Hogs hold off Bulldogs, win in ‘get-back game’

Arkansas guards El Ellis (left) and Keyon Menifield Jr., celebrate during the second half Saturday night against Georgia at Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Ellis scored 15 points in the Razorbacks’ 78-75 win. More photos at arkansasonline.com/211ugaua/
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)
Arkansas guards El Ellis (left) and Keyon Menifield Jr., celebrate during the second half Saturday night against Georgia at Walton Arena in Fayetteville. Ellis scored 15 points in the Razorbacks’ 78-75 win. More photos at arkansasonline.com/211ugaua/ (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Arkansas men's basketball team made sure there was no Georgia sweep.

The Razorbacks beat the Bulldogs 78-75 on Saturday at Walton Arena to avenge a 76-66 loss at Georgia on Jan. 10.

"That was the theme for us all week in practice, just a get-back game against Georgia, payback," Arkansas junior guard Tramon Mark said. "That's what we did, what we had in the back of our heads the whole week. Just trying to get that win back."

The Bulldogs only had one lead in the second half, but payback didn't come easily for the Razorbacks.

There were seven lead changes and six ties in the final 7:25.

After Georgia took its only lead of the second half -- 66-65 on Justice Hill's three-pointer at the 3:57 mark -- Arkansas went ahead for good at 74-72 with 54 seconds left on a layup by senior forward Makhi Mitchell.

After a Georgia turnover, Arkansas senior guard Davonte "Devo" Davis hit 1 of 2 free throws to make it 75-72 with 23.6 seconds left.

After Blue Cain missed a three-point attempt for the Bulldogs, Mitchell hit two free throws for a 77-72 Razorbacks lead with 9 seconds left.

But Georgia still had life when Davis was called for fouling Hill on a three-point attempt with 3 seconds left.

Hill hit the first two free throws, then tried to miss the third -- but made it -- to pull Georgia within 77-75.

Mark then hit 1 of 2 free throws with 0.8 seconds left for the final 78-75 margin.

"They're a good team, they're a gritty team," Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman said of the Bulldogs. "Two teams that were kind of desperate today I thought."

Ellis, who hadn't played the previous two games, led the Razorbacks (12-11, 3-7 SEC) with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 37 minutes.

Arkansas sophomore guard Keyon Menfield also scored 15 points. Mitchell had 14 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Mark had 13 points and senior forward Jalen Graham added 11.

Freshman guard Silas Demary led Georgia (14-10, 4-7) with 19 points and Hill, a senior guard, added 18.

The Bulldogs lost their fifth consecutive game since beating LSU 68-66 at home.

Arkansas has won seven in a row over the Bulldogs at Walton Arena, where Georgia's last victory was 60-59 in 2011.

"Ask a lot of coaches out there: Winning in Bud Walton is pretty difficult," Bulldogs Coach Mike White said. "Credit Arkansas for holding on."

Davis played for the first time since Ole Miss beat the Razorbacks 77-51 on Jan. 24. He missed the previous three games -- when Arkansas lost at home to No. 17 Kentucky 63-57, won at Missouri 91-84 and lost at LSU 95-74 -- after stepping away from the program for an undisclosed reason.

Musselman announced Monday night on his radio show that Davis was back with the team, and he practiced throughout this week.

Davis played 35 minutes off the bench Saturday and had 4 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals.

When Davis first entered the game with 17:23 left in the first half, the crowd cheered.

"That was my assumption, that that's what would happen," Musselman said of the positive reaction. "Very thankful for the fans that when he came in, that's how they responded."

Arkansas redshirt sophomore forward Trevon Brazile missed his fourth consecutive game because of knee soreness.

"It's great to have Devo back," Ellis said. "He played really well defensively, offensively. He was aggressive. He was making plays."

The Razorbacks led 34-29 at halftime and stretched their lead to 44-32 with 17:38 on a three-pointer by Ellis.

Georgia didn't give up, but Arkansas found a way to win.

"We came out ready to play," Ellis said. "We played together and moved the ball. That's a good way to start the second half of conference play."

The Razorbacks shot 73.7% (14 of 19) from the field in the second half, including making all 11 of their two-point attempts, working against Georgia's 1-3-1 zone.

"I think shot selection," Musselman said of the key to the second-half offense.

"Once we figured out their zone, we were able to get a lot of easy looks in that second half," Mark said. "We had to share the ball, move the ball, ball-fake.

"So we got good looks all around and they were falling tonight."

The Razorbacks finished at 57.7% shooting (28 of 49) for their highest percentage in an SEC game this season.

Georgia shot 48.1% (26 of 54), but was 4 of 18 on three-pointers (22.2%).

Coming into the game, SEC opponents were shooting 39.2% on three-pointers against Arkansas.

"All week that's been an emphasis, like, we can't give up threes any more," Ellis said. "We had some new defensive drills that we did at practice that really helped us a lot.

"And we were ready. We knew what we needed to do and made guys put it on the floor and try to shoot tough twos. That's what we made them do."

The Razorbacks had 12 turnovers, but six of those were players stepping out of bounds, meaning they didn't lead to fastbreak points for the Bulldogs.

Arkansas outscored Georgia 21-8 in points off turnovers with most of the Bulldogs' 14 turnovers leading to break-outs for the Razorbacks.

"We've struggled to score at times and if you don't guard the three, and you don't create some points off turnovers, it's really hard," Musselman said. "But tonight we created live-ball turnovers that allowed us to get out and run."

Arkansas, which got its first victory at Walton Arena since beating Texas A&M 78-77 on Jan. 16, will be back home to play No. 6 Tennessee on Wednesday night. The Volunteers lost 85-69 at Texas A&M on Saturday night.

Musselman, a fan of the San Francisco 49ers, said winning on Saturday doesn't mean he'll be able to enjoy watching the Super Bowl today.

"It's great right now, but we've got to get ready for Tennessee," Musselman said. "So I don't know how great my Saturday night and Sunday will be knowing that we have the sixth-ranked team in the country to play.

"But what a great environment [Saturday night]. I hope it is here again playing the sixth-ranked team. They're a team that can play for a national championship, and it'll be a great challenge coming up on Wednesday.

"As much as I would like to watch the Super Bowl, I have a feeling I'll be watching Tennessee most of Sunday."