Arkansas coach Eric Musselman leaves no doubt as to his analysis of Khalif Battle’s play through two games.
“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.”
The Temple transfer, who’s averaging 21 points per game off the bench, will aim to continue that good work Monday night in Fayetteville when the No. 14 Razorbacks (2-0) host Old Dominion in a nonconference contest.
The 6-5 Battle, who tallied 17.9 ppg last season for the Owls but shot just 41 percent from the field, is canning 55.6 percent of his shots in the early going. He’s also connected on 60 percent of his 3-pointers and hit 16 of 19 free throws.
Battle needed just nine shots to score 21 points in Friday night’s 86-68 win over Gardner-Webb, making 3 of 4 from the 3-point line and connecting on 8 of 10 free throws. He led four players in double figures.
Houston transfer Tramon Mark added 14 on Friday night, while Louisville transfer El Ellis chipped in 13 points and six rebounds. Trevon Brazile contributed 10 as Arkansas overcame an early eight-point deficit to build a 26-point second half lead.
Despite the comfortable final margin, Musselman wasn’t thrilled with all 40 minutes.
“I thought they ran harder than we did for sure,” he said of Gardner-Webb. “To only win the battle of the boards by six is not enough. Giving up 11 offensive rebounds is not going to cut it.”
However, the Razorbacks more than compensated with elite rim protection. They finished with 15 blocked shots, tied for third-most in a game in program history. It’s their most blocks in a game since they rejected a program-record 18 against Missouri in 1995.
As for Old Dominion (1-1), it’s coming off a 73-68 loss on Saturday at Ball State in the MAC/Sun Belt Challenge. The Monarchs fell behind 16-6, rallied to take a four-point lead just past the midway point of the second half and then saw the hosts make 7 of 9 free throws after regaining the lead with about two minutes left.
“Plenty of lessons we need to learn from this,” said Old Dominion coach Jeff Jones. “We can’t get our heads down as it’s no fun to lose but to regroup and fight back the way we did after getting punched in the face at the beginning was good.”
Chaunce Jenkins scored 20 points for the Monarchs, while freshman guard Vasean Allette added 15 and Tyrone Williams contributed an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double. Ultimately, what did Old Dominion in was Ball State’s 21-6 advantage in made free throws despite the Cardinals taking more than twice as many 3-pointers.
That result aside, most people around the Sun Belt Conference expect good things from the Monarchs. They were picked for a third-place finish in the league’s preseason poll behind James Madison, which won its season opener at No. 4 Michigan State, and Appalachian State.
This will be the first meeting of the two programs.
–Field Level Media
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