The third-seeded Razorback men’s basketball team rallied to avoid a buzzer-beater upset from 14th-seeded Oral Roberts on Saturday night to advance to the Elite Eight.
Similar to the previous outing between the two teams in the regular season, the Hogs struggled to get open looks and put up just 28 points in the first half. The Razorbacks flipped the switch in the final 20 minutes as they poured in 44 points to close out the game.
Come-from-behind wins are nothing new to an Arkansas team that has trailed by double digits in all three of its NCAA Tournament games.
“We’ve been down now in three games and found a way to come back,” Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman said. “We’ve been a really, really good second-half team.”
The Razorbacks limited sophomore guard Max Abmas, the NCAA’s leading scorer, to 25 points on 19 shots. He is the first player to score at least 25 points in three NCAA Tournament games since Steph Curry accomplished the feat four times during Davidson’s Cinderella story run in 2008.
“We tried to get the ball out of (Abmas’) hands in the second half,” freshman guard Davonte Davis said in a postgame press conference. “I feel like that is what really led to us tying the game up and taking the lead.”
The Golden Eagles knotted the game at 70 after a free throw with 30 seconds to go. As the clock ticked down, senior guard Jalen Tate stalled inside the half-court offense, drove into the lane and kicked out to Davis, who sank a mid-range jumper with 3.1 seconds remaining.
“I think I have put the work in,” Davis said. “I don’t think there was pressure on me. I think I am made for those types of plays.”
After the basket from Davis, Oral Roberts called a timeout and drew up a play that nearly led to an iconic March Madness ending. Abmas received the inbounds pass beyond the half-court logo and then outran Tate and Davis to get an open look from the 3-point line, but his shot clanked off the far side of the rim as the buzzer sounded.
“We tried to make sure (Abmas) caught the ball in front of us and not behind us,” Davis said “We just hoped that he did not make the shot and it rimmed out.”
Musselman confirmed that the plan on the last possession was not to deny Abmas the ball, but instead to double-team him without fouling. Despite launching 31 three-pointers, the Golden Eagles missed 23 of them.
“I guess tonight the basketball gods were looking over us,” Musselman said.
In the Elite Eight, the Razorbacks will face the top-seeded Baylor Bears at 8:57 p.m Monday, March 29 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. The game will be televised on CBS.
“I love this team,” Davis said. “I love this community. I love the coaching staff and I feel like we have come a long way. Being able to compete for a national championship is just crazy. It is a dream come true.”