No. 8 Arkansas halts NCAA tournament title defense from No. 1 Kansas with second-round upset

The second No. 1 in the NCAA men’s tournament went down ahead of the Sweet 16.

Arkansas No. 8 beat Kansas No. 1 72-71 with a spirited second-half surge and late free throws from Ricky Council IV.

Midway through the second half, the Razorbacks were 10 points behind. An 11-0 run gave them a 52-51 lead after a three by Jordan Walsh left 8-5.

The lead swung back and forth until Jalen Wilson equalized with two free throws 39 seconds from time.

Council then drove to the basket and was cut off by Kevin McCullar Jr. A ban foul was called. The Council would undertake the first of two attempts. His second shot went wide, but he got the offensive rebound and was fouled trying a shot. The council then sunk two free throws to give Arkansas a three lead.

“Yeah, obviously I didn’t want to miss it, turned away,” Coucil said. “I think Jordan rushed, got a tip and I remember he was tipped by Jalen Wilson and he came right up to me and I thought either I can attack that because I was literally at the free throw line when I did it got, or I could pull it out. I just decided to attack. I knew that if the worst came to the worst, I would probably get fouled. I did both so I think it was 3 after that.

Wilson added two free throws for Kansas on his next trip. The Jayhawks then fouled Council, who hit two more free throws.

Arkansas fouled Wilson on subsequent possession with three seconds remaining. Wilson made two free throws, and Kansas failed to foul in time before the clock ran out.

Arkansas guard Vomte Davis reacts after a game against Kansas during the second round of the NCAA Men’s Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena March 18, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa.

This is the third straight appearance in the Sweet 16 for Arkansas, who defeated No. 1 seed Gonzaga in last year’s tournament.

“This has been the most challenging and up-and-down season we’ve ever had,” said Razorbacks coach Eric Mussselman. “For these guys who are being rewarded for sticking with it and going to Las Vegas and being able to compete with only 16 teams left, it’s really hard to do this tournament. It’s really hard to win a game in this tournament. It’s really hard to beat defending champions, number 1. We did it, proud of ourselves.

Vomte Davis led the Razorbacks with 25 points, 21 of which came in the second half before fouling out. Council ended with 21 points. Wilson outscored all Kansas scorers by 20 points. The loss before the Sweet 16 was a disappointing end for the Jayhawks after winning the national title last season and this year’s Big 12 regular season.

They played without coach Bill Self, who missed the Big 12 tournament and the first two games of the NCAA tournament after being hospitalized for heart surgery last week.

“It was a tough game and you have to give Arkansas credit for that,” said Norm Roberts, who replaced Self. “They did a great job in the second half by attacking us. Davis wasn’t of this world, really taking a lot of shots but we knew he was good at that and then he really hurt us on the glass . We had some rebounds we had to get them, we didn’t get them but give them credit.”

Follow Eric Smith on Twitter @ErickSmith

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Arkansas upset No. 1 Kansas in second round of March Madness

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