No. 20 Hoop Hogs survive-and-advance with 77-74 double-overtime win over Stanford in first round of Battle 4 Atlantis tourney

By Kevin McPherson
on 2023-11-23 01:17 AM

By Kevin McPherson

It was anything but pretty, but the 20th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks grinded out a much needed bounce-back win over unranked Stanford, 77-74, in double overtime on Wednesday in the first round of the prestigious Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in The Bahamas as the Hoop Hogs remained unbeaten in first-round tournament games under fifth-year head coach Eric Musselman (now 10-0).

Coming off a six-point home loss to unranked mid-major North Carolina-Greensboro on Friday, Arkansas (4-1, No. 29 in KenPom rankings entering Wednesday’s game) made its way back to the winner’s circle to advance to the Battle 4 Atlantis championship bracket semifinals on Thursday (4 p.m. CT, ESPN) where it will face Memphis, a 71-67 winner over Michigan in first-round play on Wednesday. In the other semifinals matchup, No. 14 North Carolina will take on Villanova on Thursday (1:30 p.m. CT, ESPN).

Win or lose on Thursday, the Razorbacks will play either UNC or Villanova on Friday in what will be either the tournament’s championship game or third-place game.

The Hogs used a 4-0 run on 4-of-4 free throws in the final 17 seconds of regulation to force overtime, and though a Stanford buzzer-beating tiple sent the game to a second overtime, Arkansas got 6 straight points from junior wing Tramon Mark (team-high 25 points, including 12-of-15 shooting from the foul line) in the final 1:50 of the second extra period to maintain a narrow one-possession-margin lead that held until the final horn.

Star sophomore forward Trevon Brazile had a monster double-double — 14 points, a game- and career-high 17 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals — while senior stretch-5 Chandler Lawson had his best game of the season as he contributed 9 points (4-of-7 field goals), 13 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Senior guard Davonte “Devo” Davis chipped in 10 points, 6 rebounds, a team-high 3 assists, and 1 steal. Senior guard Khalif Battle added 9 points, senior big man Makhi Mitchell had 6 points and 3 rebounds, and freshman guard Layden Blocker was a spark off the bench with 4 points, 3 steals, and 2 rebounds.

It was a game the Hogs never led by more than four points but trailed by as many nine when the Cardinal surged ahead 40-31 with 14:21 remaining in the game. Battle hit a three-pointer to spark a 11-2 Arkansas run that tied the game at 42-all. Stanford would go back up by 6 points, 48-42, on back-to-back triples by senior wing Spencer Jones (game-high 27 points). But the Hogs edged ahead, 49-48, on Marks’ 2-of-2 free throw effort at the 6:57 mark. Stanford’s crafty point guard, senior Jared Bynum, assisted on all three Cardinal baskets in a 6-0 run that was good for a 54-49 Stanford lead.

Arkansas trailed 59-55 when Mark and Davis combined to make those four consecutive free throws in the final 17 seconds of regulation — sandwiched around Bynum missing the front end of a one-and-one free throw attempt with 13.8 seconds left — then it was Mark who opened the scoring for both teams in the first overtime with another 2-of-2 free throw trip. The Hogs were ahead 65-61 with 20.9 seconds left in the first overtime, but a Stanford dunk with 13.5 seconds remaining cut the lead in half, then both teams exchanged turnovers — Brazile lost the ball out of bounds with 10.3 seconds to go before Davis stepped in front of a post-entry pass attempt for a steal and was fouled with 0:04 remaining. Davis made only 1-of-2 free throws for a 66-63 Arkansas lead, setting up a running, buzzer-beating, three-point bank shot by Stanford’s Benny Gealer that forced the second extra period with the game tied at 66-all.

In the second overtime, Arkansas led 71-70 when Mark scored on a driving layup with 1:50 remaining for a 73-70 advantage, his drive to a pull-up jumper with 1:02 to play extended his team to a 75-72 lead, and his layup with 19 seconds left set the final margin at 77-74.

“Look, Stanford’s really good, one of the first times they’ve been fully healthy,” Musselman said during his post-game press conference. “I thought our defense was really good with the exception of the start of the second half. Just an incredible game from a spectator’s standpoint.

“I thought our effort on the offensive boards was not great — it was phenomenal. Proud of how we played as far as toughness, grind it out. We’re still discombobulated trying to figure out who were are offensively, and that’s what happens with a changing roster like we have, and that’s why we’ve improvd in the past. “

Not only did Arkansas wash away the bad taste of losing at home on Friday, but the win over the Cardinal established the program’s first-ever victory over Stanford in three tries. The Cardinal (3-2, No. 66 in KenPom rankings entering Wednesday) will play Michigan on Thursday in the tournament’s consolation bracket.

The triumph also moved Musselman one win away from reaching his 100th victory at Arkansas. He’s now 99-43 overall as Head Hog, which includes a 54-10 record against non-conference opponents and a 45-33 mark against SEC foes (all three marks include postseason results).

His Hog teams improved to 5-1 in regular-season, neutral-site tournament play as part of a larger 17-7 overall record in neutral-site tournament formats (includes postseason records of 4-3 in the SEC Tournament and 8-3 in the NCAA Tournament). The recent 78-72 loss to UNCG was the first suffered by a Musselman-coached team in non-conference games at BWA (36-1).

Musselman started the quintet of Brazile, Davis, Mark, Mitchell, and senior wing Jeremiah Davenport for the first time this season.

Arkansas was better on defense than on offense in this game. The Hogs held Stanford to 26-of-65 overall field goals (40.0%), including 9-of-30 from 3 (30.0%) as both shooting marks fell well short of the Cardinal’s season efficiency. Stanford was subpar at the free throw line as well, making only 13-of-24 (54.2%) which was far below the teams season efficiency on freebies that exceeded 75%.

The Razorbacks misfired most of the game, finishing 23-of-76 from the field (30.3%) on only 6 assists, and it was another dismal night from 3 (5-of-19 for 26.3%). Arkansas effectively won the game at the free throw line, making 26-of-33 freebies (78.8%).

Arkansas won most of the other statistical categories in the game — plus-6 in total rebounds (52-46), plus-9 in offensive rebounds (21-12), plus-14 in second-chance-points (21-7), plus-6 in turnovers (19-13), plus-2 in points-off-turnovers (12-10), plus-2 in points-in-the-paint (32-30), plus-8 in bench scoring (22-14), plus-5 in blocks (5-0), and plus-5 in steals (9-4). Stanford won fastbreak scoring (7-4) and assists (16-6).

“I had to make winning plays,” Lawson said during a post-game radio interview. “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. I just found a use for the ball tonight and tried to make extra plays for my team so we could get the victory.”

It was an ugly, rugby-esque first half that was capped by a 4-0 Arkansas run as Blocker hit a late-shot-clock pull-up 17-footer followed by Mitchell’s baby hook in the paint, giving the Razorbacks a narrow 22-20 lead at the break.

Mark (6 points) and Brazile (3 points and 7 rebounds) led the first-half production for the Hogs.

Arkansas made only 8-of-20 field goals in the opening half (26.7%), including an anemic 1-of-8 from 3 (12.5%), and 5-of-6 at the free throw line (83.3%). Defensively, the Hogs yielded only 8-of-23 field goal shooting (34.8%) to Stanford, including 3-of-11 from 3 (27.3%). The Cardinal were 1-of-3 at the free throw line (33.3%) in the first half.

The Razorbacks were plus-6 rebounds (22-16) and plus-5 offensive rebounds (5-0) for a 4-0 advantage in second-chance-points. Arkansas was plus-2 in turnovers (10-8) and plus-1 in points-off-turnovers (3-2). Arkansas won bench scoring (7-5) and points-in-the-paint (12-8) in the first 20 minutes.

(Last updated: 2023-11-23 01:17 AM)