee on Wednesday at 8 p.m. 

Georgia has a week off before its home game against Florida next Saturday.