Battle scores 42 as Arkansas beats Missouri

Arkansas guard Khalif Battle (0) is congratulated by teammates Davonte Davis (4) and Tramon Mark during a game against Missouri on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Fayetteville. (Gunnar Rathbun/Arkansas Athletics)
Arkansas guard Khalif Battle (0) is congratulated by teammates Davonte Davis (4) and Tramon Mark during a game against Missouri on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, in Fayetteville. (Gunnar Rathbun/Arkansas Athletics)

FAYETTEVILLE —Khalif Battle scored the most points by a Razorback since 2009 and ensured the Arkansas men’s basketball team continued its upward trajectory Saturday inside Bud Walton Arena.

Battle scored 42 points, the seventh-most ever by a Razorback and most since Rotnei Clarke scored 51 points against Alcorn State in 2009 as Arkansas defeated Missouri 88-73. 

Battle became the eighth Arkansas player to score at least 40 points in a game and first since Mason Jones scored 40 points against Auburn in February 2020.

Battle finished 11 of 15 (73%) from the floor, 6 of 10 (60%) from three-point range and 14 of 14 (100%) from the free-throw line.

Arkansas (14-13, 5-9 SEC) won consecutive SEC games for the first time this season. The victory came four days after the Razorbacks won 78-71 at Texas A&M.

The Razorbacks climbed back above. 500 and completed a season sweep of the Tigers, including a 91-84 victory over the Tigers on Jan. 31 in Columbia, Mo. It was Arkansas’ ninth win over Missouri over the past 10 meetings in Fayetteville.

After falling behind 44-41 with 15:52 remaining, Battle took over for the Razorbacks. He scored 20 points over an 8-minute, 35-second span to give Arkansas a 65-54 lead with 6:28 to play. 

Battle’s scoring spree was capped by a four-point play that brought a large Saturday crowd to its feet.

The heater from Battle came after the Razorbacks let a 7-point second-half lead slip away in a hurry. A Nick Honor three-pointer gave Missouri a 44-41 advantage, its first lead since the 7:53 mark in the first half, to cap a 10-0 run.

The teams went back-and-forth over the next 4 minutes with 3 lead changes and 2 ties. Tramon Mark gave Arkansas a 50-48 lead with a corner three, but Connor Vanover, who was part of the Arkansas program from 2019-22 and played two seasons for the Razorbacks, made a putback dunk that tied the game at 50-50.

After a timeout, Battle made a circus layup, was fouled and completed a three-point play to give Arkansas the lead back. Shortly after, Battle knocked down back-to-back threes over a 35-second span to balloon the Razorbacks’ advantage to 59-52.

Missouri had no answer for Battle, who scored 10 more points over the game’s remainder, and Arkansas ran away with a comfortable victory.

Battle’s 14 free-throw makes without a miss were the most since Daryl Macon went 14 of 14 against Texas on Dec. 17, 2016.

Most of the first half was back-and-forth but Arkansas used a 15-2 run in its latter stages to grab a 36-34 halftime lead. The opening 20 minutes saw 4 ties and 7 lead changes, but the Razorbacks’ run gave them a lead over the final 6:15 of the half.

Neither team scored in opening three-plus minutes, but a flagrant 1 foul on Makhi Mitchell with 16:34 left in the first half put Missouri’s Noah Carter at the stripe, where he made both shots. Arkansas fell behind by as many as 20-15 due largely to Honor sinking 3 three-pointers.

After Tamar Bates made a reverse layup to give the Tigers their 5-point lead, Mitchell and Battle helped power Arkansas’ big run. The duo combined for 12 points over a 4-minute stretch, and a corner three-pointer by Layden Blocker gave the Razorbacks a 30-22 advantage — their largest of the half.

Battle scored 16 of his 42 points in the first half.

Missouri controlled the final 3:45 of the half, when it outscored the Razorbacks 12-6 to close its deficit to 2 points at intermission. Sean East, who exploded in the first half for 17 points, made a layup at the buzzer.

East scored 33 points on 9-of-14 (64%) shooting for the Tigers, and was 15 of 16 (93.8%) from the stripe.

Battle came out strong to begin the second half with a deep three-pointer and Davonte Davis made a jumper to put Arkansas up 41-34. The Tigers then went on their 10-0 run to take a lead, but Battle’s hot hand pulled the Razorbacks out of the hole.

Mitchell had a 13-point, 6-rebound performance before he fouled out with 2:07 remaining. Mark added 10 points and 7 rebounds, and Davis had an 8-point, 9-rebound and 6-assist performance.

Forward Trevon Brazile made a return for the Razorbacks after missing seven consecutive games due to knee soreness. He played four minutes and his lone statistic recorded was a foul.

Arkansas is scheduled to host Vanderbilt on Tuesday at 8 p.m. on SEC Network.

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