The 8-seed Arkansas Razorbacks kept their season alive with a 73–63 victory over 9-seed Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa.
Right from the first tip, Arkansas’ pace was too much for the Illini. The Razorbacks led 37:15 of the game and forced 17 turnovers by the Illini.
Ricky Council IV recorded a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, while Devonte Davis added 16 points and six boards.
Here’s a recap of Thursday’s contest, which was Arkansas’ third straight first-round win in the NCAA tournament.
An 0-of-7 performance from the field to start the game didn’t sway the Razorbacks much, as they then hit their next three shots and went on an 8–0 run, holding the Illini scoreless for a 4:51 period. ,
Despite having a shoeless Matthew Meyer, at least for possessions, the Illini managed to keep things within reach courtesy of a trio of steals from Coleman Hawkins. The under-12 media timeout came just in time for Meyer, who was relieved to have his shoe back on with his team down 12-7.
Both teams started the game a combined 8-of-30 from the field, and had a total of six steals and nine turnovers by the midway mark of the first half.
Arkansas’ lead grew to 11 by the 7:30 mark, and Illinois was shooting just 22.2% from the field in that time.
The Illini began with a three-ball knock, but a combined 9–3 run by Anthony Black and Council gave the Razorbacks a 14-point advantage going into the final media timeout of the first half.
After having zero points in the first 16:10 of the game, Illinois star guard Terrence Shannon Jr. scored eight in just under two minutes to cut the Razorbacks’ lead to 34–26 with just under two minutes left in the first half.
Kamani Johnson’s put-back layup closed out the scoring in the first 20 minutes and gave Arkansas a 36–26 lead at the break. Hogg was plus-nine on the board and shot 42.4% from the field compared to Illinois’ 27.6% in the first half.
The Illini started the second half on a 7–2 run to cut Arkansas’ lead to less than three minutes. Just under 14 minutes to play.
Makhi Mitchell made a spin move over the defender and made his second basket of the game to give Arkansas a game-best (at the time) 15-point lead that forced Illinois to tie with 12:23 to play.
Arkansas went ahead to 17, but Illinois cut it to nine by an under-8 media timeout with an 8-0 individual run from RJ Melendez.
The Illini stuck around and a 7–0 run allowed them to cut Arkansas’ lead to 62–57 with 2:29 to play.
A steal from Davis turned into a transition layup for Council and was the back-breaker for Illinois.
The Razorbacks sank nine shots at the free throw line late in the game to keep the lead out of reach and survive to fight for another day.
Next, the Razorbacks will take on the 1-seed Kansas Jayhawks in the Round of 32 at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa. The timing and channel of the game will be announced later.