The Cushion an “Absolutely Dominant” Devo Provides Is New Wrinkle for Round 2 of Arkansas vs LSU

Davonte Davis, K.J. Williams, Arkansas basketball, Arkansas vs LSU
photo credit: Arkansas Athletics / LSU Athletics

LIVE UPDATES – Arkansas vs LSU

Pregame Tidbits

Arkansas is wearing pink uniforms and the coaching staff is wearing pink polos as part of its annual Coaches vs Cancer game.

Despite suffering a foot injury in the second half of the Ole Miss game Saturday afternoon, Makhel Mitchell is dressed out. He did not participate in the pregame layup lines, but he did do the stretches. He stood off the side along with the injured duo of Nick Smith Jr. and Trevon Brazile.

LSU point guard Justice Hill, a Little Rock native who spent a semester with the Razorbacks before transferring, is still not with the Tigers. He stepped away from the team for personal reasons last week and has missed their last two games.

The LSU player designated as the “boo guy” by the UA student section is guard Adam Miller. That means they’ll boo him whenever he touches the ball. He likely earned the honor for this tweet, which the Razorbacks are apparently using for motivation:

10:47, 1H – Arkansas 15, LSU 8

LSU missed its first five shots, but did make 4 of 6 free throws over that span. Makhi Mitchell blocked a couple of those misses. The Tigers also have several turnovers.

Davonte Davis is off to a hot start, scoring 7 points with a base line jumper, corner 3 and fast break layup, plus playing great defense on Adam Miller. He forced him into a couple of turnovers and also rarely let him touch the ball.

HALF – Arkansas 38, LSU 14

The Razorbacks took control of the game with a 15-0 run that ended up being a 23-3 run over the final 10:38 of the half. LSU shot only 3 of 25 from the floor, which is 12%.

Even after missing its final five shots, Arkansas shot a scorching 57.7% overall and was 4 of 7 from beyond the arc (57.1%).

Davonte Davis leads the way with 12 points, followed by Anthony Black with 10. Ricky Council IV has a nice stat line with 6 points, 4 rebounds.


11:56, 2H – Arkansas 44, LSU 31

LSU scored the first six points of the half before Ricky Council IV knocked down a jumper around the free throw line late in the shot clock. However, The Tigers ended up scoring 15 of the first 17 points of the half to cut their deficit to 11.

The Razorbacks have been abysmal on offense, shooting 1 of 9 and turning it over five times. LSU, meanwhile, is 7 of 12 shooting in the second half.

FINAL – Arkansas 60, LSU 40

LSU was never able to get closer than 11, as Arkansas stretched its lead back to 21 with an 11-1 run. That run was capped by an Anthony Black 3 and back-to-back dunks by Jalen Graham and Makhi Mitchell.

Davonte Davis finished with a team-high 16 points on 7 of 8 shooting, marking the first time in his career that he’s scored double figures in five straight games. He also grabbed six rebounds.

FINAL STATS – Arkansas vs LSU

Starting Lineups

#11 – G Justice Williams#0 – G Anthony Black
#44 – G Adam Miller#4 – G Davonte Davis
#12 – F KJ Williams#1 – G Ricky Council IV
#13 – F Jalen Reed#13 – G/F Jordan Walsh
#20 – F Derek Fountain#15 – F/C Makhi Mitchell

Arkansas vs LSU Preview

Shooting the ball better finally resulted in a win for Arkansas basketball, as it snapped a four-game skid by beating Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon.

The Razorbacks will now get a shot at redemption with Round 2 of Arkansas vs LSU — the first round of which went to the Tigers in the SEC opener last month — on the docket for Tuesday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. CT and the game will be televised on ESPN2.

Even though it came against the last-place Rebels, Arkansas is coming off one of its most efficient games of conference play. Head coach Eric Musselman’s squad shot 46% from the field and 40% from beyond the arc — numbers similar to what they shot in a loss at Missouri last week (46% and 41%, respectively). The Razorbacks also turned the ball over only 11 times against Ole Miss, their fewest turnovers since having 10 in the first game against LSU.

This spark of offensive consistency is a welcome sight for Arkansas basketball fans after the Razorbacks shot 40% overall and 19% from long range over their first four SEC games — including an abysmal 37% and 16% against the Tigers. Now, they’ll hope to continue their recent hot shooting rather than experience a similar fate as the first Arkansas vs LSU matchup.

What to Expect from LSU

Since its victory over Arkansas, LSU basketball has lost six straight to drop to 12-7 (1-6 SEC) on the season. The Tigers have failed to score 67 points in six of their last seven games, including that 60-57 win over Arkansas, and have fallen to No. 130 in the NET rankings.

Over that span, they’re scoring only 59.0 points per game on 36% shooting, including just 31% from 3-point range, while also turning the ball over 12.7 times per game.

The LSU offense starts with transfer big man K.J. Williams. The 6-foot-10 senior is averaging 17.8 points and 7.1 rebounds while shooting 44% from beyond the arc on the season. He’s a versatile offensive player who can cause a defense all sorts of problems if left unchecked.

LSU’s second-leading scorer is another transfer, sophomore guard Adam Miller. He averages 11.8 points while hitting more than 31% of his 7.2 long-range attempts per game. Arkansas did an excellent job of slowing down both Williams and Miller, though, holding them to 8 points on 43% shooting and 7 points on 22% shooting, respectively.

It was a different, very unexpected Tiger that gave the Hogs more than they could handle the first time these teams met: senior guard Trae Hannibal.

On the season, Hannibal is averaging only 6.6 points on 44% shooting. Yet, in Round 1 of Arkansas vs LSU, the 6-foot-2, 220-pound guard bullied his way into the paint virtually whenever he wanted, pouring in a season-high 19 points on 9-of-14 (64%) shooting from the field. Since then, he’s averaging only 8.8 points and has scored double digits three times in six games.

Derek Fountain (6-10, 225) also had a big game against the Hogs last time out, tallying 14 points and 10 rebounds on 56% shooting. He averages only 7.1 points and 5.3 rebounds on the season and has failed to reach double-digit scoring in his six games since defeating Arkansas.

“I thought defensively we played well against LSU,” Musselman said. “Offensively, we’ve got to play better than what we did. Miller’s a really good scorer. I thought we did a pretty good job on him and Williams inside. We’ve got to limit his touches, much like we did in Game 1. And then certainly, Hannibal’s dribble drive. You know, we’ve got to get better guarding him than we did down the stretch in Baton Rouge.”

Justice Hill — who was with the Razorbacks for a semester before transferring out when Musselman took over — has missed the Tigers’ last two games after stepping away from the team for personal reasons. LSU basketball coach Matt McMahon made it clear that this absence is not a disciplinary issue, but has not given a timeline for his return. The senior guard was averaging 6.9 points and a team-high 3.5 assists.

Arkansas Basketball Injury Update

Despite posting an encouraging picture of himself in basketball shoes on campus at the University of Arkansas, Eric Musselman made it clear that Nick Smith Jr is not practicing with the team and there is no official update.

“He’s back in town, he’s rehabbing with the trainer and under our doctors,” Musselman said after the Ole Miss win. “He’s still in the same situation.”

Makhel Mitchell played 21 minutes and contributed 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals and 2 blocks on a perfect 1-of-1 from the field. However, he left the game late midway through the second half with a foot injury.

“He’s going to get X-rayed and evaluated,” Musselman said. “We’ll have to see what the medical report comes back, but he played great basketball (against Ole Miss).”

What to Expect from Arkansas

The Razorbacks finally put together a serviceable game on both sides of the ball against Ole Miss. After struggling mightily on the offensive side of the ball to open SEC play, they seemed to figure things out against both Vanderbilt and Missouri when they averaged 80 points while shooting 48% from the field and 40% from 3-point range. In those games, however, they just couldn’t put together enough defensive stops, especially down the stretch of each second half.

Against the Rebels, the Hogs again let their foot off the gas late in the second half, watching a 21-point lead turn into an 11-point lead in roughly 90 seconds. Fortunately for the Razorbacks, they held onto their late-game lead this time around and jumped back into the win column while allowing 60 points or fewer for the 10th time this season.

Jordan Walsh had one of his best performances as a Hog, playing all 40 minutes and tallying 13 points, 7 rebounds and 1 steal while shooting 56% from the field and 50% from long range. More importantly, the 6-foot-7 freshmen did a fantastic job of defending without fouling after fouling out in only 13 minutes of action against Missouri. That marked the second time Walsh fouled out and fifth time he picked up at least four fouls in his last eight games.

Walsh has been far from the most consistent player for Arkansas – in part due to his foul trouble all season – but it’s becoming increasingly clear that he is vital for the Hogs on both ends of the court. His versatility and length on defense speak for themselves when he’s able to defend without fouling, but it’s his offense that can truly put Arkansas on another level.

When Walsh scores at least seven points, Arkansas is 7-2. The only two losses in such games came against LSU and Missouri. When the freshman forward hits at least two 3-pointers, Arkansas is 4-1 with its only loss coming to Missouri when Walsh played 13 minutes. His ability to stretch the floor and cut from the perimeter adds an essential dimension to the Razorback offense. Watch for him to continue to get extended minutes and a bigger role for Arkansas moving forward.

“It helps us out a lot,” teammate Davonte Davis said of Walsh’s presence on the floor. “He can play in the dunker spot, space the floor, play in the corner, shoot and make the 3, can play defense and get deflections. That’s everything you need on the floor to play basketball. As long as he continues to play at a high level like that, his game will develop and I think he knows that.”

Joseph Pinion stepped up once again, specifically from downtown to provide much-needed floor spacing for the Hogs. He played his second-highest minutes of the season with 22 and matched his season-high with 13 points to go along with a season-high 5 rebounds. The sharpshooting freshman was 5 of 10 from the field, including 3 of 6 from 3-point range.

Anthony Black and Davonte Davis also turned in some of their best games of the season against Ole Miss. Black contributed 17 points, 8 assists, 5 steals and 3 rebounds in 37 minutes, while Davis tallied 16 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 1 steal in 34 minutes.

Over his last four games, Davis has been absolutely dominant for the Razorbacks. He’s averaging 16.8 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game while shooting 42% from the field, 44% from long range and 82% from the free throw line.

“As long as I stay in the gym, I’ll feel more confident every single game and I’ll continue to shoot at a high clip,” Davis said afterward.

That kind of accuracy provides the Hogs with a much-needed boost of points in the continued absence of Nick Smith, which provides a kind of cushion taking less pressure off Smith to feel like he needs to return and play big minutes as soon as possible.  

Plus, Davis has kept doing what he always does during this impressive offensive stretch. He still anchors the Razorback defense, usually guarding the best opposing perimeter player.

“You can look at Devo’s stats like the 3-for-5 on threes and 6 of 11 (overall), but his defense, it’s like every single night he’s taking a star player,” Musselman said. “And not doing a good job, but doing a phenomenal job from a defensive standpoint. I cannot talk enough about his defense. Even these games where we haven’t won, whether it’s Hodge, whether it’s Miller with Alabama, whether it’s Miller with LSU. I can go on and on at how he has defended at an incredible elite level.”

While the junior has shown consistency on defense, this four-game stretch has been arguably the most consistent offensive stretch of his Razorback career. It’s worth paying attention to his ability to keep this run going, especially with the possible return of Nick Smith Jr.

What to Watch in Arkansas vs LSU

The first time these two teams met was the first time a Musselman-led Razorback team has ever held their opponents to 60 or fewer points and still lost the game. Walsh, the apparent X-factor for the Arkansas offense, put forward one of his better games with 13 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks on 43% from the field.

The rest of the Razorbacks combined to shoot 35% from the field and 18% from behind the arc, two LSU role players played arguably their best games of the season and yet, in the end, Arkansas lost by only three points on the road. In other words, the last time these teams met might best be described as a fluke.

LSU deserves credit for making plays when it had to and coming out on top against the Hogs, but the Tigers have been outscored by 106 points in their last six games (18 points per game) and continue to struggle offensively, shooting 36% from the field and 31% from long range in that stretch. The Tigers are 1-7 when playing against teams in the top-75 of KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency, with their only win coming against Arkansas.

“They kind of bullied us and tried to punk us last game,” Walsh said of getting a rematch with LSU. “We were just kind of on the road, people were nervous. We weren’t ready. We weren’t locked in. But now that it’s at home and we know what’s up, it should be a different story.”

Despite allowing an average of 86.7 points to their last three opponents prior to Ole Miss, Arkansas still ranks No. 21 in KenPom’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings. Ole Miss is among the worst teams in the SEC this year, checking in at No. 14 in the conference based on record, but the LSU basketball team isn’t far behind at No. 13. The Tigers currently rank No. 142 in KenPom’s offensive rankings and No. 278 in points per game.

Game Prediction – Arkansas vs LSU

On paper, the Razorback defense should be able to completely stifle the LSU offense. With the added juice of a revenge game and playing in front of their home crowd, the Hogs will do just that. Arkansas will hold LSU at or below 60 points for the second time this season – their 11th time holding any team under 60 points.

Jordan Walsh will play 30-plus minutes thanks to limiting his foul trouble for a second straight game, but it will be Ricky Council IV who bounces back from an uncharacteristically low 2-point game against Ole Miss to lead the Razorbacks in scoring. Devo Davis and Anthony Black will continue their stretch of good offensive play as Arkansas puts together one of its most complete games of the season.

Arkansas, 76-60

How to Watch Arkansas vs LSU

Date: Tuesday, Jan. 24

Location: Bud Walton Arena (Fayetteville, Ark.)

Tipoff Time/TV Schedule: 6 p.m. CT (ESPN2)

ESPN BPI: Arkansas has a 90.6% chance to win, favored by 14.8 points


Highlights from the first Arkansas vs LSU game this season:

More coverage of Arkansas basketball from BoAS…

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