DES MOINES, Iowa – Ricky Council IV scored 18 points and Arkansas survived some anxious moments in the second half against an Illinois team that wouldn’t go away, holding on to beat the Illini 73-63 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday.
Devo Davis had 16 points for the eighth-seeded Razorbacks, who used relentless defense and rebounding to build big leads but couldn’t get comfortable until the final minute. Arkansas (21-13) faces top-seeded Kansas on Saturday in the second round of the West Region.
Terrence Shannon Jr., held scoreless the first 16 minutes, finished with 20 points to lead the Illini (20-13). It was the first time in five tournament appearances since 2011 that Illinois didn’t make it out of the first round.
The Razorbacks were up by double digits in the middle of the first half, but no lead has been safe this season. In seven games they blew leads with scoring droughts of five minutes or longer.
That didn’t happen this time, though it looked like it could when Arkansas failed to land what could have been the knockout punch with 2 1/2 minutes to play. Anthony Black intercepted Coleman Hawkins’ cross-court pass and Council missed the fast-break dunk when he would have been better served to lay it in. The blown play left Arkansas coach Eric Musselman flailing his arms and screaming.
“We were in this position many times before,” Council said. “We would be up 10, up 12 at halftime, and it starts dwindling down and the other team takes the lead. So just keep that mindset we got to win the game. We all wanted to win, and just keeping our foot on the gas and not giving up. Coach gave us positive energy and we gave positive energy to each other, so we just didn’t let up. We ended up extending the lead.”
Council atoned for his missed dunk with a layup to end a 4-minute, 13-second scoring drought, and his two free throws with 1:18 left put the Razorbacks up 68-57.
“We were able to survive their run in the second half, and obviously 22…
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Author : NBC Sports
Publish date : 2023-03-17 02:34:27
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