Fresh off of a dominating performance against Vanderbilt on Saturday, Jan 23rd, Eric Musselman and company looked to extend the Razorbacks win streak to three straight games. The Rebels (Bears? Sharks?) of Ole Miss came into Fayetteville also riding a two-game conference winning streak of their own. Devontae Shuler, Ole Miss’s leading scorer, averaged 20.5 PPG in his last four outings leading up to his matchup with the Hogs. However, it was a different guard that would steal the show in Fayetteville.
Razorback fans know all too well that they have a star freshman on their hands in Moses Moody. 2021 NBA Draft boards have him projected to go anywhere from 6th to 15th, and he’s been proving his worth on the court so far this season. However, against Ole Miss, Moody suffered his first career collegiate game without a 3-point make. He scored only five points in 19 minutes, a season-low for each stat.
Incredibly, this didn’t prevent Hog fans from watching a stellar freshman take over the game. Davonte “Devo” Davis came off the bench, as he typically does, and simply could not be contained! He had 14 points in 25 minutes, tying the second-highest point total of his young career, and made seven of his nine field-goal attempts, a career-high. Even more impressively, he added 6 rebounds, 2 offensive rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 assist. He was all over the court for every second he was available.
While his jump shot has continually shown improvement, Davis’s ultra-high motor is both his biggest weapon and occasionally his greatest downfall. More often than not, his energy is contagious and leads to momentum-swinging plays, but it should be noted that he sometimes forgets to slow the game down and make the smart decision rather than the first decision.
This is to be expected of most freshmen, and, like most others, he will learn to control the pace of his own play as well as the pace of the game with age and experience. Don’t be surprised when “Devo” becomes a household name amongst Razorback fans for years to come.
Razorbacks Bounce Back
The biggest key to this Razorbacks win streak has been teamwork. This might sound cliché, but hear me out. Not only has team assists been a telling factor between wins and losses, but the number of players on this team that can carry the scoring load on any given night is also nearly unheard of in college basketball. Moody, the team’s leading scorer, has scored only five points in two of his last three games, first against Auburn and then again against Ole Miss. In these two games, the Hogs still managed to put up 75 and 74 points respectively thanks to their sheer volume of scorers.
Against Auburn, it was Desi Sills that stepped up and led the comeback charge with 22 points in 32 minutes. Against Ole Miss, however, Sills only contributed nine points in 24 minutes of play. Along with Moody’s struggles, it seems reasonable that the Hogs as a whole would struggle to score, but that wasn’t the case.
Despite scoring only 12 total points in his last three games, JD Notae stepped up in a big way to help extend the Razorback win streak to three in a row. Across 25 minutes off the bench, Notae scored 19 points on 50% (3-6) 3P and 89% (8-9) FT shooting. He also added 5 rebounds, 2 assists, and a steal in his bounce-back performance to help extend the Razorbacks win streak.
Notae seems to be the go-to scorer late in games when the Hogs need a bucket, and he’s darn good at it. Despite the occasional unwarranted shot attempt, Notae’s ability to hit from outside, drive past defenders, and get to the FT line make him a tough player to guard down the stretch.
However, the 6’1 transfer guard didn’t seal this win by himself. Fellow transfer Connor Vanover also found himself in the midst of a bounce-back performance. The 7’3 shooter was coming off of a five-game stretch in which he averaged eight minutes per game and scored a total of 10 points.
Matching up against other shooting big-man makes Vanover difficult to hide on the defensive side of the ball, but against a more traditional center like the one he faced against Ole Miss, Vanover thrives. He scored 8 points on 50% shooting while grabbing 7 rebounds, two of which were offensive, but his real value came on the defensive side of the ball.
Vanover recorded five, yes five, blocked shots against the Rebels, including a vicious “give-me-that” block that he snatched right out of the air as if he were playing against a little brother (even though both of his brothers are also 7’0 tall).
Will the Razorbacks Win Streak Extend to Four in SEC/Big 12 Challenge?
This Saturday, January 30th, the Hogs travel to face cross-conference foe, Oklahoma State. Multiple story lines are setting this game up to be one to remember. OSU is led by a freshman phenom of their own, Cade Cunningham, who also happens to be Moses Moody’s former high school teammate. Cunningham is projected to go in the Top 5 of the 2021 NBA Draft, a few spots ahead of Moody. This head-to-head matchup could prove to be must-see TV.
Another budding story comes from the recent death of former Cowboys and Razorbacks head coach, Eddie Sutton. Sutton spent 1974-1985 with the Hogs, a time in which he rebuilt Razorback basketball into a potential powerhouse in any given season, setting the foundation for Nolan Richardson’s 1994 tournament run. Sutton then went on to coach the Cowboys of Oklahoma State from 1990-2006 where they made 13 NCAA Tournaments in 16 years.
Both teams will commemorate Sutton with special edition warm-up shirts pregame.
Tune in Saturday, January 30th at 3:00 PM CT to see if Moses Moody and company can extend the Razorbacks win streak to four in a row!
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