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Arkansas coach rips his jersey to celebrate victory over defending champion Kansas



DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) β€” Eric Musselman and his players slammed into the ground at the final buzzer to celebrate with their cheery friends from Arkansas.

The 58-year-old hopped onto the press table, ripped off his red polo shirt and waved it over his head, screaming the entire time to the crowd’s delight, as has become his tradition after his biggest triumphs.

And that was really a big deal.

Kansas’ national title defense came to an end in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday when Arkansas’ Ricky Council4 made five free throws in the final seconds and the eighth-ranked Razorbacks beat the number one. 1 Jayhawks 72-71 seed.

β€œI like to lie and say I felt good, but we only drove for 1:43,” he said. β€œThis season has been as tough and challenging as I’ve ever been a part of.

“To be rewarded for those people for sticking it out and being able to go to Las Vegas and play with only 16 teams still standing. … 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 the defending champions,” No. 1 stub. We made it.”

Arkansas was playing no. 1 seed for the third year in a row. Last year, the Razorbacks knocked out Gonzaga on their way to their second straight Elite Eight. This time, the Razorbacks survived shaky offensive play early and foul problems late. They became the first team to beat No. One seed with three players who fumbled, according to OptaSTATS.

“This is an incredible victory for our program,” Musselman said. β€œI keep telling people we are getting better. Not many teams can get better at this time of year. I have never been more proud of a team like tonight.”

Davonte Davis scored 25 points and Council added 21 to lead Arkansas from a 12-point deficit in the second half. kansas, Playing without the ailing coach Bill Self, He became the second top seed not to escape a tournament first weekend after Purdue’s loss Friday night to No. 16 seeds Fairleigh Dickinson.

Arkansas (22-13) is in the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row and will play either St. Mary’s or UConn in the Western Region semifinals in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Self has been with the Jayhawks (28-8) since their arrival in Des Moines and has attended practices and meetings, but still feels not well enough to coach a game after having heart surgery on March 8 to unblock his arteries.

Longtime assistant Norm Roberts was acting coach for the fifth consecutive game in Self’s absence.

Kansas, seeking to become the first repeat national champion since Florida in 2006-2007, was leading 35-27 at halftime and down for the first time in 27 games when it entered the second half with a lead. Kansas had been 47-0 in the NCAA Tournament when leading by eight or more points at halftime.

“Our guys have been great all year,” said Roberts. β€œThey fought to the end, making huge plays. It was hard not having a coach here, but we don’t make any excuses. We have to line up and get it done, and we came up a little short today.”

Davis scored 21 of his points in the second half. He fouled with 1:56 left, handing matters over to the veteran Board, a transfer from Wichita State who scored nine of the Razorbacks’ last 11 points.

“This team has been struggling and we’ve fixed it,” Davis said. β€œI’m glad we did it at the right time. Hopefully we can continue to do so.”

Outside the locker room, Musselman tearfully hugged Davis and exclaimed, “I (expletive) love you, man!”

The board’s free throw put Arkansas ahead to stay, 68-67, with 24 seconds left in the game. He then rebounded from his second free throw errors and set up two more goals to give the Razorbacks a three-point lead.

The teams traded free throws, and Kansas State’s Jalen Wilson sent Arkansas to the goal line with 3 seconds left to prevent a potential 3-pointer. Wilson made the first free throw and appeared to deliberately try to miss the second, but he deflected hard off and into the glass, and Kansas never recovered.

Wilson led the Jayhawks with 20 points but lamented grabbing only four rebounds, which he said was a factor in Arkansas having a 15-2 advantage on second chance points. No missed rebound, he said, hurts more than when Kansas failed to take the ball away on Council’s missed free throw in the dying seconds.

“It’s always about one theatre, especially noisy plays like that,” said Wilson. β€œIt’s frustrating for it to end like this, especially with how great our year has been. Credit to them for the way they played.”

Arkansas that beat Illinois in the first round, It was considered a fearsome game for the Jayhawks with its explosive transitional game and ability to play lock defense.

But the conditions were less than ideal for the Razorbacks. Guard Anthony Black patched up a nagging ankle injury early on and went to the bench to re-sign and change shoes, and fellow guard Nick Smith Jr. was expected to pick high in the first round of the NBA. He received two quick fouls and was limited to 10 minutes and no points in the first half. Also, the big guy Kamani Johnson was sick and playing with an ulcer at the time.

The Razorbacks were very excited about shooting 3-pointers early. They missed 8 of 9 in the first half and couldn’t run a running game.

Kansas was controlling the stretches but couldn’t get rid of the Razorbacks.

Davis began a turnaround drive in the game 11–0 Arkansas midway through the second half, and gave Jordan Walsh a 3-pointer with eight minutes left to give the Razorbacks the lead since their first basket of the game.

Arkansas neutralized Wilson when it mattered most, allowing the All-American only two hits over 15 minutes of the second half.

Arkansas is in the Sweet 16 for the 14th time. The only lower-seeded Razorbacks team to reach the regional semifinals was the 1996 team, which was a record. 12 under Nolan Richardson, who led the school to its only national title two years earlier.

If Musselman reaches his first Fine Four, it will evoke more memories of those glory years.





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