FAYETTEVILLE — No. 14 Arkansas pulled away from Gardner-Webb in late in the first half to take an 86-68 win in Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas trailed 31-29 with 5:24 remaining in the first half. The Hogs had trailed as much as by eight points earlier in the first half. But Arkansas took a 48-36 lead into halftime then never looked back in the final 20 minutes. They stretched the lead to 26 points, 86-60, with 4:30 remaining in the game. Eric Musselman talked about the start of the game and then how the Hogs got control of it.
"I think as a group we’re not happy with how we started the game," Musselman said. "I thought we played good about the 13-minute mark of the first half. We started playing better. I thought we finished the half really good. Sometimes the last three minutes of the half become really important, and they did tonight. Again, defensively, we’ve got to guard the ball better, and we’ve got to guard the rim better.
"We were 25 passes short of our goal, so the ball didn’t move as much as we wanted it to tonight as well. I give Gardner-Webb a lot of credit. I thought they were really well coached, I thought they cut hard, I thought they ran the floor really hard in their transition offense. I thought they ran harder than we did, for sure. To only win the battle of the boards by six, it’s not enough, and to give up 11 offensive rebounds is not going to cut it."
Temple transfer Khalif Battle had another outstanding showing. Battle topped the Hogs with 21 points and added four rebounds and an assist off the bench. He hit 3-of-4 shots from 3-point territory. He got to the free throw line 10 times making eight of them.
"He’s been phenomenal," Musselman said. "Battle is a starter. He’s just not hearing his name called right away. He’s been our most efficient offensive player. He stretches the floor, he can play one-on-one, he can draw free throws. He’s a good foul shooter. He did a decent job on the defensive backboards tonight. Really happy with how he played.