The Arkansas Razorbacks returned home and returned to the win column Tuesday with an 81-55 triumph over the Elon Phoenix on Nolan Richardson Court at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
Arkansas (10-2) led by as many as 30 points before emerging victorious after back-to-back neutral-site losses — 88-66 against Oklahoma in Tulsa on Dec. 11 and 89-81 against Hofstra in North Little Rock on Saturday — as the Razorbacks remain unblemished at BWA through eight non-conference games played there this season. The Phoenix (3-10) have now lost 8 of their last 9 games.
Senior guard Chris Lykes led with 21 points (included 12-of-12 free throw shooting); sophomore wing Jaxon Robinson made his first start at Arkansas and notched a career-high 14 points (4-of-7 field goals, including 3-of-6 from 3, and 3-of-3 free throws); and the Hogs made a return to dominating on the glass (41-27), at the free throw line (29-of-35 for 82.9% for Arkansas compared to 5-of-9 for 55.6% for Elon), and in transition (19-1 advantage in fastbreak points).
SEC leading scorer and senior guard JD Notae and reserve forward Kamani Johnson each chipped in 15 points and 7 rebounds, with their glass work serving as game-highs. Johnson and senior forward Trey Wade, who started, each had 3 blocks while Wade also contributed 7 points, 2 assists, and 1 steal. Sophomore guard Devo Davis put in a game-high 6 assists to go with 1 point and 6 rebounds.
“It was a great win,” Robinson said during his post-game radio interview. “We had to come back (home) and win. We had lost two games, tough games, so we just had to come back and compete and that’s what Coach (Eric Musselman) wanted us to do.”
In addition to owning the glass, free throw line, and transition scoring, the Hogs won turnovers (13-11), points-off-turnovers (19-12), second-chance-points (15-8), points-in-the-paint (26-22), and bench scoring (24-18) while racking up 10 blocks and 5 steals in the game. The Hogs finished 22-of-48 shooting from the field (45.8%), including 8-of-22 from 3 (36.4%), while defensively holding the Phoenix to 21-of-59 from the field (35.6%), including 8-of-26 from 3 (30.8%).
Arkansas is now 2-0 in its all-time series against Elon. The Phoenix were led by sophomore forward Michael Graham (14 points and 6 rebounds) and sophomore guard Darius Burford (12 points and 4 rebounds).
Musselman improved to 55-21 overall leading Arkansas, which includes a 33-5 record against non-conference opponents as well as a 28-2 mark against low-to-mid-major NCAA Division 1 foes.
“Look, the one thing in basketball, or football, or baseball, or whatever it is, is culture, competing, and playing hard,” Musselman said during his post-game radio interview. “And I thought we took huge steps in the right direction. Trey Wade playing with great energy, three block shots in his minutes. I thought that Jaxson Robinson opened up the floor for us with his shooting. And then Kamani Johnson in just 16 minutes, his activity with 13 free throws attempted.”
Next up for the Hogs is their SEC opener on the road against Mississippi State on Wednesday, Sept. 29.
Musselman started the quintet of Robinson, Notae, Lykes, Wade, and Connor Vanover.
The Hogs trailed 26-21 when the unlikely combo of Robinson, Wade, and Johnson fueled a 17-0 run to close the first half in staking Arkansas to a 38-26 lead at the break.
Robinson made 3-of-4 from 3 in the run and Wade and Johnson both scored in the paint while providing tough, blue-collar plays on the defensive end.
Lykes led Arkansas with 10 first-half points (including 8-of-8 free throw shooting), Robinson had 9, and Notae 8.
The Razorbacks made 12-of-21 from the field (57.1%) in the first 20 minutes, including an uncharacteristically sizzling 6-of-10 from 3, and 8-of-9 from the free throw line (88.9%). Meanwhile, Elon made only 11-of-29 field goals (37.9%), including 4-of-11 from 3 (36.4%), while failing to attempt a free throw.
Arkansas held Elon scoreless over the final 6:11 of the first half. The Hogs won the rebounding (17-10) battle in the first 20 minutes.