Another No. 1 seed has been eliminated from the NCAA tournament, and this time it was the defending national champion.
Kansas, the top seed in the West region, blew a 12-point second half lead and was shocked by Arkansas, 72-71, in a second round matchup in Des Moines, Iowa. With the win, the Jayhawks were sent packing a year after winning it all while the Razorbacks will move on to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive season.
The Razorbacks, the West’s No. 8 seed, used an 11-0 second-half run to surge back into the game. A Jordan Walsh 3-pointer at the 8:55 mark gave Arkansas its first lead since it was 2-0 in the opening minutes of the game, but it was Davonte Davis who carried the Razorbacks down the stretch.
Davis, hampered with four fouls for much of the half, scored 21 of his 25 points in the second half, going blow for blow with the playmakers on the Kansas side. But when Davis fouled out with 1:56 to play, his teammates stepped up.
First, Ricky Council IV tied the game at 65-65 apiece with a jumper and then Kamani Johnson put in the go-ahead putback off of an offensive rebound, his sixth of the game. And after Kansas tied it up, Council put Arkansas ahead for good at the line.
Council attacked the basket and was fouled with 24 seconds to play. Council made the first, putting his team ahead 68-67. He missed the second, but Jordan Walsh careened in and got a hand on the loose ball to deflect it over to Council. Once the ball was back in his hands, Council saw an opening to the basket and attacked. He was fouled again. This time he made both, extending the Razorbacks’ lead to 70-67 with 21 seconds to go.
On the ensuing possession, Kansas cut the lead to 70-69 with two Jalen Wilson free throws. At that point, there were fewer than 10 seconds remaining. That put Kansas in foul-mode. Council was up to the challenge and calmly sank two more free throws to make it 72-69.
Up three, Arkansas alertly fouled Kansas on the next possession to stop any chance of a tying 3-pointer. The strategy worked. Wilson sank the first and the second even as he tried to intentionally miss it.
From there, all it took was an inbounds pass for the Razorbacks to run the remaining time off the clock and seal a big time upset, 72-71.