Razorback basketball notebook: Devo addresses departure

Arkansas guard Davonte Davis is shown during a game against Tennessee on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2024, in Fayetteville. (Hank Layton/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

FAYETTEVILLE — Speaking on his segment on KABZ-FM, 103.7, in Little Rock on Wednesday for the first time since stepping away from the team for three games, Arkansas guard Davonte “Devo” Davis touched on the departure.

“Ups and downs are going to happen, you know what I mean? And things are going to crash and burn,” Davis said regarding his time away from the team. “But we always build up, build up. And I want to say that me, being myself, I think it was best for me.”

Davis then added, “I would like to apologize for sure. Maybe I let some people down, that I don’t put into my character at all. … The team understood. I was still in communication with them, the coaches. That’s really it.

“I think I took a big step in my life as well when it came to me departing. I dedicated my life to Christ, so that’s a huge step for me as an individual.”

3 spree not enough

Arkansas built a small early lead and stayed in contact for a while with hot-shooting Tennessee by having one of its best three-point shooting games of the season in its 92-63 loss at Walton Arena on Wednesday night.

The Razorbacks made 6 of 13 three-point shots (46.2%) in the first half and were within 46-42 of the Volunteers, who shot 54.3% in the opening half by putting on a dunking clinic.

Keyon Menifield’s swish from the right corner at the 15:21 mark of the second half gave Arkansas its seventh three-pointer of the game, tying its high in a conference game. El Ellis knocked down a three-pointer with 4:21 remaining to give the Razorbacks a season-high eight in a conference game.

The Razorbacks also made 7 three-pointers in a loss to Auburn (7 of 24) and a win over Texas A&M (7 of 19) earlier in conference play. The team’s season-high 12 three-pointers came in the season-opening 93-59 win over Alcorn State, the Hogs’ only double-figure three-point game of the season.

The Razorbacks built an 11-9 lead after a pair of three-pointers from Tramon Mark and one from Ellis sandwiched around two free throws by Chandler Lawson.

Jeremiah Davenport hit his first field-goal try of the game with a three-pointer to tie the game at 18-18.

Khalif Battle and Davenport both contributed three-point shots before the end of the half.

Knecht-tion

Dalton Knecht, the SEC’s second-leading scorer, got off to a smoking start for Tennessee and wound up with 22 points on 7-of-14 shooting in his 12th 20-point game of the season.

The 6-6 shooting guard and transfer from Northern Colorado, called a “scoring phenom” by ESPN analyst Jimmy Dykes, scored in all manner of ways, but mostly with strong dribble-drive takes against man-to-man defense.

Knecht made 7 of 10 free throws and 1 of 3 three-point shots. He entered the game averaging 20.3 points per game, a fraction behind Alabama’s Mark Sears (20.4) for the league lead, and an SEC-best 26.4 points in conference games.

Down 20

The Razorbacks lost by 20-plus points for the fifth time this season.

The huge setback came after losses by 20 or more points against Auburn (83-51), at Florida (90-68), at Ole Miss (77-51) and at LSU (95-74).

Who do? Aidoo

Tennessee’s Jonas Aidoo had a massive night with a team-high 23 points on 11-of-14 shooting and 12 rebounds.

Aidoo finished with his seventh double-double of the season and the eighth of his career.

Series update

Tennessee’s runaway win snapped a seven-game losing streak in games played at Walton Arena and improved its record in the series against the Hogs to 26-22.

Arkansas holds a 12-5 edge in games played at home.

Tennessee joins Kentucky and Florida as the only SEC teams who lead in their series against the Razorbacks.

The Volunteers posted their fifth road win of the season, having already won at Wisconsin (80-70), Georgia (85-79), Vanderbilt (75-62) and No. 10 Kentucky (103-92).

Shoulder trouble

Arkansas big man Jalen Graham came out of the game clutching his right shoulder and went straight into the locker room early in the second half.

Graham was called for a Flagrant 1 foul while hacking Dalton Knecht from behind when the Tennessee guard was about to go up for a shot in the lane.

Knecht made 1 of 2 free throws for the flagrant foul at the 18:17 mark and Tennessee ended the possession with a Jonas Aidoo dunk on a pass from Zakai Zeigler seconds later for a 54-42 lead.

Graham returned with a brace on his right shoulder at the 14:12 mark

Battle plan

Khalif Battle cashed in on more extensive playing time than he’d been receiving recently. The Temple transfer hit a three-point shot from the top of the circle in his first stint to pull the Hogs within 32-25.

Battle also drew a blocking foul on Santiago Vescovi late in the first half

Basket saved

Arkansas got some justice with an overruled offensive goal-tending call late in the first half on a shot by Tramon Mark that went in and was originally waved off with 50 seconds left in the first half.

As Mark’s shot tottered up and down a couple of times on the right side of the rim, Arkansas’ Jalen Graham and Tennessee’s Jonas Aidoo both rose up and had their hands near it. As the ball fell through, the officials whistled basket interference on Graham, which brought immediate protests from Mark and Graham.

Replays showed Graham pulled his hand away without touching the ball.

After the half ended with Tennessee leading 46-38, the officiating crew reviewed the play and correctly made the determination Graham didn’t interfere, giving Mark a basket and making the halftime score 46-40.

Save and flush

Arkansas guard Davonte Davis made the mistake of firing a ball into his backcourt while falling out of bounds on the Hogs’ offensive end after Dalton Knecht blocked his shot. The save went straight to Tennessee’s Josiah-Jordan James to start a fast-break opportunity.

The move looked much better moments later after Jalen Graham picked off a Zakai Zeigler pass in the lane. Graham fired quickly to Davis, who was alone in the Tennessee backcourt, for an uncontested dunk and a 15-12 Arkansas lead at the 15:01 mark.

Dunkin’ Vols

Tennessee put on a dunking demonstration in the first half with seven dunks. Four of them were by 6-11 Jonas Aidoo.

The Vols’ first two buckets came from point-blank distance right on the rim.

Tennessee schemed up a nice play for its first inbound pass, which came after a stoppage when a pass went off the foot of Arkansas’ El Ellis.

A teammate set a screen on the right side for Dalton Knectht, who charged unimpeded for the goal. Guard Zakai Zeigler threw a perfect lob pass for the unguarded Knecht to slam.

On Tennessee’s second possession, Aidoo pivoted around Jalen Graham, drove the left block and dunked.

Later in the quarter, Tennessee’s Jordan Gainey missed a driving layup and Aidoo was there for a put-back flush to pull the Vols within 15-14.

Knecht jumped in a passing lane on the Hogs’ perimeter, intercepted a no-look pass from Keyon Menifield and went all the way in for a two-handed dunk at 10:23 for a 26-20 Tennessee lead.

Aidoo added another put-back dunk at 3:15 and dunked again at 2:45 while drawing a foul from Makhi Mitchell for a three-point play.

Aidoo had a game-high 13 points at halftime, surpassing his scoring average of 11.3 points per game.

Cross country

Former Arkansas player and women’s Coach Jimmy Dykes had a very busy 24 hours after calling Tuesday night’s 86-79 Syracuse upset of No. 7 North Carolina in Syracuse, N.Y.

Dykes posted phone video he took of fans storming the court at the JMA Dome.

“They had 22,000 fans there,” Dykes said. “It was like old-time Syracuse basketball.”

Dykes then woke up at 3 a.m. to catch a flight to Charlotte, N.C., and arrived at Northwest Arkansas National Airport around 11:45 a.m., just in time to head to the UA campus and have a chat with Coach Eric Musselman after the Hogs’ shootaround. Dykes took in the Tennessee shootaround and chatted with Coach Rick Barnes.

Dykes then took his daughter Kennedy, a cheerleader, to the doctor’s office for an injured ankle for about 90 minutes until about 4:30 p.m.

After that, Dykes hustled home, showered and changed clothes to be at Walton Arena for the call of the Volunteers against the Razorbacks.

Bob Holt contributed information for this report