Smith Ark. vs Colgate

Senior forward Justin Smith celebrates with teammates during Friday’s 85-68 first-round win over Colgate. Smith notched his fifth double-double of the season, including a career-high 29 points in the Razorbacks’ first NCAA Tournament win since 2017. 

The No. 3 seed Razorback men’s basketball team (24-6) erased a double-digit deficit to defeat No. 13 seed Colgate (14-3), 85-68, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on Friday.

After several lead changes early, Colgate caught fire from beyond the arc to take a 33-19 scoring advantage. At the five-minute mark, Arkansas head coach Eric Musselman altered the defensive scheme and switched to full-court pressure.

The intense defensive pressure completely changed the trajectory of the game as the Hogs went on a 17-0 run to take a three-point lead into halftime.

“I think that momentum we got from the last four minutes of the first half really carried us and showed us how we were going to win this game,” senior forward Justin Smith said in a postgame press conference.

In the second half, the Razorbacks’ continued to apply heavy pressure on the Raiders’ ballhandlers, leading to numerous offensive fouls and giveaways from Colgate. Arkansas forced 22 turnovers, which led to 34 points at the other end.

In the press conference, Musselman lamented the lack of attention given toward the team’s defensive play throughout the year.

“We are an underrated defensive team,” Musselman said “I think a lot of our offensive numbers are because of our defense.”

Smith racked up a double-double as he finished with a career-high 29 points to go with 13 rebounds while playing all 40 minutes of the game. After being held scoreless in the first half, junior guard JD Notae, the SEC Sixth Man of the Year, helped the Hogs stretch their lead as he added 14 points off the bench.

“(Notae) is either going to hit a home run or strike out,” Musselman said. “You’re going to live with an airball 3-pointer and the next time down he is going to hit a stepback 3-pointer from 35 feet.”

Colgate kept the game close for the majority of the second half, but Arkansas pulled away in the final 10 minutes with fundamentally sound defense and with clutch free-throw shooting.

“I thought we did a great job of closing the game out down the stretch,” Musselman said.

Despite their first NCAA Tournament victory since 2017, the Razorbacks did not display any sense of jubilation or partake in any postgame festivities.

“There was no celebrating in the locker room tonight,” Musselman said. “They said ‘Coach, we were supposed to win that game’, which is the mindset that you want your basketball team to have.”

Arkansas will take on Texas Tech (17-9) in the Round of 32 at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sunday, March 21 at 5:10 p.m. The game will be televised on TNT.

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