Just Shy of 30, Khalif Battle Makes A Final Point after LSU Win

Khalif Battle, Arkansas basketball, Arkansas vs LSU
photo credit: Craven Whitlow

FAYETTEVILLE — Khalif Battle finished one point shy of extending his streak of 30-point games, but still gave Arkansas basketball fans plenty to be excited about during, and after, Wednesday’s win over LSU.

Fresh off helping the Razorbacks get revenge on the Tigers by dropping 29 points in a 94-83 victory inside Bud Walton Arena, the graduate transfer made one more point in his postgame press conference.

When asked about the significance of winning on Senior Night, Battle deferred to teammate Jeremiah Davenport because, as he reminded reporters, “I’ve got another year left.”

That comment prompted the natural follow-up question of whether or not that meant he would come back next season.

“I’m a Razorback,” Battle said. “I’m right here. I’m a Razorback. Ain’t nothing changed. I’m a Razorback until the end.” While Battle sort of Euro-stepped around the question there, opting for a present tense answer about the future, he at first seemed to address the issue in a recent interview with Noah Washington:

“Oh, I’m coming back to school, for sure,” Battle told Washington.

At first blush, you would think that is about as definitive answer to the question as there is. But on Thursday, Battle sent out a couple of Tweets that make it seem like his press-conference ambiguity is more in line with his current thinking:

It’s unknown to what he’s referring in the second post but the “The Ridin’ Around Show” clip would make sense. So, at this point, there is no clear-cut answer to the fate of the traditional fifth-year senior who spent his freshman year at Butler and three seasons at Temple before ending up with the Razorbacks is set.

In the second of those seasons with the Owls, Battle received a medical redshirt. His first season there was 2020-21, when all players active in the NCAA were essentially free to play without losing the year of eligibility because of the pandemic. That bonus year is what gives him a sixth year of college basketball.

Head coach Eric Musselman, meanwhile, wasn’t going to presume he knew about Battle’s fate for 2024-25 in the part of the Arkansas vs LSU press conference following Battle’s interview.

“I think with all players, you play the season out and you see how it unwinds, so it would be unfair for me to speculate either way,” Musselman said. “I do think he’s really happy playing at Arkansas. We’re happy with the way that he’s progressed, the way that he’s evolved as the season’s gone on.

“He’s done a great job of buying in, and I think that’s why you see the productivity continue to improve. Like I said, I know that he enjoys playing here and playing in that system, but it’s whenever he makes a decision or whatever’s on him.”

Arkansas vs LSU: Khalif Battle Stays Red Hot

Just one month ago, the news of Khalif Battle returning to the Razorbacks would have been met with much less fanfare. In fact, it probably would have sparked debate about whether or not either side would want a reunion in 2024-25.

Beginning with the non-conference finale against UNC-Wilmington on Dec. 30, Battle went through a 12-game stretch in which he averaged just 4.4 points on 21.4% shooting. In one of those games, he didn’t even get off the bench. In five others, he played less than 10 minutes.

With his plummeting production and his minutes evaporating, not to mention things spiraling from a team perspective, it seemed like Battle was destined to ride out the season on the bench and move on after the year – either by entering the transfer portal again or beginning his professional career.

Instead, he started to turn things around with 18- and 15-point performances in back-to-back games against Mississippi State and Texas A&M. Since then, Battle has been on a truly historic tear.

The New Jersey native dropped 42 points on Missouri, 36 against Vanderbilt and 34 at Kentucky, becoming only the second player in UA history with three straight games with 30-plus points – joining Mason Jones.

He narrowly missed becoming the first to do it in four straight, finishing with 29 points. He did it on 7 of 14 shooting, including just 2 of 6 from beyond the arc, and also knocked down 13 of 14 free throws.

To spare you having to get out a calculator, that’s 141 points in his last four games.

“There’s not many players in the history of the SEC that have gone on a scoring spurt like K.B. has,” Musselman said afterward.

No kidding. This is the most prolific four-game stretch of scoring by an SEC player in at least two decades, according to the SEC Network broadcast, easily topping the 134 points scored by Kentucky’s Jodie Meeks in January 2009.

Battle’s averages over that span look like they’re from a video game: 35.3 points on 54.8% shooting, including 43.3% on 3-point attempts, while 92.1% on 15.8 free throw attempts.

Even those who saw him light up the scoreboard at Temple, like teammate Jeremiah Davenport did while also in the AAC at Cincinnati, have been awed by his recent play.

“Just being with him actually on the team and seeing him go from the beginning to now is just amazing,” Davenport said. “It’s all I can say, it’s amazing. Four 30-point games? It’s crazy. I’ve never seen it. I’ve never been a part of it.”

Up Next for Arkansas Basketball

The Razorbacks will conclude the regular season with a road trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday. Tip off against No. 16 Alabama is scheduled for 11 a.m. CT and ESPN will televised the game.

With an 18-point loss at Florida on Tuesday, the Crimson Tide dropped to 20-10 overall and 12-5 in SEC play. This will be the first meeting between the teams this year, but Alabama has won three straight in the series.

No matter what happens in that game, Arkansas is locked into a bottom-four seed for the SEC Tournament and will have to play on Wednesday night. The Crimson Tide, on the other hand, are still trying to clinch a top-four seed and double-bye for the event.

Other Arkansas Basketball Tidbits

  • The Razorbacks lost to LSU 95-74 in Baton Rouge earlier this season, making this the second time they’ve gotten revenge on a team it previously lost to. The first was Georgia. Eric Musselman is now 12-4 in those “revenge” games at Arkansas.
  • In addition to his scoring, Khalif Battle also notched a career-high 3 blocks Wednesday night. That is particularly impressive because it matched his season total and he had only eight career blocks in five seasons entering the day. It’s just the second time Battle has had multiple blocks in the same game.
  • For the ninth time in 11 games, Makhi Mitchell scored in double figures for Arkansas. He finished with 19 points on an efficient 8 of 10 shooting, plus added 8 rebounds, 3 blocks, 1 assist and 1 steal in his 29 minutes. Musselman described it as “basically, a flawless offensive game.”
  • It’s also worth noting that El Ellis turned in his most efficient scoring performance of the season, shooting 6 of 7 from the floor and making both of his 3-pointers, to finish with 16 points. He also matched season highs with 6 rebounds and 3 steals, plus added 4 assists.
  • LSU big man Will Baker scored 25 points on 9 of 11 shooting, including 4 of 5 from deep, in the first Arkansas vs LSU matchup. The Razorbacks completely shut him down, holding him to 3 points on 1 of 4 shooting. “We had a game plan to try to stop Will Baker,” Musselman said. “Obviously he hurt us (last time). We changed up our coverages, and I thought we did a great job taking him out of the game.”

See our latest here:

Arkansas vs LSU Highlights

YouTube video

Postgame Interviews

YouTube video
YouTube video

Arkansas vs LSU Box Score


More coverage of Arkansas basketball from BoAS…

Facebook Comments