Arkansas vs. Southern Gamer

Nate Allen

FAYETTEVILLE – Instead of presumably blown out this week in Spokane, Wash. by the nationally No. 1 but covid-19 afflicted Gonzaga Zags, the outmanned Southern University Jaguars were flattened in Fayetteville filling in  for the covid-19 afflicted Tulsa Golden Hurricane against Arkansas.

Coach Eric Musselman’s now 5-0  Razorbacks, with their game Tuesday night at Tulsa postponed by the Hurricane’s positive covid-19 tests,  stifled the now 0-3 Jaguars, 79-44 Wednesday night at Walton Arena.

Arkansas’ defensively compelled the Jaguars of the SWAC (Southwest Athletic Conference) to connect a mere 18 of 63 shots, including but 1 for 13 treys, while blanking previous leading Southern scorer  Ahsan Shivers to 0 of 9 from the field and never approaching the free throw line.

“I thought we defended the ball well and we really pride ourselves on trying to take away the opposing team’s star player,” Musselman said on postgame radio.  “The heart of their team is Shivers, No. 1.  He didn’t go to the foul line and he averages over four free throws attempted per game.  He goes 0 for 9 from the field, 0 for 5 from three does not score. We felt like if we took him out of the game it would be hard for Southern to score.”

It was.  Of the 15 Jaguars that Southern Coach Sean Woods employed, James Saddler’s nine points proved the most mustered individually.

Meanwhile Arkansas, playing nobody longer than 26 minutes with the game well in hand off 10-0 and 17-0 runs during a 42-20 first half, had six scoring from 11 to 14 points.

Freshman  guard/small forward Davonte “Devo” Davis of Jacksonville surprisingly led the Hogs with a career high 14 points off the bench.

Davis played so well as 10th and last man off the bench in the first half that Musselman brought him sixth man off the bench in the second half.

“Devo Davis continues to get better,” Musselman said.  “He’s got an incredible work ethic.  I thought his reaction to loose balls was phenomenal.  He played the one, two and three for us tonight. I thought he was more comfortable at the two and even the three spot for us.  He rebounded the ball (seven rebounds in 16 minutes)  really well and I thought he had great shot selection as well.”

Musselman said giving players like Davis a shot contributed to scheduling Southern when the Tulsa game had to be postponed.

“Devo has not flinched since the day he stepped on campus,” Musselman said. “He’s slowly moving ahead of players because of his ability in practice to not flinch, to work. He’s not a good loose ball getter; he’s a great loose ball getter.” 

Asked about breaking loose for loose balls, Davis said,”It’s always been inside me growing up. Not being the best player, but trying to do whatever it takes to get to that spot. So, if I have to get loose balls, or be that dog on the team to help the team out, then I’ll do that.”

Scoring nine points each in the first half, Arkansas, Razorbacks starting guards Moses Moody and Jalen Tate and first-half sixth-man guard JD Notae finished with 12 points while starting guard Desi Sills, five assists vs. zero turnovers, and starting forward Justin Smith each finished scoring 11 points.

Connor Vanover, Arkansas’ 7-3 center, didn’t score a first half point  but his 16 first stanza minutes perhaps influenced the first half more than any Hog.  Vanover grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots and made three steals in the first half intimidating the smaller Jaguars inside.

“Vanover being our goalie – I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a player back in the back line alter shots,” Musselman said.   “Because basically when we do that shadow defense we’re leaving a player and  Connor has got two guys. He just changes the complexion of the game by rim protection.”

Sills and junior center Ethan Henderson, a starter at last season’s end but 11th man now with big men Vanover,  6-9 grad transfer Vance Jackson,  6-7 grad transfer  Smith and 6-10 freshman Jaylin Williams of Fort Smith Northside, both caught Musselman’s attention as the lone scholarship returns from last season’s 20-12 squad.

“I thought Desi was great,”Musselman said.  “I really did. I love the fact that he had 5 assists and no turnovers. He’s obviously a two guard for us, but I think he’s done a great job of continuing to transition and have a little bit more of a role as a combo guy who can play the one and the two.”

Henderson grabbed two rebounds in his four minutes.

“ Does he play ahead of somebody else?” Musselman asked rhetorically.  “Those are some of the things that we’re trying to figure out as a staff.”

Arkansas next plays the University of Central Arkansas Bears in Saturday night’s game at Walton Arena with the tip-off moved from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. to accommodate fans attending Arkansas’ 11 a.m. football game against Alabama at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

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