No. 8 Arkansas halts No. 1 Kansas’ NCAA Tournament title defense with second-round upset

The second No. 1 seed in the NCAA men’s tournament has gone down before the Sweet 16.

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

The Razorbacks trailed by 10 midway through the second half. An 11-0 run gave them the lead 52-51 on a three-pointer by Jordan Walsh with 8:55 left.

The lead would swing back and forth until Jalen Wilson tied the score with 39 seconds left on two free throws. 

Council then drove to the basket and was cut off by Kevin McCullar Jr. A blocking foul was called. Council would make the first of two attempts. His second shot missed but he got the offensive rebound and was fouled attempting a shot. Council then sank two free throws to put Arkansas up three.

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“Yeah, obviously I didn’t want to miss, spinned off,” Coucil said. “I think Jordan hustled, got a tip and I remember it tipping off of Jalen Wilson and it coming right to me and I was like, either I can attack this, because I was literally at the free throw line when I got it or I could pull it out. I just decided to attack. I knew worst-case scenario I was probably going to get fouled. I made both of those so I think it was up 3 after that.”

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

Arkansas fouled Wilson on the ensuing possession with three seconds left. Wilson made two free throws, and Kansas couldn’t foul in time before the clock expired.

Arkansas guard Davonte Davis reacts after a play against Kansas during the second round of the NCAA men's tournament at Wells Fargo Arena on March 18, 2023 in Des Moines, Iowa.

This is the third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance for Arkansas, which took out No. 1 seed Gonzaga in last year’s tournament. 

“This has been as challenging and up and down season as I’ve ever been apart of,” Razorbacks coach Eric Mussselman said. “For these guys to be rewarded for sticking with it and being able to go to Las Vegas and participate with only 16 teams still standing, it’s really hard to make this tournament. It really hard to win a game in this tournament. It’s really hard to beat defending champions, No. 1 seed. We did it, proud of us.”

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Davonte Davis led the Razorbacks with 25 points, 21 of which came in the second half before fouling out. Council finished with 21 points. Wilson topped all Kansas scorers with 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 were playing without coach Bill Self, who missed the Big 12 tournament and first two games of the NCAA Tournament after being hospitalized last week for a cardiac procedure. 

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

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