Arkansas basketball notebook: Devo's solid day against Mizzou overshadowed by Battle's buckets

Arkansas guard Davonte Davis (4) passes under pressure, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024 during the Razorbacks' 88-73 win over Missouri at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville. (Charlie Kaijo/NWA Democrat-Gazette)

FAYETTEVILLE — While fellow senior guard Khalif Battle rightfully earned the headlines for the Arkansas Razorbacks with a 42-point outburst in Saturday’s 88-73 win over Missouri, Davonte Davis turned in a dandy of his own.

Davis, the 6-4 senior from Jacksonville, played out of position as a necessity against the Tigers and turned in his best performance of the conference season.

Davis had a game-high 9 rebounds, 7 of them on the defensive glass, and added 8 points and a game-high 6 assists in a complementary role behind Battle. His plus-15 in plus-minus was the third-highest on the team behind Makhi Mitchell’s 19 and Battle’s 18.

Due to injuries to Trevon Brazile and Jalen Graham, Davis played the power forward or 4 spot for the Razorbacks.

“I was playing the four the majority of the game,” Davis said. “I knew I was going to have to rebound at that position, and knowing Missouri was going to have to bring guys in and out from the four and five position because they hockey sub a lot.”

Davis corralled many of the missed three-point shots by the Tigers, who had six offensive boards.

“I mean, if I’m going to play a point guard at power forward, he’s got to rebound, and he did that,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “The good thing about Davonte is, you kind of tell him a role and lay out expectations, and then he plays as hard as he can, and does it.

“I told him before the game you’ve got to rebound if you’re a power forward. I’m not so sure he thinks he’s a power forward, but he is with us right now.”

Davis missed three games earlier in conference play as he stepped away from the team. He did postgame interviews for the first time since rejoining the club for a 78-75 home win over Georgia on Feb. 10.

“It feels good being back,” Davis said. “I’m glad I’m able to be back around those guys again and they welcomed me back with open arms.

“I’m glad … I’m able to play basketball. It’s something I love to do and these guys know I love to do it. I’m just glad I get to do it with these guys and pick up this big win tonight.”

Three-point story

Arkansas made 10 of 25 three-point shots, its first game with double-figure makes since the Razorbacks hit 12 in the season opener against Alcorn State.

The Razorbacks’ high in SEC play had been eight makes against Tennessee.

Khalif Battle went 6 of 10 from deep, while Tramon Mark (2 of 3), Layden Blocker (1 of 2) and Jeremiah Davenport (1 of 3) accounted for the others.

Great from 15

Both teams put on a sizzling display from the free-throw line, with Missouri converting 28 of 30 chances for a season-high 93.3% and Arkansas hitting 28 of 34 (82.4%).

The Tigers made their first 19 foul shots before Sean East missed the back end of a two-shot opportunity with 5:40 left in the game.

East wound up 15 for 16. On the other side, Khalif Battle went 14 for 14 at the stripe, including the conclusion of a four-point play at 6:44 which put Arkansas on top 65-54 for its first double-figure lead of the game.

Before scoring

Among the things that took place before either team scored was a stoppage of more than five minutes to review a physical flare-up between Arkansas’ Makhi Mitchell and Missouri’s Noah Carter that stopped play at 16:34. After the lengthy review, Mitchell was assessed a flagrant 1 foul and Carter scored the first points with a pair of free throws.

Prior to that, Missouri went 0 for 4, 0 for 1 from three-point range and had one turnover and two blocked shots; Arkansas went 0 for 4, 0 for 3 from three-point range and had a turnover. A three-point shot from the Hogs’ Tramon Mark went through the nets as the officials were whistling the stoppage on the tangle between Carter and Mitchell.

All around

Khalif Battle’s drive and off-hand layup in traffic rolled around the rim twice before going in at the 10:46 mark. Battle was fouled by Sean East on the play. He converted the three-point play with his free throw also circling the rim once before going in. The three-point play gave Arkansas the lead for good at 53-50.

Blocker rainbow

Arkansas freshman Layden Blocker connected for a three-pointer for the second consecutive game after breaking an 0 for 11 start with a make at Texas A&M on Tuesday.

Blocker settled into the left corner after the Razorbacks made a quick transition on Davonte Davis’ long rebound of a missed Nick Honor three-point try. Tramon Mark fed Blocker on the move and Blocker put up a high-arcing rainbow that splashed through with nothing but net for a 30-22 Hogs’ lead at the 4:04 mark.

Beast East

Missouri guard Sean East feasted against the Hogs with a career-high 33 points on 9 of 14 shooting and 15 of 16 free throws.

East had 17 points at halftime on 7 of 7 free throws and 5 of 8 shooting. His production included a huge individual effort after Missouri inbounded with 7 seconds left. Nick Honor passed to East who drove from the left side around mid-court all the way into the right corner with Jeremiah Davenport on his hip. East pivoted in the corner, motored into the lane past a reach from Tramon Mark and put in a short bank shot with his dominant left hand as the horn sounded.

On his Honor

Missouri guard Nick Honor, a 40% three-point shooter, canned exactly that by going 4 of 10 behind the arc in the game and 3 of 6 in the fist half.

Honor’s third three made Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman livid because it came after the Hogs’ Trevon Brazile was called for a mystery foul with no contact when Sean East slipped and fell while driving in the paint.

Health check

The injured Arkansas trio of Trevon Brazile, Jalen Graham and Keyon Menifield all went through warmups following varying amounts of practice availability since the Hogs downed Texas A&M 78-71 on Tuesday.

Brazile, who went through a full practice on Friday, checked in at the 12:32 mark of the first half and was given a warm round of applause.

Brazile played four minutes, all in the first half, and did not take a shot and had no other stats except for one personal foul.

Coach Eric Musselman said on his pregame radio appearance that Menifield was still dealing with groin soreness and Graham had some soreness in his shoulder after Friday’s practice but was available.

“It’s preferable to get another few day’s rest,” Musselman said of Graham.

Series update

Arkansas improved its all-time series lead over Missouri to 35-27, including 15-9 since the Tigers joined the SEC for the 2012-13 season.

The Razorbacks are 20-10 at home, 7-1 in the last eight games and 8-3 under Eric Musselman.

Arkansas swept the two-game series for the fifth time since Missouri joined the league, with the other sweeps occurring in in 2015, 2016, 2021 and 2022. Missouri has notched one sweep (2014) in the series.

First five

Arkansas started the group of guards Khalif Battle, Davonte Davis, El Ellis and Tramon Mark with forward Chandler Lawson, employing the same starting lineup now for three straight games.

The Razorbacks have used 15 different starting lineup combinations this season.