Free throws were a serious issue for the Arkansas basketball team all season. If you’d have asked Eric Musselman if they would be what lifted the Razorbacks to the Sweet 16, he’d likely have told you it wasn’t likely.
Ricky Council made three free throws in three seconds to give Arkansas a three-point lead with 20 seconds left against Kansas with such a spot on the line and the Razorbacks rallied to beat the Jayhawks, 72-71, to beat the defending champs on Saturday.
Arkansas shot just 69% from the free-throw line during the season, ranking the Razorbacks 12th in the 14-team SEC. Against the Jayhawks, Arkansas buried 21 of 26 from the stripe, an 81% mark. Council, who shot only 5 of 18 from the floor, made 10 of 1 from the line himself, including the three that provided Arkansas its margin.
Arkansas took its first lead of the second half when Jordan Walsh buried a 3-pointer with 8:50 left to make it 52-51. The lead was its first since the opening basket of the game. The Razorbacks went on an 11-0 run to get there and provide nerves in the final several minutes.
Dajuan Harris made a 3 on the other end about a minute later that gave the lead right back to Kansas.
Devo Davis was the biggest reason for Arkansas’ rally. The Hogs trailed by eight points at halftime, but Davis scored 21 of his 25 points after the break to lead the charge.
He had to. Nick Smith Jr. struggled badly for the second straight game. After going 2 for 10 from the floor in the first round against Illinois, Smith played just 16 minutes – including only seven in the second half – and went 0 of 4 against the Jayhawks.
Council buried a turnaround jumper from the right side to tie the game at 65 with 1:36 left to set up the stretch run. He ended the game with 21 points while Jordan Walsh joined Council and Davis in double figures with 10 points.
Kansas was led by Big 12 Player of the Year Jalen Wilson, who had 18 points.
The loss was Kansas’ first of the season when it led at halftime. Arkansas’ win provided the Razorbacks a trip to the Sweet 16 for a third straight year. The Hogs will playe either St. Mary’s or Connecticut.