basketball Edit

Davis still a scoring threat in new role for Arkansas



The return of Nick Smith Jr. not only granted Arkansas (19-9, 8-8) more firepower offensively, but required another in-season adjustment to the Razorback lineup and rotation. Within those changes were the roles that each player was expected to fill, perhaps the heaviest impact falling on junior guard Davonte Davis's role.

Without Smith, Davis was heavily relied on offensively. In the 13 games Smith missed between matchups against Bradley and Mississippi State, Davis averaged 14.2 points per game on 11.8 field goal attempts per game.

The scoring role was new for Davis, who in his freshman and sophomore seasons combined to average 8.4 points on just 7.4 field goal attempts per game. The Jacksonville native has already far-exceeded his total field goal attempts while at Arkansas and the regular season isn't even over yet. So far this season, Davis has 278 field goal attempts in just 28 games. His previous high was 266 in 37 contests last season.

Davis might not have immediately fit perfectly into the scoring role this season, but grew more and more comfortable in it as the year went on.

The first seven games without Smith — who was out with right knee management for the second time this season — were an adjustment, with the Razorbacks going 2-5 and Davis not being an efficient scorer.

In those seven games, from UNC-Asheville to a road loss at Missouri, he averaged 12.6 points while shooting 12.3 field goals a game. Davis still managed 5.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists, along with playing his signature ferocious defense, but the scoring was not good enough as the primary option for Arkansas to be successful. The percentages spoke volumes: 40.7% from the field, 29.6% from three, and 90.9% from the free throw line on a low 1.6 attempts per game.

Things changed on Jan. 21 in a 67-57 win over Ole Miss, though. Something finally clicked and Davis was more confident and more efficient in his role as the team's go-to scorer. He put up an impressive stat-line against the Rebels, tallying 16 points, five rebounds, and four assists while shooting 6-of-11 from the field and 3-of-5 from behind the arc. It wasn't just a one-off performance, though.

Over a span of the next six games, Davis averaged 16.2 points on 11.3 field goal attempts, shooting 54.4% from the field and 47.7% from three. Arkansas went 5-2 in those games, and Davis was a legitimate three-level primary scoring threat for the first time in his career as a Razorback.

Those numbers fell off after Smith's return, though. In the first four games of the projected lottery pick being back, Davis averaged just 6.3 points, including a performance in which he didn't record a point, on 7.0 field goal attempts.

Davis was still playing plenty, averaging 31.7 minutes over the course of those four games, but his role had drastically changed. He was primarily a defender and slasher who could help facilitate the offense, guard the opposition's best perimeter player, and rebound at a high level for a guard, but he was no longer the go-to scorer.

Despite that, when the lights were the brightest, Davis proved that he was still more than capable of putting the ball in the basket when the team needs him to.

In Saturday's 86-83 loss at No. 2 Alabama, the Razorbacks needed to keep up with the high-powered Crimson Tide. Freshman point guard Anthony Black was in foul trouble early and struggled to find his footing, while the Razorback big men were overwhelmed by the size and speed of Alabama.

The Razorbacks found themselves down in the second half after being up as much as 11 points in the first. They had another extended scoring drought and were looking for anything to get their offense going to give them a chance to win. Insert Davis.

Davis finished the game with 21 points, 13 of which came in the second half. Of those second half points, 10 came with under 11 minutes to go in the game, including a clutch and-one with 1:13 remaining to cut the Crimson Tide lead to five. Those 21 points were efficient again, coming on 8-of-15 shooting and 3-of-4 from three.

Despite coming up short in the effort, the Razorbacks have a couple more opportunities to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume with two Quad 1 games to close out the season at Tennessee and against Kentucky. Davis will help keep defenses off balance with his ability to score, even though he might not be the primary scoring threat in his current role any longer.

Arkansas will travel to face the No. 12 Volunteers on Tuesday at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville, Tennessee. The game will tipoff at 8 p.m. CT on ESPN2.