When Arkansas needed him most, Davonte Davis delivered during Saturday’s upset win over 1-seed Kansas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
A junior guard and one of two scholarship players that returned from last year’s roster, Davis exhibits what head coach Eric Musselman wants in a basketball player. Having been a key part of two straight Elite Eight runs, Davis has once again played a significant role for the Razorbacks, who are Sweet Sixteen bound after 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 he added eight rebounds and a block. Davis scored just four points in the first half, but his 21 second half points played a crucial factor in the Razorbacks’ win.
After his team went down by a game-high 12 points by the first media timeout in the second half, Davis took matters into his own hands. By the 15:17 mark, he had just seven points for a team that was struggling to attack the basket and expose the Kansas big men who were in foul trouble.
“That’s just what he does in March,” freshman 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 legend of “March Devo” is well known by 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 he played a pivotal role as a lockdown defender, averaging 31 minutes per game in the 2022 postseason run.
When his team needed him the most, Davis turned it on and “March Devo” was made known to the college basketball world again.
After that under-16 media timeout, Davis made his next three shots to score seven points and help cut the deficit to eight by the 12:14 mark. Less than two minutes later, he had scored four more, including two at the free throw line that made Kansas’ lead 51-49.
“Yeah, Devo pretty much had the second half,” guard Ricky Council IV said. “I was on the first half and Devo had the second half, and I was in the corner ready to rebound if he missed and he wasn’t missing.”
Over the next six minutes of game time, Davis tied the game twice and took a pair of trips to the line to hit a three free throws, all while he was playing his signature high-level defense on the other end.
“No matter if he was on the court, scoring, shooting threes, making a bucket or if he was on the bench coaching, he made a big impact on the game and he made a big impact on winning,” freshman Jordan Walsh told reporters.
He told reporters that he didn’t feel like he needed to take over the game, he was just doing what Musselman told him to do.
“Not really, just playing within the flow because Coach Muss said get downhill,” Davis said. “He was talking within the entire group.”
Though he fouled out at the 1:56 mark, Davis was still coaching up his teammates as he walked off the court. He was seen yelling from the bench throughout the final two minutes, virtually 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 that,” Davis said. “Ricky (Council) knocked down big free throws, we had Nick (Smith) come in and play really good defense at the end of the game.
“Everybody contributed, Coach Muss even subbed the right way and things like that to help us. Even the coaches and the team contributed in some type of way to help us win.”
Musselman has said many times that he and Davis think on the same wavelength, and that often shows during games. It was definitley on display when Davis said the job is not finished.
“I don’t know how to react, you know, but I know it does feel good and I know the guys that haven’t been a part of something like this, I know we feel like we’re at the top of the world and we want to continue and get better,” Davis said. “Like Coach Muss was saying, we not done yet and I think we can continue to get better as the season continues to go on.”
In the postgame interview on CBS, Davis’ emotions were on full display as he realized how all of his hard work has come to fruition to this point.
“This team has struggled,” Davis said. “And we figured it out. And I’m glad we did at the right time and hopefully we continue to do it.”
With the Sweet Sixteen on the horizon and plenty of work left 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 be talking about him or whatever,” Kamani Johnson told reporters. ” Devo Davis is a pro. He’s a dog. And he’s going to win. He’s a winner.”