In a stunning upset at the NCAA tournament, the defending national champions, Kansas, were eliminated by Arkansas, the West region’s No. 8 seed. Despite leading by 12 points in the second half, the Jayhawks could not hold off the Razorbacks, who mounted an impressive comeback and secured a 72-71 victory in the second-round matchup in Des Moines, Iowa. Kansas was still without head coach Bill Self due to health reasons, making their loss even more devastating. This marks the second time a No. 1 seed has been knocked out of the tournament, with Purdue being the first.
The game’s turning point came when Arkansas went on an 11-0 run in the second half, erasing their 12-point deficit. Jordan Walsh’s 3-pointer at the 8:55 mark gave the Razorbacks their first lead since the opening minutes, but Davonte Davis ultimately carried them to victory.
A Thrilling Finish
Ricky Council IV hit a jumper to tie the game at 65, and Kamani Johnson followed it up with a go-ahead putback off an offensive
rebound. After Kansas tied the game again, Council was fouled while attacking the basket and made the first free throw to put the Razorbacks ahead 68-67. Although he missed the second free throw, Jordan Walsh’s deflection allowed Council to grab the loose ball and draw another foul, which he converted into two more points to extend the lead to 70-67 with 21 seconds left.
Kansas then made two free throws to cut the deficit to 70-69, prompting Arkansas to foul intentionally to prevent a game-tying three-pointer. Council made two more clutch free throws, putting the Razorbacks up 72-69. Kansas intentionally missed the second free throw, but Arkansas secured the rebound and ran out the remaining time on the clock to seal the upset victory.
A Balanced Effort
Davonte Davis led the charge for Arkansas with an impressive 25 points, while Ricky Council also contributed 21 points, including a near-perfect 10-of-11 performance from the free-throw line. Jordan Walsh’s crucial bench performance significantly sparked the team’s comeback, as he finished the game with 10 points.
Despite their star freshmen Anthony Black and Nick Smith Jr. struggling with just four points on 1-of-10 shooting, the Razorbacks’ veteran players stepped up and led the team to victory.
It has been a rollercoaster season for Arkansas, dealing with injuries and inconsistent performances, but they have found their groove just in time for the tournament. They will now face either UConn or Saint Mary’s, both formidable opponents, in the Sweet 16 in Las Vegas.