A good rule of thumb in basketball is to not spot your opponent a 20 point lead. Especially in a single elimination tournament. That’s exactly what the Hogs did en route to crashing out of the tournament by a score of 79-62 to Butler.
The horrendous defense that showed up in places like Baton Rouge and Houston this year reared it’s ugly head once again in Detroit. The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-2 lead. Yes you read that right. Twenty-one to two. Butler got whatever they wanted on offense, and the Hogs poor shooting start got them in the hole.
Then a crazy thing happened. The Hogs actually made a comeback, and came storming back to take a 29-27 lead. Then they promptly went back to porous defense and rebounding and gave up a 9-2 run to end the half down five. The Bulldogs capped it off with an offensive rebound and flush. The rebounding was a key for Butler, who outrebounded the Hogs 25-15 in the first half, and 45-25 overall.
Arkansas again came out of the locker room slow again, and the Butler lead grew to 13. Butler’s leading scorer on the year, Kelan Martin, showed out and scored 25 points in the game to go along with nine boards and five assists. They were able to cut into the lead again, down to 53-47 at one point, but were unable to get over the hump and pull past the Bulldogs.
In what was definitely their final games in Razorback uniforms, Daryl Macon had 12 points and Jaylen Barford finished with 15. In what could potentially be Daniel Gafford’s final game as a hog, he finished with seven and three blocks.
The signs for optimism was the play of Darious Hall. His injection into the game helped the Hogs pull back in the first half, and he made multiple positive plays despite not having a huge scoreline.
It caps off a year where the Hogs finished with 23 wins and made the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year. That’s the first time that’s happened since three straight trips from 2006-2008. Next year’s team will look extremely different whether or not Gafford returns. But that’s a worry for another day. For now, while this year ended in disappointment, this group of seniors left it all on the court during their time as Hogs and gave Bud Walton plenty of reasons to cheer.
So for that, thank you Seniors.