Las Vegas, (NV.) — After a euphoric win over the reigning champs and No. 1 seed in the western bracket, Arkansas walked into a buzz saw against the 4th-seeded Huskies.
For the first 8 minutes, Arkansas hung in the game with great efforts by Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr. With 12:05 left to go in the half, Jordan Walsh made a layup to shorten UConn’s lead to 3. Unfortunately, that is where the Hogs went cold.
Arkansas went on a nearly a 5-minute scoring drought. All the while, the Huskies did whatever they wanted on offense. Arkansas, in particular, had trouble fighting over screens and defending Adama Sanogo down low.
Sanogo—an Oscar Tshiebwe clone with better shooting—was dominating every big Arkansas could throw at him. He finished with 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Arkansas closed the half by knocking down just 4 field goals in the last 7 minutes and scoring 12 points. UConn led 46-29.
The second half was more of the first. UConn’s 3-point shooting came alive in the first 10 minutes, jumping out on a 16-4 run. At the 13:57 mark, Arkansas saw themselves down by nearly 30 points.
In a desperation move, Arkansas went to full-court pressure and created some much-needed turnovers. Between the 13:46 and the 13:25 mark, Arkansas scored 10 unanswered points, stole the ball twice, and never let the Huskies past halfcourt. It looked like a miracle was about to happen in Vegas in those 21 game seconds, but those hopes were smashed with back-to-back-to-back 3-point baskets by UConn in the next 87 seconds.
Those 3 buckets were the kill shots for the Huskies. With 8 minutes to kill, Arkansas seemingly went back to their previous game plan to run out the clock. The players never gave up, playing at 100% until the final buzzer, but the game was all but lost.
Final score 88-65 UConn.
Arkansas finished the night shooting just 31% from the floor and 31% from the 3-point line. Free throw shooting continued to show progress. The Hogs knocked down 74% of their attempts. With just 8 assists in the game, Arkansas recorded an 8:10 assist-to-turnover ratio.
With probably their worst defensive performance of the season, Arkansas allowed UConn to shoot 57% and 45% from deep. The Hogs forced 17 turnovers but only scored 8 points off of them. Out of those 17 turnovers, Arkansas stole 8. The biggest disparity was rebounding. UConn out-rebounded Arkansas 43-31. The Huskies also scored 42 points in the paint.
Anthony Black recorded a team-high 20 points, followed closely by Ricky Council IV with 17. Kamani Johnson led the team in boards with 5 and both Black and Devo Davis recorded 4.
After a roller coaster of a season, it’s heartbreaking to see this team—a team that has fought through so much adversity—end its season like this. Just by the emotions after the game, especially those of Anthony Black, you could tell how much they cared about this team and this program.
Although the season ended tonight, the next season begins immediately for Eric Musselman and staff. At the post-game press conference, he stated, “Tonight we ran into a team that passed the ball really well and shared it. There is a lot of great things going on at Arkansas. As soon as we get back to the hotel we will start working toward next year.”