Columbia, S.C,— Historically, February has been great for Eric Musselman and the Hogs, going 14-1in the month since he became the head coach. Drawing South Carolina in Columbia was possibly the best scenario for Arkansas to keep the trend going.
The Gamecocks are significantly worse at home, scoring on average in the 50s and going 0-5 in SEC play. Arkansas, at the same time, was 0-5 in true road games, so something had to budge.
The Hogs entered today looking to get back to .500 in conference play, which is exactly what they did. Arkansas had to scrap for the victory in the closing moments of Saturday’s game, but Musselman’s group is headed home with their first road win on the season.
A slow start plagued both Arkansas and South Carolina. Neither team seemed to have much energy for this game, almost like anNBA 2K game simulation. At the second media timeout, the score was only 9-8 in favor of Arkansas with 12 minutes left to play in the first half.
Then, Arkansas controlled much of the first half after a timeout. The Hogs regained their sense of urgency and went on a 16-2 run sparked by Jalen Graham. Graham knocked down 5-6 in the first half for 12 points and taking a nine-point lead into halftime.
Coming out of the half, the Hogs stretched their lead to 12 points before the Gamecocks mounted a comeback.
Meechie Johnson’s five 3-point baskets ignited the Gamecocks to a big second half before the Hogs secured a few late rebounds to seal the deal.
The excellent play from Devo Davis continues to fuel this Razorback squad. Davis finished the game with 15 points while tying his career-high four 3-point makes.
Defensively, Davis recorded two steals and a solid performance in his matchup with Gregory Jackson, holding Jackson to just nine points.
A significant storyline of today’s game is the play of Jalen Graham. Graham boosted the Hogs on the offensive end with 16 points. However, Graham recorded just one defensive rebound in 21 minutes of playing time, a stat that Musselman mentioned needs improving.
Graham’s offensive performance was the difference in the game for the Razorbacks, but improved ball security and defensive rebounding will be the focus for Graham’s minutes moving forward.
Every time the Gamecocks tried to go on a run or tip the momentum toward themselves, Arkansas answered. But with South Carolina’s Josh Gray dominating in the post and Meechie Johnson becoming a huge threat from beyond the arch, stretched Arkansas’s defense all half long, wearing out the Hogs and finally finding a gap.
The Gamecocks’ comeback attempt started with a 3-point shot made by Johnson with 7:52 left on the clock, sparking a 14-6 run.
Another 3-pointer from Meechie brought the Gamecocks within 1 point, and a pair of made free throws by Gray—a 50% free throw shooter on the season—and back-to-back dunks from the big man gave South Carolina the lead with 1:40, 63-62.
Jordan Walsh was the Razorback that contributed most on the boards today. Walsh finished with ten rebounds, four of which were on the defensive end. In addition, the freshman pulled down a few offensive rebounds late in the game that extended possessions, ultimately helping the Hogs close out the game.
Overall, Anthony Black was arguably the essential Razorback on the floor today. Black finished with 13 points, six rebounds, four assists, and two blocks. Black’s defensive rebound late in the game led to two free throws made when the game was in the balance.
Arkansas, again, shot over 45% from the field, shooting 26-55 (47%) and 4-15 (27%) from 3-point range, all knocked down by Devo Davis. The Hogs recorded 11 assists to 11 turnovers and went 9-13 (69%) from the free-throw line.
The Razorbacks allowed South Carolina to shoot 47% (26-55) and 37% (7-19) from beyond the arch. Arkansas forced 10 turnovers, stealing 6.
The Hogs are now 17-7 and 5-5 in the conference. More importantly, Arkansas has won four straight conference games. Kentucky awaits the Razorbacks on Tuesday in a crucial matchup for two teams that have shared a similar season. While the Hogs travel to Lexington with some momentum, a victory will only be possible with improvement in the defensive rebounding category. Expect the Hogs to emphasize defensive rebounding on Tuesday night.