Behind the box score: Vanover, Davis, Notae – the returners – lead the way against Gardner-Webb

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A 27-5 run late in the first half was plenty for Arkansas to defeat Gardner-Webb on Saturday at Bud Walton Arena, 86-69.

The Razorbacks received scoring from up and down the roster, outrebounded the Runnin’ Bulldogs, committed fewer turnovers and handled, all the way around, the visitors from North Carolina.

It was a positive step for a team that struggled for 30 of the 40 minutes against Mercer in the season opener Tuesday night. Arkansas’ players looked more comfortable with each other and the Hogs showcased a roster that can go 11 deep with relative ease.

Games are more than box scores, though. Here’s what to take away from the numbers as No. 15 Arkansas looks ahead to its next game, Wednesday against Northern Iowa.

1. Connor Vanover can be game-changer

Feb 13, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers forward Kobe Brown (24) is fouled by Arkansas Razorbacks forward Connor Vanover (23) during the second half at Mizzou Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas center Connor Vanover, at 7-foot-3, can be a game-changer. His size alone provides a bit of rim protection and the big man can step out to hit a jumper, too. Vanover has been working to add weight to his frame in order to help him on the block against SEC post players, but it didn’t matter much against Gardner-Webb.

Vanover had his best game in an Arkansas uniform against Gardner-Webb. He scored 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds in just 17 minutes. Vanover was four points off his career high with the Hogs, but those came against a Mississippi Valley State team Arkansas scored 144 points against. Gardner-Webb is a lot better than MVSU.

2. Devo Davis is a pure point guard

Arkansas Razorbacks guard Davonte Davis (4) lays in a reverse shot during the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 27, 2021, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Ind. Arkansas Razorbacks won 72-70. Mandatory Credit: Kareem Elgazzar/IndyStar via USA TODAY Sports

In Tuesday’s opener against Mercer, coach Eric Musselman chose to move guard Devo Davis up and down the lineup from the 1-spot to the 3-spot, depending on the need. Davis didn’t attempt a shot and committed five turnovers to just one assist. Musselman said after the game he planned to leave well enough alone and keep Davis at point.

Musselman knows what he’s doing. Davis looked far more comfortable with the ball in his hands Saturday. He scored 10 points and had six assists against just two turnovers. The Hogs are best when Davis runs their show.

3. Shooting from range can be a strength

Nov 9, 2021; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks guard JD Notae (1) shoots in the second half against the Mercer Bears at Bud Walton Arena. Arkansas won 74-61. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Arkansas was a ridiculous 9 of 17 from 3-point range in the second half, giving Gardner-Webb zero shot to come back. In the game, the Hogs made 13 of 27 from deep.

The Razorbacks aren’t ride-or-die from 3-point land – too many players are too good at slashing for that – but when the shot is going down, even at a rate slightly worse than Saturday, will go a long way into making Arkansas as dangerous as it was last year when the Hogs made the Elite Eight.

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