DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Eric Musselman and his gamers rushed throughout the ground on the ultimate buzzer to rejoice with their joyfully delirious associates from Arkansas.
The 58-year-old coach jumped onto the press desk, ripped off his pink polo shirt and waved it over his head, shouting all of the whereas to the followers’ delight, as has grow to be his custom after the largest of his wins.
And this was a extremely huge one.
Kansas’ nationwide title protection ended within the second spherical of the NCAA Match on Saturday when Arkansas’ Ricky Council IV made 5 free throws within the closing seconds and the eighth-seeded Razorbacks beat the No. 1 seed Jayhawks 72-71.
“I might like to lie and say that I felt composed, however we solely led for 1:43,” he mentioned. “This has been as difficult and as up-and-down a season as I’ve ever been part of.
“For these guys to be rewarded for sticking with it and with the ability to go to Las Vegas and take part with solely 16 groups nonetheless standing. … It’s actually arduous to make this event. It’s actually arduous to win a sport on this event. It’s actually arduous to beat defending champions, No. 1 seed. We did it.”
Arkansas was taking part in a No. 1 seed for the third straight 12 months. Final 12 months, the Razorbacks knocked out Gonzaga on the best way to their second straight Elite Eight. This time, the Razorbacks survived shaky offensive play early and foul bother late. They turned the primary crew to beat a No. 1 seed with three gamers fouling out, in keeping with OptaSTATS.
“That’s such an unbelievable win for our program,” Musselman mentioned. “I preserve telling folks that we’re getting higher. Not many groups can get higher this time of 12 months. I’ve by no means been prouder of a crew like tonight.”
Davonte Davis scored 25 factors and Council added 21 as Arkansas rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit. Kansas, playing without ailing coach Bill Self, turned the second prime seed to not escape the event’s first weekend after Purdue misplaced on Friday night time to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson.
Arkansas (22-13) is within the Candy 16 for the third straight 12 months and can play both Saint Mary’s or UConn within the West Area semifinals in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Self has been with the Jayhawks (28-8) since they arrived in Des Moines and has attended practices and conferences, however he nonetheless didn’t really feel nicely sufficient to educate a sport after having a coronary heart process March 8 to clear clogged arteries.
Longtime assistant Norm Roberts was performing coach for a fifth straight sport in Self’s absence.
Kansas, bidding to grow to be the primary repeat nationwide champion since Florida in 2006-07, was forward 35-27 at halftime and misplaced for the primary time in 27 video games when coming into the second half with a lead. Kansas had been 47-0 within the NCAA Match when main by eight factors or extra on the half.
“Our guys have been terrific all 12 months,” Roberts mentioned. “They fought to the very finish, made large performs. It was robust not having Coach right here, however we don’t make any excuses. We’ve got to line up and get it performed, and we got here up somewhat bit quick right this moment.”
Davis scored 21 of his factors within the second half. He fouled out with 1:56 left, turning issues over to the veteran Council, a switch from Wichita State who scored 9 of the Razorbacks’ ultimate 11 factors.
“This crew was struggling and we figured it out,” Davis mentioned. “I’m glad we did on the proper time. Hopefully we proceed to do it.”
Exterior the locker room, a sobbing Musselman hugged Davis and shouted, “I (expletive) love you, man!”
Council’s free throw put Arkansas forward to remain, 68-67, with 24 seconds left. He then rebounded his personal miss of the second free throw and made two extra to offer the Razorbacks a three-point lead.
The groups traded free throws, and Arkansas despatched Kansas’ Jalen Wilson to the road with 3 seconds left to forestall a possible tying 3-pointer. Wilson made the primary free throw and appeared to attempt to miss the second deliberately, but it surely banked arduous off the glass and in, and Kansas by no means regained possession.
Wilson led the Jayhawks with 20 factors however lamented grabbing solely 4 rebounds, which he mentioned was a consider Arkansas holding a 15-2 benefit in second-chance factors. No missed rebound damage extra, he mentioned, than when Kansas did not seize the ball off Council’s missed free throw within the waning seconds.
“It all the time comes down to 1 play, particularly hustle performs like that,” Wilson mentioned. “It’s simply disappointing to finish like that, particularly with how nice our 12 months was. Credit score to them for a way they performed.”
Arkansas, which beat Illinois in the first round, was thought-about a scary matchup for the Jayhawks with its explosive transition sport and skill to play lockdown protection.
However circumstances have been lower than ultimate for the Razorbacks. Guard Anthony Black tweaked a nagging ankle harm early and went to the bench to get re-taped and alter footwear, and fellow guard and projected excessive NBA first-round draft choose Nick Smith Jr. picked up two fast fouls and was restricted to 10 minutes and no factors within the first half. Additionally, huge man Kamani Johnson was sick and performed with a sore toe.
The Razorbacks have been too desirous to shoot 3-pointers early. They missed 8 of 9 within the first half and couldn’t get their operating sport going.
Kansas was in management for stretches however by no means may put away the Razorbacks.
Davis began a game-turning 11-0 Arkansas run in the course of the second half and Jordan Walsh’s 3-pointer with eight minutes left gave the Razorbacks their first lead since their first basket of the sport.
Arkansas neutralized Wilson when it mattered most, permitting the All-American solely two photographs over a 15-minute stretch of the second half.
Arkansas is within the Candy 16 for the 14th time. The one lower-seeded Razorbacks crew to succeed in a regional semifinal was the 1996 squad, which was a No. 12 underneath Nolan Richardson, who led the college to its solely nationwide title two years earlier.
If Musselman reaches his first Last 4, he’ll evoke extra recollections of these glory years.