SAN FRANCISCO, Cali— “WE READ EVERYTHING....THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO DOUTED US,” Eric Musselman exclaimed after the Razorbacks upset of Gonzaga.
Arkansas won their first game against a number one seed on Thursday. They were 0-10 before tonight’s upset.
It was all about Arkansas from the get-go. The up and down carousel of emotions throughout a college basketball game was strong. Hog fans, players and coaches rode in the front cart from the jump.
Gonzaga jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead in the first half and that was about all the Bulldogs could handle until the Razorbacks quickly weathered the storm. The Arkansas Razorbacks (28-8 overall) have advanced to their second consecutive Elite Eight appearance and life is good in Hog Heaven.
Is it unprecedented? No, but this turnaround for the Hogs wasn’t expected so soon. A basketball program that has hovered in mediocrity for the better part of 25 years is officially back and ready to stay.
Arkansas needed to find ways to stop Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren. Timme finished with 25 points and 7 rebounds but Holmgren fouled out with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Physicality was one of the keys to an Arkansas victory and they were able to do that by keeping the rebounding margin within three and forcing the Bulldogs into 17 turnovers.
That is a cliche statement but so true when it has come to this run by Arkansas. Gonzaga didn’t shoot or score like they normally do.
Gonzaga scored 20 points below their average, 37-percent from the field and 23-percent from three (15-percent below season average).
The Razorbacks needed a huge performance by their star, JD Notae. He finished with 21 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks. No other Razorback has ever has achieved that kind of stat line before and for it to come at one of the biggest stages in college basketball is remarkable.
Trey Wade (15 points, 7 rebounds) was the unsung hero for the Razorbacks. His three pointer in the corner with less than three minutes to go was key to the victory and keeping the Razorbacks in front. The graduate transfer from Wichita State was hardly an offensive weapon for the Shockers as he scored an average of three points a game in his college career. However, the job Musselman and his staff have done in developing Wade into a contributor is an impressive feat.
Wade’s three pointer with 16:35 left in the second half gave Arkansas a 39-36 lead and the Hogs never trailed again.
Jaylin Williams finished with his 15th double-double scoring 15 points and 12 rebounds. His toughness has been a the strong point to Arkansas’ turnaround mid-season and run to the Elite Eight. According to Arkansas SID, Mike Cawood, Williams eighth rebound gave him the single season record for rebounds in a season.
The Hogs had a five-point lead with eight seconds left when Au’Diese Toney took matters into his own hand when he blocked Timme’s shot to help his team hold on for the win. Toney would score on an emphatic dunk with the seconds winding down to put an exclamation point on a thrilling victory.
For the 20th consecutive game, the starting lineup of Stanley Umude, Williams, Wade, Notae and Toney trotted out for the tip-off. They have been one of the more effective lineups in the country ranking in the top-10 according to the Evan Miyakawa rating system.
Arkansas is currently 2-0 against AP number one ranked teams this season. The Razorbacks also made history on Thursday night:
Arkansas is the first team ever to beat an AP No. 1 during the regular season (Auburn on Feb. 8th) and the NCAA Tournament (Gonzaga tonight) in the same season. pic.twitter.com/sWZFbJc0h4— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) March 25, 2022
Next Up: Arkansas heads to the Elite Eight where they will face the winner of Duke/Texas Tech on Saturday night.