Another No. 1 seed has been knocked out of the NCAA tournament, and this time it was the defending national champion.
Kansas, the top seed in the West region, blew a 12-point second-half lead and was stunned by Arkansas 72-71 in a second-round matchup in Des Moines, Iowa. With the win, the Jayhawks were sent packing. a year after winning it all, while the Razorbacks will move on to the Sweet 16 for the third straight season.
The Razorbacks, the eighth seed in the West, used an 11-0 second-half run to get back into the game. After trailing 46-34 with 15:21 to play, Jordan Walsh’s 3-pointer at 8:55 gave Arkansas its first lead since trailing 2-0 in the opening minutes. While Walsh’s shot was great, it was Davonte Davis who led the Razorbacks down the stretch.
Davis, hampered by four fouls for much of the half, scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, going blow-for-blow with the playmakers on the Kansas side. But when Davis fouled with 1:56 to play, his teammates stepped up.
First, Ricky Council IV tied the game 65-65 apiece with a jumper and then Kamani Johnson put the lead back with an offensive rebound, his sixth of the game. And after Kansas tied it, the Council put Arkansas ahead of the line for good.
Council attacked the basket and was fouled with 24 seconds to go. Council made the first, putting his team ahead 68-67. He missed the second, but Jordan Walsh dove in and put a hand on the fumble to deflect it to Council. Once the ball was back in his hands, Council saw an opening in the basket and attacked. He fouled again. This time he did both, extending the Razorbacks’ lead to 70-67 with 21 seconds to go.
On the next possession, Kansas cut the lead to 70-69 on two free throws by Jalen Wilson. At that time, there were less than 10 seconds left. That put Kansas in foul mode. Council rose to the challenge and calmly hit two more free throws to make it 72-69.
Three up, Arkansas committed an alert foul on Kansas on the next possession to stop any chance of a tying 3-pointer. The strategy worked. Wilson sank first and second even as he intentionally tried to miss.
From there, all it took was one in-bounds pass for the Razorbacks to run out the time remaining on the clock and seal a huge upset, 72-71.
While Davis led the way with 25 points, Council shot 21 in an effort that included making 10 of his 11 free throws. Walsh’s effort from the bench was enormous to provoke the comeback. He was the third Arkansas player in double figures with 10 points. Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr., two star freshmen from Arkansas, combined for just four points on 1-of-10 shooting. But it wouldn’t matter. The Razorbacks veterans led the team to victory.