Davonte “Devo” Davis could barely make it through Arkansas basketball’s postgame press conference without breaking into a coughing fit Monday night.
It wasn’t quite a Michael Jordan-esque “flu game,” but the veteran battled through some sickness and flirted with a triple-double in the Razorbacks’ 97-83 win over Furman at Bud Walton Arena.
Finishing with 7 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists, Davis was “phenomenal” against the Paladins, head coach Eric Musselman said afterward. He matched career highs in boards and dimes.
“I thought it was his best game of the year,” Musselman said. “We played him all over the place. We played him at the 1. We played him at the 2. We played him at the 3. We played him at the 4. He saved us from a rebounding standpoint, without a question. His defensive rebounding saved the game for us.”
It would be easy to point to Davis’ 10 rebounds as the most impressive aspect of his performance, as Musselman seemingly did, but the coach also made sure to mention that he continues to defend the other team’s best perimeter player. That’s all while playing 38 minutes, which was 10 more than anyone else.
Devo Davis’ scoring is down from last year, when he was asked to provide more of an offensive punch, but he’s impacted that side of the ball by evolving into more of a facilitator.
With eight assists against Furman, Davis is now averaging a career-best 2.9 per game. He also didn’t turn it over Monday night, marking his fifth turnover-free game of the year and lowering his season average to a career-best 1.2 per game.
“Devo is like a superhero because he never gets tired,” teammate Khalif Battle said. “He does all the little things. He’s our team leader.”
As a team, the Razorbacks put together their second straight game with much improved ball movement. They had 37 field goals on a season-high 21 assists on after 26 buckets on 17 assists against Duke.
Arkansas’ 38 assists over the last two games are way more than the 26 assists over the previous four games combined, when it assisted on only 26.3% of its made shots. That rate has more than doubled since returning from the Bahamas, as Arkansas has assisted on 60.3% of its made shots against Duke and Furman.
“I think you have to talk about it, I think you have to point it out through video,” Musselman said. “We’ve got to continue to share the ball. The ball’s got to have eyes. We’ve got to understand we have multiple weapons offensively, and to not do it alone.”
In addition to Davis, the Razorbacks also got another strong showing from their freshman point guard. Layden Blocker’s five assists were not only a career high, but more than he had in his first 107 career minutes (4). He had just one turnover, plus scored 9 points on 4 of 5 shooting while adding 5 rebounds.
Battle Joins Club, Explodes in 2nd Half
Aside from reaching a significant milestone, the first half wasn’t particularly memorable for Khalif Battle.
His 3-pointer about four minutes in gave him 1,000 career points, but he scored only two more in just seven minutes of action before halftime. It was a completely different story after the break, though.
For the first time this season, Battle started the second half and his aggressiveness was immediately on display. He drove to the basket and either finished with a layup or got fouled four times within the first four minutes.
“One of the game plans was to attack the rim,” Battle said. “I liked my matchup that I had and as a team, we try to expose matchups, so I attacked early.”
Battle then added a 3-pointer to give him 10 of Arkansas’ first 13 points of the second half. He cooled off slightly after that, but still scored another 10 to give him a 20-point second half.
That also gave him a season-high 25 points, eclipsing the 21-point mark that he had hit four times in the first eight games.
He is now averaging 16.8 points, which is tied for 10th in the SEC, but leads all bench players. In fact, the nine players ahead of him in the conference have combined for only two bench appearances this season, and one of them was by teammate Tramon Mark on Monday.
“He’s a dynamic scorer,” Musselman said. “There’s not many players in college basketball that can have 20 in a half. Certainly, he can create his own shot. He’s a high-volume free-throw attempt player. When your team needs points in a hurry, he just rises up over people. If you crowd him, he beats you off the bounce and draws free throws.”
Tramon Mark Returns, Brazile Injured
Eric Musselman told reporters over the weekend that there was a chance Tramon Mark would return to action Monday and that’s exactly what happened.
Less than two weeks removed from a scary fall that required him being stretchered off the court in the Bahamas, the Houston transfer came off the bench and had 7 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in 26 minutes.
Four turnovers were some evidence of rust, but it was an overall solid day by a guy who had been dealing with back, groin and hip pain.
“When he hit the floor, it looked bad,” Musselman said. “When the doctors were with him at the hospital, they were really concerned. We’re lucky, he’s lucky, because there was a lot of concern. But he is a really tough-minded kid and wanted to play as quick as he possibly could.”
The fact that Mark came off the bench is notable because he had been one of three Razorbacks, along with Davonte Davis and Trevon Brazile, to start every game before being sidelined against Duke.
It was a decision Musselman didn’t take lightly considering he had scored a career-high 34 points his last time out. Because of his background coaching professional basketball, he actually felt the need to address that with Mark during shoot-around the morning of the game.
“If you change the rotation based on productivity, that is what it is, but certainly the game T-Mark was coming off, I did not want him to feel that his role as a starter was changing based on the fact that he had an injury,” Musselman said. “He said ‘I figured that was coming, Coach. I’m cool with it. Anything you think will help us win.’ He had great maturity when he and I talked earlier today.”
It would be safe to assume that Mark will take on more minutes against Oklahoma on Saturday, but now the Razorbacks must monitor Brazile.
The big man rolled his ankle going for a rebound and checked out of Monday’s game with 2:41 remaining. Musselman said it was a “pretty bad” ankle sprain, but didn’t sound concerned about it being a long-term injury. Any kind of extended absence would be especially tough because of what he went through last year with a torn ACL.
“I’m hopeful we get multiple rehabs a day, which TB has been (doing),” Musselman said. “When I look at what TB has done with the training staff through his whole rehab, he was living in the training room. We’re going to need him to be in the training room a lot to try to get the swelling down and the mobility (back).”
Up Next for Arkansas Basketball
The Razorbacks once again have a longer-than-normal layoff before hitting the court again, traveling to Tulsa for a neutral site match-up with Oklahoma on Saturday.
It is a big game for Arkansas, which desperately needs some resume boosters after debuting at No. 117 in this year’s NET rankings. The Sooners are undefeated at 7-0 and ranked No. 19 in the latest AP Poll.
Oklahoma, which debuted at No. 19 in the NET, does host Providence at 6 p.m. CT Tuesday in the Big East-Big 12 Battle, but even a loss in that game shouldn’t drop it outside the top 50 of the NET, which is required to make it a Quadrant 1 game for Arkansas.
Saturday’s tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m. CT at the BOK Center and will be televised on ESPN2.
Other Arkansas Basketball Tidbits
- Eric Musselman received a technical foul with 1:38 remaining. It was the Razorbacks’ seventh technical in nine games this season, but the first on their coach. Musselman now has 16 technicals in four-plus seasons, which is more than twice as many as Mike Anderson’s seven in eight seasons.
- The Razorbacks had another 10 blocks on Monday, increasing their season average to 7.1 per game, which ranks second nationally behind only Eastern Kentucky (8.7). The single-season record at Arkansas is 6.3 per game set in 2006-07. Chandler Lawson and Layden Blocker led the way with three apiece against Furman.
- Furman started 5 of 6 from beyond the arc in the game’s first six minutes, but eventually cooled off significantly. It made just 7 of 26 (26.9%) the rest of the game.
- On the flip side, Arkansas went 8 of 19 (42.1%) from 3-point range, improving its season percentage to 35.1%. That would be its best percentage since 2017-18, when the Hogs shot 39.6% from deep.
- Not happy with his team’s defensive performance, Musselman shuffled players in and out during the first half. He ended up using 10 different Razorbacks before halftime and each of them scored between 2-7 points.
- The Paladins were without leading scorer Marcus Foster (19.8 ppg) because of an injury he suffered in Saturday’s game at Princeton. Furman basketball coach Bob Richey told their radio broadcast that he was expected to be out until mid-January.
Arkansas vs Furman Highlights
Arkansas vs Furman Box Score
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