After holding a players-only meeting following Saturday’s loss to Hofstra, the Arkansas men’s basketball team bounced back Tuesday with an 81-55 victory over the Elon Phoenix in Bud Walton Arena.
“We hear the noise,” sophomore forward Kamani Johnson said. “As a team, we had a meeting after the loss, we got some stuff squared away. It was what we needed.”
The teams were neck-and-neck for the first 16 minutes. There were multiple lead changes, and although the Hogs held the lead for much of the first half, they could not pull away from the Phoenix until the 3:50 mark.
The Razorbacks went on a 17-point run to close the half. A pull-up 3-pointer from sophomore guard Jaxson Robinson in transition gave the Razorbacks a 28-26 lead. Arkansas then tacked on 10 more to head into the locker room leading 38-26.
Robinson paired with the frontcourt duo of Johnson and senior Trey Wade proved to be a nice lineup for the Hogs, head coach Eric Musselman said.
“A lot of effort, a lot of energy with those guys,” Musselman said in the postgame press conference. “I thought Kamani played really well. I thought Jaxson opened up the floor with his 3-point shooting. Trey Wade, from a defensive perspective, we looked way more active from a defensive standpoint.”
Senior guard Chris Lykes led the charge for the Razorbacks, putting up 10 points in the first half. He did most of his damage in the opening period from the free throw line, sinking all eight attempts.
Arkansas came out of halftime and poured it on the Phoenix. A small 4-0 run from Elon brought the score to 38-30 with 17:10 left, but that was the last time the score deficit was within single digits.
The Hogs went on a 21-6 run over the next 10 minutes, which put the game well in hand. Their lead never fell below 15, and the Razorbacks coasted the rest of the way to an 81-55 win.
Lykes was the leading scorer, putting up 21 points for the game after hitting 3-6 from the field in the second half.
Johnson was a revelation for Arkansas in the second half. The 6-foot-7-inch, 235-pound big man was a problem for the Phoenix frontcourt, which could only foul in an attempt to contain him. He made 12 free throw attempts in the second half and sank nine, finishing with a career-high 15 points in his first game this season in which he played more than 10 minutes.
“It’s always frustrating when you don’t get to play that much,” Johnson said. “With this team, we’re so talented. It’s always a next-man-up mentality. Everybody’s going to have their night, tonight it was me. We haven’t really shown it yet, but we’re a good team. We’re starting to build confidence, connect more. You saw it tonight.”
Sophomore guard Davonte Davis continued his audition for starting point guard, dropping a team-high six assists. Davis called a players-only meeting in the week leading up to the game and is becoming a leader for the Razorbacks, on and off the court.
“I think the biggest thing with Devo to me, was that he was a leader out there tonight,” Wade said. “He was putting everybody in different spots, encouraging everybody, he was directing traffic. He was leading, (and) that was impressive to me.”
Arkansas will attempt to carry the momentum from Tuesday into Southeastern Conference play. The Hogs will take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Starkville, Mississippi. The game will be broadcast on the SEC Network.