Des Moines, (IA.) — After a 10-point win against Illinois, Arkansas took on No. 1 seed Kansas in the round of 32. Kansas dominated Howard in the round of 64 but struggled to pull awayearly in the 1st. Arkansas, on the other hand, maintained a decent lead throughout much of its game against the Illini.
Arkansas could not have started much worse than it did. Poor shot selection, costly turnovers, and dumb mistakes like goaltending their own baskets made for a rough first half. After the first bucket of the game—a 2-point jumper by Ricky Council IV—Kansas scored 11 unanswered points to jump up by 9 points just after the 15-minute mark. The Hogs became content with jacking up 3s ten to fifteen seconds into the shot clock instead of driving into the paint. But with a defense like Arkansas’s, a team is never *truly* out of the game.
Despite its inefficient offense to start , Arkansas began to tighten up on defense after Kansas’ initial run. With 9:47 left to go in the 1st half, Arkansas closed the gap to 4. A quick 3-point basket on the other end of the floor by Kansas’ Joseph Yesufu extended its lead to 7. Much of the half followed that formula. When Arkansas made a play, it would usually make a mistake on the other end of the floor and Kansas would capitalize on it.
Kansas wasn’t without its faults, though. Arkansas played a poor first half of basketball, but Kansas committed 11 fouls and allowed Arkansas to pull down 7 offensive boards to stay within 7 at the break.
Kansas led at halftime 35-27.
The Hogs opened up the 2nd half with second-chance points. Kamani Johnson tipped in a missed layup by Ricky Council IV. That would be a theme in the half as Arkansas scored 9 more second-chance points.
For the next 5 minutes, Arkansas continue to answer everything the Jayhawks were throwing at them. At the 15:21 mark, Arkansas called a timeout after Dajuan Harris Jr made a layup to give Kansas its largest lead of the day at 12 points.
Whatever was said in that huddle, sparked a fire under the Razorbacks. Arkansas went on an 18-5 run on the back of the king of March, Devo Davis. Davis scored 11 of Arkansas’s 18 points in the run, part of his 21 second-half points. The run was capped off by a 3-point basket from Jordan Walsh to take the lead for the first time since Arkansas’s first basket.
Devo continued to attack the paint over and over again, hitting tough layups and drawing and-1 fouls to catapult the Razorbacks back into the game. Most impressively, he did most of it with 4 personal fouls. With just under 2 minutes left in the game, Davis finally fouled out.
Ricky Council IV took over for Devo, however, and finished the Jayhawks off with great free-throw shooting. One trip to the charity stripe, he knocked down the first basket, but missed the second, grabbed his own rebound, and drew another foul. Council was successful with the rest of his attempts to lead the Hogs to victory over the No. 1 seed and reigning national champion, Kansas.
Final score, 72-71.
A heart-warming moment, reminiscent of the famed post-game interview of Houston Nutt and Daren McFadden after Arkansas football knocked off the No. 1 LSU Tigers in 2007, was captured after the game. This time it was with Eric Musselman and Devo Davis.
“I keep telling people that we’re getting better. Not many teams can get better at this time of year. I’ve never been prouder in a team like tonight.”@RazorbackMBB Head Coach Eric Musselman and G Davonte Davis joined @ALaForce after taking down Kansas. pic.twitter.com/Uc6bFI3V0V— March Madness Men’s Basketball TV (@MM_MBB_TV) March 18, 2023
Arkansas finished the game shooting 41% (24-58) from the field and 20% (3-15) from downtown. Its assist-to-turnover ratio wasn’t great at 8:11 but their free-throw shooting more than made up for it. For the first time in weeks, Arkansas knocked down 80% of their attempts from the free throw line and outshot the Jayhawks by 3.
The Jayhawks had a very good shooting percentage at 48%, but Arkansas’s defense held them to 8 fewer attempts. Kansas also shot 38% (5-13) from 3-point range. Arkansas forced 12 turnovers and stole 5 of them. The real difference in the game was rebounds. Just like its game on Tuesday, Arkansas won not only the rebound battle, 36-29, but destroyed the offensive boards, bringing down 15 to Kansas’ 7.
Without a doubt, the MVP of this game goes to Devo Davis. Davis had 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 1 assist on the night. Without Devo, Arkansas would be watching the tournament from their couches next week.
Ricky Council IV had a great game, as well, with 21 points. Jordan Walsh was the only other Hog with double-digit points. Kamani Johnson led the team in boards with 10. Six of those were offensive rebounds. Devo came in second on the team with 8 and Council with 6 was third. Council also recorded a team-high 4 assists.
Arkansas awaits the outcome of the No. 4 seed UCONN and No. 5 seed St. Mary’s game tomorrow to see who they’ll play next. With ample time to prepare, expect the Hogs to come to play with whichever team advances. The game will be played on Thursday, March, 23rd. The time of the game is to be announced.