The third-seed Razorback men’s basketball team won its second consecutive game in the NCAA Tournament with a 68-66 victory over sixth-seeded Texas Tech at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Sunday to advance them to the Sweet 16.
Arkansas’ last advancement to the Sweet 16 was in 1996 under hall-of-fame coach Nolan Richardson, who guided the Hogs to their lone NCAA championship in 1994. Musselman said he has exchanged texts with the iconic former Razorback coach during the team’s tournament run.
“Coach Richardson is a coaching legend,” Musselman said. “He is somebody that I have looked up to for many, many years, way before coming to Arkansas as a coach. He’s done a great job of communicating with me and it means a lot to me and our entire staff.”
Midway through the first half, the Razorbacks found themselves trailing by 10 because of poor offensive execution against the notoriously stifling man-to-man defense from the Red Raiders.
As the game progressed, the Razorback rotation settled in and took control of the competition. The three freshman starters, Davonte Davis, Moses Moody and Jaylin Williams, played at least 28 minutes each and combined for 31 points and 22 rebounds.
“All three of us just want to get out there and do what we can to help the team win,” Williams said in a postgame press conference.
Williams, who started in place of sophomore forward Connor Vanover for the first time this season, missed all four shots but led the Hogs with 10 boards and four dimes.
Arkansas led by two going into halftime. Following Sunday’s win, the Razorbacks are 34-2 when leading at halftime during Musselman’s tenure. Despite the nearly unblemished record, Todd Furhman of CBS Sports took a shot at the Head Hog stating that Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard must be “licking his chops knowing Eric Musselman is on the other sideline.”
The Razorback coach took exception to the comment and made sure to address it in his postgame interview after the win.
“Yeah, I take it personal,” Musselman said. “My son brought it to me whenever the thing went out (so) I knew right away. Whoever that guy is, I have never heard of him in my life, so his credibility is absolutely zero.”
However, the victory was in doubt with just 20 seconds left when junior guard JD Notae missed a free throw and the Red Raiders came down the court trailing by two.
The most critical play of the game might have occurred without either player involved touching the ball. Freshman guard Davonte Davis applied full-court pressure and denied Texas Tech’s leading scorer Mac McClung from getting the ball as junior guard Kyler Edwards missed the game-tying layup as time expired.
“If I have to guard the best player, I am gonna do it,” Davis said in a postgame press conference. “If (the plan) is for him to not touch the ball, I am gonna deny him the ball and do my job.”
Arkansas will face No. 15 seed Oral Roberts for the second time this season at 6:25 p.m. Saturday, March 27, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The game will be televised on TBS.
In the previous meeting between the two teams, the Hogs erased a double-digit deficit in a comeback victory. Despite being matched against the lowest seeded opponent thus far, there are no feelings of complacency from the Razorback sideline.
“Just know we are ready,” Davis said. “Just because we played them before, does not mean we are going to lighten up at all.”
Though Musselman has been to the Sweet 16 as recently as 2019 with Nevada, the significance of the tournament run is not lost on him.
“This is really special,” Musselman said. “Getting this far...I can’t describe it. I just hope our students are having fun in Fayetteville on campus tonight. We’re not done. We want one more. We want one more game together. We want one more day together and then after that, we want another day together.”