FAYETTEVILLE – Arkansas’ Razorbacks and Georgia’s Bulldogs each believed they could run themselves out of 2-game SEC skids Saturday afternoon at Walton Arena.
Running a 56-32 second half after up six intermission, Coach Eric Musselman’s Razorbacks ran, 99-69 over, through and past the Bulldogs.
The Razorbacks improved to 10-2 overall and evened their SEC record to 2-2 after SEC losses to Missouri here and at Tennessee and next hit the SEC road Wednesday at LSU and next Saturday at Alabama. Coach Tom Crean’s Bulldogs ran out of second half steam falling to 7-3 overall, 0-3 in the SEC.
“When you play an up and down team you have a choice,” Musselman said. “The choice is do you slow the game down and make it more of a halfcourt game or do you open it up and make it a track meet? Over in our locker room we had big signs that said ‘Win the Race!’ So we were putting our track shoes on.”
Basketball freshmen Moses Moody of Little Rock, Jacksonville’s Davonte “Devo” Davis and Jaylin Williams of Fort Smith Northside could have fit in with Arkansas Track Coach Chris Bucknam’s defending SEC Indoor champion Razorbacks the way they outran Georgia Saturday.
“The three of them were fantastic,” Musselman said.
Moody, bouncing back from a career low six points at Tennessee, scored a game-high 25 on Georgia.
Davis, starting in place of recently struggling junior guard Desi Sills, “was phenomenal,” Musselman said.
Davis scored 20 points, grabbed seven rebounds, dished six assists vs. three turnovers, made two steals and guarded Georgia’s best player, guard Sahvir Wheeler.
Wheeler scored 14 but wielded little second-half impact.
“I thought he (Davis) did a great job on Wheeler,” Musselman said. “Wheeler is as fast as any player in our league. Devo did a great job of following the game plan, not over-gambling and not being overanxious and just trying to keep Wheeler in front which was the reason he was in then lineup. And offensively he was phenomenal for us.”
Really phenomenal given what was and wasn’t planned.
“We didn’t run a play for him and he goes 9 of 14 from the field,” Musselman said. “And Moses was great as well – 9 of 15 from the field and 5 of 5 from the line.”
Williams, 6-10, came off the bench quickly after the game’s start and after the second half’s outset. He’s faster and more athletic than 7-3 starting center Connor Vanover and did his part running Georgia ragged.
Though fouling out, Williams in his 19:31 led Arkansas with nine rebounds, helping the Hogs outrebound the Dogs, 40-30, blocked a shot and set up to take two key charges on Georgia sixth-man forward Andy Garcia.
“Jaylin Williams, phenomenal on the glass,” Musselman said. “Phenomenal. Four offensive rebounds, nine total rebounds for us, in 19 minutes. And plus 29 when he’s on the floor. I thought Jaylin was awesome.”
Williams scored just two points but the Hogs didn’t need him scoring to prevail. For aside from Moody’s 25 and Davis’ 20, Musselman’s men netted 15 points each from graduate transfer starting forward Vance Jackson, 4 of 5 treys, and graduate transfer starting point guard Jalen Tate, a double-double with 10 assists vs. one turnover while gathering four rebounds, and 12 off the bench points from guard JD Notae.
Musselman lauded the “lift” Jackson recently has provided filling for injured starting forward Justin Smith.
Of Tate, Musselman marveled, “Today he was great. The 15 and 10, those numbers are hard to get in a 40-minute college game. You know he spearheaded our offensive attack.”
Sills, the junior mainstay whose 23 points led Arkansas’ SEC opening victory at Auburn, but “discombobulated” his last two games, Musselman said, looked more his old self coming off the bench with eight points, five boards, two assists and a steal in 22:54.
“ We just wanted Desi to be comfortable,” Musselman said. “We wanted him to relax. I thought he was so great last year off the bench for us and I thought he kind of got into his groove after the first couple minutes of the game.”
Razorbacks Davis and Moody, each with a dozen first half points, and Bulldogs Wheeler and forward Toumani Camara, 10 first-half points each, dominated a fast-paced first half that Arkansas led, 43-37.
Camara, finishing with 15 points but limited by foul trouble scored Georgia’s first eight points and had the Bulldog until Davis, first with 3-point play off an add one ad then a bucket ate 16:32 put Arkansas up 9-8.
The first half lead changed seven times with Arkansas peaked at 41-32 on a Davis to Desi Sills basket at 1:12.
Andy Garcia totaled five points on an and-one 3-point play and two free throws before Davis scored with two seconds left.
Georgia cut the six-point lead to five at 18:57 of the second half.
By 14:23 a Moody trey extended a 12-0 Razorbacks run running the Bulldogs to oblivion.