When Arkansas needed him most, Davonte Davis delivered during Saturday’s upset victory over top seed Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
A junior guard and one of two returning scholarship players from last year’s roster, Davis exudes what coach Eric Musselman wants in a basketball player. Having been a key part of two straight Elite Eight runs, Davis once again played a significant role for the Razorbacks, who are in the Sweet Sixteen following a 72-71 win over the Jayhawks at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.
The Jacksonville native scored a game-high 25 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and added eight rebounds and a block. Davis only scored four points in the first half, but his 21 second-half points were a crucial factor in the Razorbacks’ victory.
After his team was down by a game-high 12 points in the media’s first second-half timeout, Davis took matters into his own hands. At the 15:17 mark, he had just seven points for a team struggling to attack the basket and expose the big Kansas men who were in trouble.
“That’s exactly what he does in March,” rookie point guard Anthony Black told reporters. “He’s been doing it since (he was) a freshman. He was great for us today and he’s been great for us all year.”
The “March Devo” legend is well known to Razorback fans after he averaged 33.8 minutes, 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds in four tournament games as a freshman in 2021, and played a pivotal role as a blocking quarterback, averaging 31 minutes per game in the 2022 postseason.
When his team needed him most, Davis called and “March Devo” was released to the college basketball world again.
After the under-16 media timeout, Davis made his next three shots to score seven points and help cut the deficit to eight at the 12:14 mark. Less than two minutes later, he had scored four more, including two from the free throw line that made Kansas lead 51–49.
“Yeah, Devo pretty much had the second half,” said point guard Ricky Council IV. “I was in the first half and Devo had the second half and I was in the corner ready to bat if he missed and he didn’t miss.”
Over the next six minutes of play, Davis twice tied the game and made two trips to the line to make three free throws, all while playing his top-notch defense at the other end.
“It doesn’t matter if he was on the court, scoring, shooting a three, making a bucket or if he was practicing on the bench, he had a big impact on the game and he had a big impact on the win,” rookie Jordan Walsh told reporters.
He told reporters that he didn’t feel like he needed to take control of the game, he was just doing what Musselman told him to do.
“Not really, just playing into the flow because Coach Muss said come down,” Davis said. “He was talking to the whole group.”
Although he was fouled at the 1:56 mark, Davis was still coaching his teammates as he left the court. He was seen screaming from the bench during the final two minutes, practically giving Arkansas another coach on the sideline.
Naturally, he credited everyone but himself after the big win.
“I feel like we all did something to help us win and I’m glad we did,” Davis said. “Ricky (Council) made some great free throws, we had Nick (Smith) come in and play really well on defense towards the end of the game.
“Everybody pitched in, Coach Muss even substituted in the right way and stuff like that to help us. Even the coaches and staff pitched in in some way to help us win.”
Musselman has said many times that he and Davis are on the same wavelength, and that often comes through during games. It was definitely on display when Davis said the job wasn’t finished.
“I don’t know how to react, you know, but I know it’s good and I know the guys that weren’t a part of something like that, I know we feel on top of the world and we want to keep going and get better,” Davis said. “As Coach Muss was saying, we’re not done yet and I think we can continue to improve as the season goes on.”
In the post-game interview on CBS, Davis’ emotions were on display as he realized how all of his hard work had paid off up to this point.
“This team has struggled,” Davis said. “And we figured it out. And I’m glad we did it at the right time and I hope we continue to do it.”
With the Sweet Sixteen on the horizon and a lot of work to be done, the Razorbacks are lucky to say they have Davis on their side.
“I’m going to say this about Devo because I know a lot of people are talking about him or something like that,” Kamani Johnson told reporters. “Devo Davis is a pro. He’s a dog. And he’s going to win. He’s a winner.”