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Arkansas completes season sweep of Missouri


FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas won its second SEC game in a row on Saturday with an 88-73 victory over Missouri in Bud Walton Arena which included a career night for Khalif Battle who scored 42 points.

The win allowed Arkansas (14-13, 5-9) to complete a season sweep against Missouri just as they did with Texas A&M on Tuesday night. Those two teams account for four of Arkansas' five SEC wins.

Battle was outstanding on Saturday adding six rebounds, one assist and no turnovers in 38 minutes. Battle only missed four field goals in 15 attempts, was 6-of-10 shooting from behind the 3-point line and perfect on 14 free throws. Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman was impressed.

"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 to be honest."

Battle was pleased with the game, but more because of the outcome than his scoring feat.

"I dont know," Battle said. "It still hasn’t really sunk in that I had the amount of points that I had. 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."

The Razorbacks held a 36-34 lead at halftime. Missouri managed to take a 48-47 lead with 12:28 remaining in the game, but then hit a dry spell from the field allowing Battle and the Hogs to pull away.

When Arkansas beat the Tigers 91-84 in Columbia on Jan. 31 the emphasis was points in the paint. Arkansas only attempted six 3-pointers and made four of them. They outscored Missouri 56-30 in the paint. Musselman had hoped to use the same plan on Saturday, but Missouri packed in the lane on defense. Arkansas then turned to the 3-point shot making 40% (10-25) of them. The Hogs only outscored Missouri 26-24 in the paint on Saturday.

"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 3 well and we had more space and time to shoot the 3. Look, if your team makes 10 3s 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 3s. It was a good adjustment by the players, understanding and recognizing that the extra pass was going to equate to feet-set 3s and not 3s off the bounce."

Overall, Arkansas shot 48% (25-52) from the field to only 39 for Missouri. Both teams made 28 free throws. Arkansas did it in 34 attempts while Missouri had 30 tries and missed only two. Missouri shot 26% from distance.

Makhi Mitchell continued his good play before fouling out late. He had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. Tramon Mark added 10 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Davonte "Devo" Davis added eight points, nine rebounds and six assists. Trevon Brazile returned and played four minutes.

"Good to get him back," Musselman said. "He’s worked extremely hard on his rehab. But the group that’s been playing well for us, that was the group we kind of rolled with and, this late in they year, to work people back in becomes problematic, (to be) quite honest. Jalen Graham’s been out a few games and he’s really helped us this year. We all know how talented T. Brazile is. He’s one of the most talented players in our league.
"But it’s… We got a good flow going right now. How long that lasts, I don't know, but we’re 4-3 in our last 7, I think. To be quite honest with you, we should be 5-2. The game at Mississippi State, I’m not going to comment on it, but if you watch the film over and over like I have, we should be 5-2, and there’s no questions about that. So we're playing really good, and we keep rolling and try to have a good practice Monday, and get ready for Tuesday’s game because we are playing better than we have most of the season."
Missouri (8-19, 0-14) was led by Sean East II with 33 points. Nick Honor added 14 points and Tamar Bates 11. Noah Carter chipped in eight points and topped the Tigers with seven rebounds. Former Razorback Connor Vanover had two points and five rebounds in 12 minutes.
Arkansas will play host to Vanderbilt (7-20, 2-12) on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. and televised on the SEC Network. Vandy fell to Florida 77-64 on Saturday. Arkansas will have a chance to win its third game in a row. That's something they haven't done since beating UNC Wilmington 106-90 on Saturday, Dec. 30