Arkansas basketball capped Day 1 of the Battle 4 Atlantis with a wild double overtime win over Stanford.
Trailing by as many as nine points, the Razorbacks rallied and forced overtime with a pair of Davonte Davis free throws before Tramon Mark took over in the second extra period and carried them to a 77-74 win over the Cardinal in the Bahamas on Wednesday.
The crazy finish was aided by Jared Bynum missing the front end of a 1 and 1, which gave Arkansas a chance to tie it up in the closing seconds — which Davis did by pushing the ball up the court and drawing a foul with 6.8 seconds remaining.
He also could have sealed the victory at the charity stripe with 4 seconds left in overtime, but made only 1 of 2. That opened the door for Benny Gealer’s heroics. The former walk-on threw up a desperation 3 at the buzzer and banked it in to extend the game.
In the second overtime, Trevon Brazile knocked down a 3 on Arkansas’ first possession and it never relinquished the lead. Stanford pulled within one on four different occasions, but each time, the Razorbacks immediately answered — the last three of which were via buckets by Mark, who scored a team-high 25 points.
Even then, the Cardinal still had two decent looks to tie it up again in the final couple of seconds, but Spencer Jones and Gealer each missed.
With the win, Arkansas advances to the semifinals of the Battle 4 Atlantis and will now renew its rivalry with Memphis at 4 p.m. CT on ESPN. The Thanksgiving Day matchup will be their first meeting since Jan. 2, 2003.
Click here for a preview of that game, but before that, here are a few key takeaways from the Razorbacks’ win over Stanford…
Blocker Provides Spark
Look at a basic box score and it’d be hard to see the impact Layden Blocker had on Arkansas pulling out the double overtime win Wednesday night.
After all, the freshman scored only 4 points on 2 of 5 shooting and snagged just 2 rebounds. Sure, his 3 steals might catch your eye — but far less than the more eye-popping numbers, like Tramon Mark’s 25 points, Trevon Brazile’s 17 rebounds and Chandler Lawson’s 5 blocks.
However, with El Ellis struggling early on, the Razorbacks turned to the lightly used Blocker late in the first half and stuck with him for the most significant action of his young career so far.
“Layden Blocker, unbelievable,” Arkansas basketball coach Eric Musselman said. “You know what happens is if we’re lacking productivity in some spot, we have go to someone else. … Blocker was absolutely phenomenal.”
Granted, he still made some freshman mistakes, such as jumping from too far out and missing a fast-break dunk following a steal, but Blocker’s energy was infectious.
Even though he’s not nearly as old or as big of an offensive threat as Davonte Davis or Tramon Mark, the Little Rock native plays with a similar defensive intensity. He even knocked down a big jumper shortly after checking into the game that tied the score late in the first half.
“He was exceptional tonight,” Mark said. “Just relentless on the defensive end, picking up the ball full court. I think we need stuff like that. We need stuff like that more often. He’s just a freshman, but guys were feeding off of him tonight, especially in the second half. Guys were feeding off him on the defense end and he did his thing tonight.”
All of that resulted in Arkansas being plus-11 in the 16 minutes he was on the floor. That means the Razorbacks were outscored by eight points in the 34 minutes he was on the bench.
Prior to Wednesday, Blocker had appeared in only three of four games and played just 14 total minutes.
Arkansas Dominates the Boards
A strong case could be made that Arkansas won the game by dominating the glass.
They were only plus-6 in rebounds overall, but the Razorbacks’ 21 offensive rebounds were described by Stanford basketball coach Jerod Haase as a “game-defining type stat.” That’s a fair assessment because they led to Arkansas outscoring the Cardinal 21-7 in second-chance points.
Having a 14-point edge in that category is even more important when a team shoots as poorly as the Razorbacks did Wednesday. They shot just 30.3% (23 of 76) from the floor, which includes a 5-of-19 (26.3%) outing from deep.
“A lot of those shots were highly challenged and a lot of those misses were highly challenged,” Haase said. “A lot of them were mid-range and 3-pointers, which tend not to be rebounded right around the rim, so there were a lot of long rebounds. When we go back and watch the tape, I think we’ll certainly find some no box outs or missed box outs on our team.
“I also think we’re going to see some rebounds that were long rebounds that bounced over our head even if we did rebound. But at the end of the day, we have to do a combination of maybe hitting and holding our box outs a little bit better and find a way to pursue and then find a way to get secondary defenders in there, getting our guards in there and having them compete and try to find rebounds, as well.”
Even though Arkansas has not been a particularly good offensive rebounding team this season, ranking 296th nationally coming into the game, it was an area Eric Musselman thought his squad might be able to exploit.
“We felt like they were going to play zone and zone defense is really vulnerable to offensive rebounding,” Musselman said. “That was one of the things that we discussed, even as late as our team meal this afternoon. I thought the effort on the offensive boards was not great, it was phenomenal.”
No one dominated the boards like Trevon Brazile, who pulled down 17 rebounds — eight of which were offensive rebounds. Both of those marks are easily career highs, surpassing his 12 total rebounds against North Dakota State last year and five offensive boards he grabbed twice while at Missouri. The 17 rebounds are also the most for the Razorbacks since Justin Smith had 17 against Oral Roberts on Dec. 20, 2020.
The 6-foot-10 redshirt sophomore added a pair of assists and two steals, helping him still be effective despite shooting only 3 of 12 from the floor. He was also a perfect 6 of 6 at the free throw line, giving him 14 points and third career double-double.
“When the shots aren’t falling, you gotta do other things to stay in the game,” Brazile said. “Just like Coach said, he’ll go to somebody else if I’m not producing, so I just tried to stay on the glass and rebounds were coming to me.”
If it wasn’t for Brazile, Chandler Lawson would probably be receiving more attention for his solid 9-point, 13-rebound, 5-block performance against the Cardinal. The latter two of those set career highs and he’s scored more in only five of his previous 115 career games.
It was particularly impressive considering how much he has struggled to stay on the court since playing a key role in shutting down Zach Edey in the charity exhibition win over Purdue.
He played 36 minutes Wednesday night, which is one minute more than he played in the first four regular-season games combined.
“I had to make winning plays,” Lawson said. “If you want to stay on the floor, you’ve got to rebound. You want the ball, you’ve got to rebound. That’s what my daddy has been teaching me all my life.”
Leaning on T-Mark (Again)
Speaking of that Purdue win, the player Arkansas leaned on down the stretch that game was Houston transfer Tramon Mark. He responded by scoring 13 of his 15 points after halftime, including five in overtime.
As mentioned above, the Razorbacks turned to him again in crunch time Wednesday night and he delivered once again. He scored a team-high 25 points on 6 of 15 shooting, including just 1 of 4 from deep. Mark drew a whopping 10 fouls and converted at a high clip, making 12 of 15 free throws.
“We know T-Mark’s a big shot maker,” teammate Trevon Brazile said. “We’ve been watching him do it all summer, watched him do it through the games that we’ve played. We trust him.”
Mark’s 25 points were one shy of his career high, which he set in a 26-point effort against Auburn in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Through five games, he’s leading the Razorbacks in scoring at 16.6 points per game.
Other Arkansas Basketball Tidbits
- Coming into Wednesday’s game, Davonte Davis had played 122 minutes this season without committing a turnover. Only Winthrop’s Chase Claxton (136) and Temple’s Matteo Picarelli (128) had played more turnover-free minutes. However, about 10 minutes into the Stanford game, Davis was whistled for carrying the ball — his first turnover of the year. That seemed to open the floodgates, as he finished with five in 45 minutes.
- After shooting 40.3% from deep over its first three games, Arkansas basketball has hit a shooting slump. It followed up a 4-for-23 performance against UNC Greensboro by going 5 of 19 from beyond the arc against Stanford. That means the Razorbacks are shooting just 21.4% (9 of 42) over their last two games.
- The only Arkansas player who made multiple 3s was Trevon Brazile, who went 2 of 5 from deep. That improved him to 7 of 16 for the season. At 43.8%, he now leads the team in 3-point percentage, moving just ahead of Khalif Battle (43.5%). (That doesn’t include Chandler Lawson, who is 1 of 1.)
- Arkansas will be without senior big man Jalen Graham at the Battle 4 Atlantis. He didn’t travel to the Bahamas because he’s still dealing with the back spasms that caused him to miss both exhibition games before the season.
- Stanford did its part to help the Razorbacks by shooting poorly from the free throw line, knocking down only 13 of 24 (54.2%). That includes an abysmal 6 of 12 in the overtime periods.
- On the flip side, Arkansas was 26 of 33 (78.8%) at the free throw line. It was a season high for made free throws and, unlike the 3-point shooting, continued the Razorbacks’ solid shooting at the stripe. Over the last two games, they are shooting 79.3% — a dramatic improvement from the 63.9% they shot over the first three games.
Arkansas vs Stanford Highlights
Postgame Interviews at Battle 4 Atlantis
Arkansas vs Stanford Box Score (Battle 4 Atlantis)
More coverage of Arkansas basketball and Arkansas vs Memphis from BoAS…