Razorbacks Rewind: Battle’s historic 42-point effort fuels Arkansas’ 88-73 home win over Missouri on Saturday at BWA

By Kevin McPherson
on 2024-02-26 01:43 AM

By Kevin McPherson

Khalif Battle joined an elite club of Razorbacks scorers on Saturday as the senior guard scorched the nets for a career-high 42 points to propel Arkansas to an 88-73 home win over the visiting Missouri Tigers at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, giving the team its first two-game winning streak in league play.

Arkansas (14-13, 5-9 SEC) was coming off a 78-71 mid-week road win over Texas A&M and has now won four of its last seven league games after starting SEC play with a 1-6 mark. The Razorbacks improved to 10-5 at BWA on the season, which includes a 3-4 record against league teams.

Battle’s 42-piece (11-of-15 field goals, including 10-of-16 from 3, and 14-of-14 free throws) stands as the second-most points scored by a Razorback in an SEC game (Hogs icon Todd Day poured in 43 points in a road win over Shaquille O’Neal-led LSU during Arkansas’ inaugural season in the SEC in 1991-92). Battle’s points production comes in seventh place all-time for most points in any single game for a Hog. It also serves as the high-water mark for points scored in a single game in the SEC in 2023-24, surpassing Texas A&M guard Wade Taylor IV’s 41 points scored inside BWA in the Hogs’ 78-77 win over the Aggies in January. Battle also chipped in 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, and no turnovers in his 38 minutes as a starter in the win over Mizzou. It was his third consecutive game of scoring in double figures, and it marked his first league game of scoring at least 20 points after having five such outings during non-conference play in November and December.

The Hogs led by as many as eight points in the first half before settling on a two-point advantage, 36-34, at the break, and they built their lead to seven points early in the second half before a 12-2 Missouri run put the Tigers ahead, 46-43, with 13:50 to play in the game. That’s when Battle — he had scored 21 points to that point in the game — went off for 21 more points in the final 13:16 as Arkansas not only regained the lead but expanded it to the final winning margin of 15 points, which provided the Razorbacks’ lone double-digit margin of victory through 14 games of league play.

“It still hasn’t really sunk in that I had the amount of points that I had,” Battle said during the post-game press conference. “It’s a great feeling, but it’s even better that we got the win. If I would’ve had 40 and we would have lost, no one would have even remembered that.”

Fifth-year Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman was dazzled by Battle’s performance.

“That’s about as great an offensive performance as a player could have,” Musselman said. “Because when you look at the efficiency of only 15 field goals and to get 42 points, I mean that’s insane. He’s done a great job all year of drawing free throws and he went 14 of 14 from the foul line. The six defensive rebounds, that’s probably as good a night as he’s had from a defensive rebounding standpoint.

“The theme coming into the game was we had to get a shot on goal. We couldn’t have live-ball turnovers and he did a great job. He played 37 minutes and 34 seconds and didn’t have a turnover while scoring 42 points. Kind of unheard of to be honest.”

Playing off the bench, senior big man Makhi Mitchell recorded double-figure scoring for the seventh time in his last eight game as he chipped in 13 points (4-of-8 field goals and 5-of-6 free throws), 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, and 1 turnover in 28 minutes before fouling out. Junior wing and the team’s leading scorer on the season, Tramon Mark, started and contributed 10 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, and no turnovers in 35 minutes. Senior guard Davonte “Devo” Davis started and finished with 8 points, a game-high 9 rebounds, a game-high 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, and 2 turnovers in 34 minutes. Seniors El Ellis and Jeremiah Davenport each scored 5 points with Davenport adding 3 rebounds, and freshman guard Layden Blocker provided 4 points (including shooting 1-of-2 from 3) and 1 rebound.

Sophomore forward Trevon Brazile — he missed the team’s previous seven games with knee soreness — made his return against Mizzou and logged four first-half minutes while not recording a statistic. Brazile played his freshman season as a Missouri Tiger in ’21-22 before transferring to Arkansas.

The Hogs dished out 16 assists while shooting 25-of-52 from the field (48.1%), including 10-of-25 from 3 (40%), and 28-of-34 at the free throw line (82.4%). Missouri was 20-of-51 on field goals (39.2%), including 5-of-19 from 3 (26.3%). The Tigers were 28-of-30 at the foul line (93.3%). The Razorbacks won rebounds (33-27), turnovers (8-5), points-off-turnovers (13-6), fastbreak points (13-7), and points-in-the-paint (26-24).

“I think Missouri kept the lane a little bit more clogged,” Musselman said. “They were helping off the corners a little bit more and once we saw that adjustment, we’re a team that, tonight, shot the three well and we had more space and time to shoot the three. Look, if your team makes 10 three’s and we get to the foul line, that’s a really good formula for us.

“They did a good job of taking away what was our strength in Columbia, which was paint points and Zone 1 scoring. We did a great job tonight of getting into the teeth of the defense, whether it was an extra defender and then finding open guys, and that’s why, I’m assuming, it’s an SEC high for us, 10 three’s. It was a good adjustment by the players, understanding and recognizing that the extra pass was going to equate to feet-set three’s and not three’s off the bounce.”

Arkansas swept the two-game, home-and-away season series (includes a 91-84 road win over the Tigers in January) while moving to 35-27 in the all-time series against Mizzou (8-19, 0-14 SEC) as the Hogs have now won 7 of the last 8 meetings between the two programs. The Tigers were led by Sean East II’s 33 points. Former Hog and Little Rock native Connor Vanover finished with 2 points (1-of-1 field goal) and 5 rebounds in 16 minutes off the bench for Mizzou.

Arkansas’ NCAA NET resume (No. 121) now includes records of 2-8 in Quad-1 matchups, 1-4 in Q2, 7-1 in Q3, and 4-0 in Q4.

Musselman improved to 109-55 overall as Head Hog, which includes a 50-42 mark against SEC foes and a 59-13 record against non-conference opponents (all three marks include postseason results).

Next up for Arkansas is another home matchup as the Razorbacks will host Vanderbilt on Tuesday at BWA. Following the Commodores tilt, the Hogs will have only three more league games — at Kentucky, home against LSU, and at Alabama — all in early March before the start of the SEC Tournament that will determine the league’s lone automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament that will follow.

Against Mizzou on Saturday, Musselman started Battle, Mark, Davis, El Ellis, and Chandler Lawson for the third consecutive game.

Battle scored 16 first-half points, and the Hogs held their biggest lead in the opening half of 30-22 before being outscored 12-6 to close out the first 20 minutes clinging to a 36-34 lead.

(Last updated: 2024-02-26 01:43 AM)