It wasn’t pretty, but Arkansas got its first road win of the season on Saturday with a 65-63 win at hapless South Carolina.
Arkansas appeared on its way to an easy win as they held a 58-49 lead with 9:26 remaining in the game. The lead had been as much as 13, 43-30, in the second half. The Hogs held the lead for 16 minutes, 20 seconds in the first half. It was Arkansas up 36-27 at intermission. For the game, Arkansas led 34:27 compared to 3:45 for South Carolina. Eric Musselman was just happy to escape with a win after several close losses on the road.
“Any road game is a good win,” Musselman said.
Anthony Black came up big for the Hogs in the final two minutes. South Carolina took 63-62 lead on a Josh Gray basket with 1:40 remaining. However Black nailed a basket with 1:21 remaining to put the Hogs back up 64-63. After Davonte “Devo” Davis missed the front end of a one-and-one with 25.1 seconds remaining, the Gamecocks had a chance to take the lead. But Hayden Brown missed a shot and Black rebounded with 2.3 seconds left in the game. Black then hit a free throw and missed the second. Gray missed badly on a long 3-pointer as time expired.
“This team is playing well,” Musselman said. “Are they playing great? No. Are we improving? Yes… Still not pretty but we have improved.”
The Hogs went without any points from the 9:26 mark until Black hit two free throws with 2:53 remaining to put the Hogs up 60-59. South Carolina went on a 10-0 run during that scoring lapse by Arkansas to take its first lead of the second half at 59-58 with 4:03 remaining in the game.
Arkansas had a big advantage in points off the bench 20-4. Jalen Graham had 16 of those to go with two rebounds. Jordan Walsh had the other four points and was the leading rebounder with 10.
“Our bench has dominated back to back games,+16 today,” Musselman said.
The Gamecocks won the battle of the boards 34-32. That wasn’t something that pleased Musselman.
“If we don’t rebound better against Kentucky, we won’t get the result we got tonight,” Musselman said.
Davis added 15 points, four rebounds, two assists and a pair of steals. Black contributed 13 points, six rebounds, four assists, two blocks and a steal. Ricky Council IV finished with 10 points, three rebounds and three assists.
Gray and Meechie Johnson each had 20 points to lead the Gamecocks. Gray also had 14 rebounds. Brown added 10 points, four rebounds and four steals while Gregory Jackson II had nine points and seven rebounds.
“As soon as I get on the plane I’ll start diving into Kentucky and preparing for them,” Musselman said.
Graham was pleased with his performance, but he knows Tuesday night will be a new challenge for this team.
“We gotta stay humble and realize playing at Rupp Arena is a big deal,” Graham said. “Not alot of people win there.”
The Hogs have won four SEC games in a row. Arkansas (16-7, 5-5) now will be at Kentucky on Tuesday night with an 8 p.m. tip on ESPN. South Carolina (8-15, 1-9) is tied at the bottom of the SEC with LSU and Ole Miss.
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