It was a weird game. It was an ugly game. It was a game in which we pretty much all felt like the Razorbacks didn't deserve to win at times, but they did.
Wofford's Karl Cochran and Eric Garcia both had great looks at open threes in the last ten seconds but both rimmed out, and Arkansas survived to play North Carolina (who similarly survived against Harvard when the Crimson missed a three at the buzzer) on Saturday.
For much of the game, it didn't feel like that would happen. Arkansas trailed Wofford by a point at halftime after a sluggish first 20 minutes that featured an odd sequence with Ky Madden losing his shoe and Jacorey Williams throwing it back on the court to him, resulting in a delay of game. It was more strange that it sounds.
Arkansas seemed to trail for most of the game (although never by more than three points). Michael Qualls was fantastic, but most of the rest of the team couldn't really get anything going until the last few minutes. Qualls scored 20 points on 8-9 shooting in 28 minutes with at least three highlight dunks, but the rest of the team was caused Hog fans to spend Thursday night stress-eating.
Bobby Portis finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds, which on their own are obviously strong numbers. The frustration with Portis during the game was in his efficiency. He's shot about 55% from the field this season but finished 5-12 against Wofford, and was 5-9 from the free throw line - below the 74.6% he came into the game shooting. It says a lot that he was able to put together those numbers and it still feels slightly underwhelming. That's how spectacular he's been this season.
Alandise Harris and Ky Madden both made big plays down the stretch, none bigger than Madden's assist into Harris cutting down the lane and scoring while getting fouled. Harris made the free throw and those three points proved to be the deciding margin.
They didn't get much help from the bench. Jacorey Williams, Jabril Durham, and Moses Kingsley combined for nine much-needed points, but that was it. Both Anthlon Bell and Anton Beard were scoreless. Manuale Watkins missed both of the shots he attempted.
Arkansas held Wofford to just 32.1% shooting, which is a number that should generally result in a much more comfortable victory for the Razorbacks, but the Hogs weren't able to do things like generate turnovers, only forcing 8, and allowing Wofford to get 13 offensive rebounds. The Razorbacks shot 45.8% but only took 48 shots, hence the low-scoring affair.
The Hogs caught a break that Wofford's star, Cochran, was only 2-12 on three point attempts and 4-19 overall. The Terriers likely would have pulled off the upset if he'd played up to his usual standards.
It goes without saying that the Hogs as a team will likely have to play better to have a good shot at knocking off North Carolina. The game will certainly be different as the Tar Heels are going to play at a pace much more to Arkansas' liking. Hopefully that will allow more of Arkansas' players to play up to their usual standards.
But in the end, Arkansas won an NCAA Tournament game. It's the first one since 2008, if you haven't heard. And that's all that matters. The Tar Heels knocked that 2008 Arkansas team out of the tournament in the 2nd round, but these two teams will be much closer to evenly matched than those teams. Hopefully it will be a fun Saturday.