Teammates stamp Devo as a UA March legend

Arkansas guard Davonte Davis (4) shoots during the second half in an NCAA Men’s Tournament second-round game Saturday at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. Davis led the Razorbacks with 25 points. More photos at (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Sitting in a locker in a corner of the Arkansas dressing room inside Wells Fargo Arena, Razorbacks forward Kamani Johnson made an announcement to everyone willing to listen.

Johnson was serious. He added emphasis by pounding a left fist into his right palm and later gesturing with his hands.

"I'm going to say this about Devo because people talk about him or whatever," Johnson began. "Devo Davis is a pro. He's a dog. He's going to win. He's a winner.

"He's stamped. Arkansas legend, for sure."

It would be difficult -- next to impossible, really -- to dispute that after Saturday. The Jacksonville native added to his postseason legend and scored a game-high 25 points for the No. 8 seed Razorbacks as they knocked off No. 1 seed Kansas 72-71 to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season.

Davis, a junior guard, flipped the switch in the second half after Arkansas went into halftime down 35-27. Prior to the break, Davis had 4 points on 2 of 6 from the floor in 14 minutes, and the Razorbacks were minus-9 with him on the court.

Arkansas' postseason veteran poured in 21 points on 7 of 9 from the field and 6 of 7 at the free-throw line in the second half.

"We ran a middle pick-and-roll with Devo predominantly in the second half," Razorbacks Coach Eric Musselman said. "With his snake dribble, going right, coming back left, swinging hook shot, off the wrong foot, pretty amazing. But he does it all the time."

After Arkansas fell behind 42-31 with 17:05 remaining on a three-pointer by Kansas wing Jalen Wilson, all momentum was on the side of the Jayhawks. But Davis kept delivering.

In a span of 3:06, Davis scored 10 straight points for the Razorbacks, who trailed by as many as 12 points. He scored 14 of 18 Arkansas points over 5:23 and set the stage for freshman wing Jordan Walsh's go-ahead three-pointer with 8:54 to play.

After Walsh's score, Davis tied the game at 55-55 with 7:04 to go then later knotted the score again at 61-61 with 4:14 to play. He fouled out with 1:46 remaining after turning in one of the program's best and gutsiest postseason performances.

"It's amazing. It feels good. I don't even know. I was crying on TV," Davis said. "But this feels good and I'm glad we were able to pull it off and [the younger players] were able to experience all of this. The beginning of conference, we didn't know if we were going to be able to have this. It just feels good."

Davis then paused to embrace freshman guard Nick Smith in a bear hug.

"Stuff like that," Davis continued. "This is their first year and to be able to experience this ... my first year was covid and we were still going through it, but this feels better now knowing that everything is regular. I'm glad we get to go to Las Vegas."

According to Sports Reference, Davis joins program greats such as Sidney Moncrief, Joe Kleine, Todd Day and Corliss Williamson as Razorbacks to finish with at least 25 points and eight rebounds in an NCAA Tournament win.

He is the first since Williamson in 1995 against Memphis to do so on 60% shooting or better.

"No matter if he was on the court shooting the threes, making the buckets or if he was on the bench coaching, he always made a big impact in the game and a big impact on winning no matter what," Walsh said of Davis. "That's what we need from him.

"That's what we expect from him and that's what he stepped up and did."

With his scoring effort Saturday, Davis is averaging 12.9 points per game on 48.6% shooting from the field in his 10-game NCAA Tournament career.

After Thursday's 73-63 win over No. 9 Illinois, teammates and coaches labeled Davis a March Madness legend. On Saturday, Razorbacks assistant coach Gus Argenal said Davis is "Mr. March," and Musselman, on the CBS broadcast, said he feels as if Davis is his third son.

"Since he's been in college, two Elite Eights and a Sweet 16," Johnson added. "I can't say enough about him. That's my brother for life. Devo Davis is a pro and he's been showing us why.

"Anybody who thinks otherwise is a fool."