Arkansas eliminates defending NCAA champion Kansas, 72-71

The season has come to an end for the defending national champion Kansas Jayhawks. For the Arkansas Razorbacks, they have advanced, and they’re heading to Las Vegas with their loyal fans for the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament.

It all unfolded Saturday, when the eighth-seeded Razorbacks rallied to knock off the No. 1 Jayhawks 72-71 in a West region round of 32 game at Des Moines, Iowa.

With Davonte Davis scoring 21 of his 25 points in the second half and Ricky Council IV hitting clutch free throws in the final minutes, the Razorbacks knocked out the Jayhawks, who became the second top-seed in the tournament to lose in 24 hours.

On Friday night, Farleigh Dickinson shook the basketball landscape by becoming only the second No. 16 seed in 38 years to beat a No. 1, as the Knights eliminated the Purdue Boilermakers in the East region, and now Kansas has gone down, as well.

Arkansas coach Eric Musselman, celebrating with the Razorbacks’ fans, ripped off his shirt at courtside in the moments after the victory and had to put it back on for his televised post-game interview.

“I mean, that’s such an unbelievable win,” Musselman said on the CBS telecast. “I keep telling people that we’re getting better. Not many teams can get better this time of year. I’m so, I’ve never been prouder of a team like tonight.”

Asked how his team could come back from an eight-point halftime deficit against the regular-season champions in the Big 12, Musselman acknowledged that it had a lot to do with Davis, a 6-4 junior guard from Jacksonville, Ark.

“I love this kid so much,” the coach said.

Davis was in tears as he tried to explain how he met his coach’s challenge to become a leader on the team.

“I don’t know,” Davis said, bending over and pausing to compose himself. “It’s crazy. I feel real glad we came out with the win.”

Asked about the tears, Davis replied, “Putting in the work. This team has struggled, and we figured it out, and I’m glad we did at the right time. And I hope we continue to do it.”

The Razorbacks will advance to play next week against the winner between the UConn Huskies and Saint Mary’s (Calif.) Gaels, who will play Sunday in Albany, N.Y.

Despite the absence of veteran head coach Bill Self, Kansas pushed out to an early lead and held it for most of the game. Led by Davis, Arkansas gradually cut into the lead throughout the second half and eventually took over the game in the final minutes.

Self had a heart procedure and was hospitalized last week during the Big 12 tournament. He didn’t coach in the conference title game against Texas last Saturday, and then was released from the hospital on Sunday.

The coach was with the team in Des Moines but wasn’t on the bench for either Thursday’s victory over Howard or in the loss to Arkansas. Assistant coach Norm Roberts worked all three games for the Jayhawks.

Forward Jalen Wilson scored 20 points for Kansas and center K.J. Adams added 14. Guards Kevin McCullar, Jr. and Dajuan Harris., added 13 and 12 points, respectively.

McCullar left the Texas Tech Red Raiders after last season and transferred to play as a senior at Kansas. He formerly was one of the best players in San Antonio for the Wagner High School Thunderbirds.

Midwest Region
Round of 32

No. 2 seed Texas 71, No. 8 Arkansas 66, at Des Moines
No. 1 seed Houston 81, No. 9 Auburn 64, at Birmingham