Thu November 30, 2023

By Lance Hawley

Sports Razorbacks

Hogs Knock Off #7 Duke in Front of Record Crowd at BWA

Arkansas Hoops Razorbacks Basketball Muss Bus Bwa
Hogs Knock Off #7 Duke in Front of Record Crowd at BWA
By Otis Kirk

FAYETTEVILLE -- Unranked Arkansas defeated No. 7 Duke 80-75 before a packed house at Bud Walton Arena.

The Razorbacks held a 33-32 lead over Duke at halftime and then never lead in the second half. Duke's last lead was 32-30 with 1:01 remaining in the first half. Arkansas stretched the lead to as much as 67-53 with 6:32 remaining in the game. Eric Musselman's team entered the game having lost three of the past four games, but made a complete turnaround in the win over Duke.

"I thought the ball movement, especially in the first half, was excellent," Musselman said. "I think we had 127 passes in the first half. I think 10 assists maybe on 13 baskets in that first half as well. When you play games against good competition, you hope you can go back and review video and find out where your weaknesses are. And certainly lack of ball movement was a big weakness on our part in the last two games in Nassau.

"But I will say that the way the schedule laid out in The Bahamas was difficult. Games two and three, we didn’t even have 24 hours (between them). I’ve never experienced that. I’ve never seen a team so tired. No excuses, because you know that going into a tournament that plays three games in three days. But Memphis is really good and North Carolina is really good. In a short sample size, and I know it was an exhibition game, but you play Purdue, you go to the Bahamas and you play those three games. You play this game tonight. We’ve really been challenged, and I think we’re going to get better.

"Incredible home crowd tonight. I mean, just an insane environment. Real cool to experience that, even as kind of an old guy."

Among the fans in the crowd were Sam Pittman, Bobby Petrino and Nolan Richardson. The 20,344 fans were the most to ever attend a game in Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas was playing without injured guard Tramon Mark who is still recovering from an injury he received late in the North Carolina game. Even without him, Arkansas' bench outscored Duke 36-9 proving to be a big difference in the game.

"Tonight, when you look at the bench points, 36-9, I think that was a big part of tonight's win," Musselman said. "Because when you're down your leading scorer and your bench goes out and outscores an opponent like that that's that talented... With a full roster, I think it's pretty clear that we have some depth. I though (Jeremiah) Davenport's two threes were crucial. I thought (Layden) Blocker's dribble drives. I thought (Makhi) Mitchell did a great job with six points in nine minutes on his rolls and finishes around the rim."

Temple transfer Khalif Battle topped the Hogs with 21 points off the bench to lead the Hogs in scoring. He also added five rebounds and five assists.

"I thought his assists were probably the most impressive thing," Musselman said. "He drew extra defenders. We ran a couple isolation plays for him, and he did a good job of reading the defense and reading the extra help. His rebounds were really important. We need... Like Davenport, we need JD to rebound a little bit for us to be able to extend his minutes because he can certainly stretch the defense out with his three-point shooting. So, with each of our guys there are areas they have to get better at for us to reach our potential."

Davenport and El Ellis, who struggled in the Bahamas, got the start. Ellis responded with nine points while Davenport had six. The lineup didn't include true freshman Layden Blocker who played well in the Bahamas.

"That was a big part of the reason we changed the starting lineup the way we did was because of T-Mark being out," Musselman explained. "So, Layden did a great job in Nassau, but there's no way we're going to win tonight without El picking up some of T-Mark's points. There's no way we were going to win tonight without Davenport making one or two threes. So, that's why we started those two players and obviously we made a change at center too. So, a lot of changing of the starting lineup from what we saw our last game against North Carolina."

Ellis talked about his poor play in the Bahamas.

"Man, I was in my head in the Bahamas," Ellis said. "Not really playing my game, being indecisive. Coach (Keith) Smart sent me clips of me from last year when I played against Duke an  he just told me to play my game, go out there and play confident and really just look for my teammates and that’s what I did. Started the game off looking for my teammates, getting my guys shots. When I needed to score, I scored. So it felt good."

Brazile more than held his own against Duke All-America Kyle Filipowski. Brazile had 19 points and 11 rebounds compared to Filipowski's 26 points, on 20 shots compared to only nine for Brazile, and 10 boards.

"I’m not looking at if somebody is an All-American or not," Brazile said. "I believe I’m one of those guys. Just going out there, you know, it’s a big win at home. It was a great environment. It’s good to have everybody on our side. I just went out there and did what I know I can do and it was a good turnout."

Arkansas had 10 blocks in the game as well compared to only three for Duke. Blocker finished with nine points off the bench.

Arkansas will be at home on Monday to host Furman at 7 p,m. and on SEC Network +. Arkansas moved to 5-3 with the win. Furman (4-3) will be at Princeton on Saturday before heading to Arkansas. 

Photos Courtesy of Craven Whitlow CW3 Sports Action