The Arkansas Razorbacks (28-9 overall) had their season end in the Elite Eight. What could possibly be the best coaching job ever by a Razorback head coach, Eric Musselman flipped the script on the season. He had his team make a complete 180 degree turnaround and not find themselves in a lost season.
This Razorback team went further than any fan could have imagined after an 0-3 start to SEC play and a stretch of five losses in six games. This team recovered and made it within hands reach of their first Final Four since 1995.
Duke used its size to their advantage by attacking the boards and scoring in the paint over and over. The Blue Devils outrebounded Arkansas 34-25 and outscored them 46-34.
The Blue Devils were as balanced offensively as they have been all season with four players finishing in double figures. AJ Griffin (18), Paolo Banchero (16), Wendell Moore, Jr. (14) and Mark Williams (12) overwhelmed the Hogs defensively from the 15:31 mark in the first half through the remainder of the game. Duke’s saving grace against Texas Tech, Jeremy Roach finished with just nine points.
Protecting the ball was a huge key to the game for Arkansas. Their 21 turnovers killed momentum at times and led to easy outlets for the Blue Devils. Arkansas was only able to force Duke into 12 turnovers but could muster many points off of them.
Jaylin Williams led all Arkansas scorers with 19 points and 10 rebounds for his 16th double-double of the season. Stanley Umude finished with 14 points in his final game as a Razorback. JD Notae fouled out with just over three minutes left in the second half. He finished with 14 points in what likely could have been his final game as a Razorback.
Devo Davis (9 points), Trey Wade (7 points), Au’Diese Toney (4 points) and Chris Lykes (2 points) rounded out the scoring for Arkansas.
The Hogs shot the ball well against Duke. Arkansas was 26-62 from the field (41.9-percent) and connected on six three pointers.
However, Duke did what they have all season and that was converting inside the arc. The Blue Devils shot 54.7-percent from the field, 40-percent from three and 88.9-percent from the line. That combination of offensive fluidity is hard to top.
This won’t be the final time the nation sees Arkansas in the second weekend of the tournament. As long as Musselman remains head coach at Arkansas, the Hogs will be mainstays in the tournament for a very, very long time.
The Razorbacks have the second ranked recruiting class in the country according to 247sports. Duke boasts the top ranked class, too. There may not be another 28 year gap between matchups again.
Next season will be fun!