FAYETTEVILLE – Against Gardner-Webb on Saturday, 48 of Arkansas’ 86 points came from players who didn’t score in the opener against Mercer four days earlier.
After not playing against Mercer, forward Connor Vanover made a surprise start and led the Razorbacks with 19 points in the 86-69 win over Gardner-Webb.
Arkansas also had 10 points for goaltender Davonte “Devo” Davis, who played 34 minutes but did not attempt a basket or free throw in the season opener.
Other Arkansas players who scored their first points of the season on Saturday were: Jaxson Robinson (6), Trey Wade (5), Kamani Johnson (5) and Khalen Robinson (3). Jaxson Robinson did not play in the season opener and Wade, Johnson and Khalen Robinson combined to play 17 minutes and 24 seconds against Mercer.
Wade, Johnson and Jaxson Robinson scored their first points as Razorbacks after transferring from Wichita State, Arkansas-Little Rock and Texas A&M respectively.
Gardner-Webb made 13 of 31 three-point attempts on Saturday after Mercer had the same stat line beyond the arc in Game 1.
According to HogStats.com, this is the first time Arkansas has allowed non-conference opponents to score 13 or more from three points in back-to-back games since Oklahoma and West Carolina combined to make 13 and 14, respectively, in November 1998.
“The one area we haven’t all bought into – that’s on me – is defending all three,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said. “It’s the most boring thing in a small sample since I’ve been coaching college basketball. We do the same exercises as when we were leading the nation (in three-point defense two seasons ago). This team is longer and should do a much better job defending all three, so that will be sorted out before our next game. ”
More from WholeHogSports: Full coverage of Arkansas victory over Gardner-Webb
Gallery: Arkansas defeat Gardner-Webb 86-69
Musselman said he was particularly upset with the way the team defended the three-point shot in the dying minutes. Gardner-Webb made 7 of 13 beyond-arc attempts in the final 9 minutes and 15 seconds of the game.
“I could have hit three or four as we defended the last eight minutes,” Musselman said. “If you hit me ‘on horseback’, a kick wide open with my feet fixed, I’m pretty sure that at age 56, or whatever I was, I could hit a few.”
Arkansas extended their winning streak to 21 games against non-conference opponents at home.
The Razorbacks haven’t lost to a non-conference opponent at Bud Walton Arena since Georgia Tech won 69-65 on December 19, 2018.
Arkansas are 19-0 in non-conference home games under Musselman.
The Razorbacks have won 10 consecutive home games overall. Their last home loss was to Missouri on Jan. 2.
Arkansas coaches wore green collared shirts with an American flag on the right sleeve in recognition of Veterans Day.
The Razorbacks warm-up tops were also military-themed with a camouflage print and flag patch.
After seeing his team register just 13 assists and returning the ball more than 15 times in the season opener, Musselman admitted his team had to be better to find the open man.
Against Gardner-Webb, the Razorbacks moved the ball with determination. Davis said they got more assists at halftime (137) than they did in the full game against the Bears.
Those extra passes turned into easy buckets for the Hogs as they racked up 23 assists and committed just nine turnovers.
Five different Razorbacks have had at least three assists.
“I thought our starting backcourt fixed the ball movement issues,” Musselman said.
Arkansas improved to 2-0 against Gardner-Webb.
The Razorbacks won the only previous meeting between the teams 79-63 on November 27, 2004, in Fayetteville.
Arkansas will host northern Iowa on Wednesday at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast by SEC Network-Plus.
The Panthers are 0-2 this season with losses at home to Nicholls State (62-58) and Vermont (71-57). Northern Iowa is expected to host Dubuque, a Division III team, on Sunday.