Field Level Media
Mar 24, 2022
Arkansas heard over and over that it had no chance to beat top-seeded Gonzaga, the favorite to win the NCAA Tournament.
But on Thursday night, the best team on the floor was the Razorbacks, who demolished March Madness brackets throughout the country by delivering a 74-68 upset of the Bulldogs in the West Region Sweet 16 in San Francisco.
"We believed. Nobody else did," Arkansas coach Eric Musselman told CBS. "We read everything; I'm telling you, we put it up on our screen. Thank you to everybody who said we had no chance."
Third-team All-American JD Notae played a big role by recording 21 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals as the fourth-seeded Razorbacks beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tourney for the first time in 11 attempts.
Jaylin Williams added 15 points and 12 rebounds and Trey Wade had 15 points and seven rebounds as the Razorbacks (28-8) advanced to the Elite Eight for the second straight season. Arkansas will face second-seeded Duke in Saturday's regional final; Duke beat third-seeded Texas Tech 78-73 on Thursday.
Drew Timme registered 25 points and seven rebounds and Julian Strawther had 12 points for the Bulldogs (28-4), who played in the Sweet 16 for the seventh straight NCAA Tournament.
Chet Holmgren contributed 11 points and 14 rebounds before fouling out with 3:29 left. All of Holmgren's points came during the second half.
The outcome was a huge disappointment for the Zags, who were hoping to reach the national championship game for the third time in the past five NCAA Tournaments.
"We're not used to losing in this round," Gonzaga coach Mark Few told CBS. "I think we're a little bit in shock."
The Bulldogs trailed by nine in the second half but pulled within 66-62 on Andrew Nembhard's two free throws with 1:27 remaining.
Gonzaga didn't score again until Nembhard made a 3-pointer to cut Arkansas' lead to 68-65 with 16.5 seconds left. But Chris Lykes made two free throws with 15.8 seconds to play and Davonte Davis added two with 8.1 seconds left as the Razorbacks took a seven-point edge en route to closing it out.
Arkansas' Au'Diese Toney blocked two shots in the final 23 seconds to help preserve the lead.
Gonzaga shot just 37.5 percent, including 5 of 21 from 3-point range. The Bulldogs committed 15 turnovers to the Razorbacks' eight.
"Arkansas deserves a lot of credit," Few said. "That defense is real, and we just could never really generate any good consistent rhythm against it."
The Razorbacks connected on 40.3 percent of their shots and were 7 of 25 from behind the arc. But their energy and motivation overcame their long-range misfirings.
"It's crazy. We kept believing in ourselves," Williams said. "We came into this game, we saw what everybody else said and we believed from the jump. And we just kept fighting and kept fighting, and we did our thing."
Notae knocked down a 3-pointer to give the Razorbacks a 43-38 advantage with 14:33 left in the game.
Holmgren scored back-to-back baskets to pull Gonzaga within one before Arkansas scored six of the next seven points to take a 49-43 lead with 10:15 left.
Holmgren picked up his fourth foul with 8:36 left; Toney converted a three-point play to again give the Razorbacks a six-point lead. Williams followed with a hoop 43 seconds later to boost the Arkansas lead to 54-46.
Holmgren returned to the game with 6:46 left and the Bulldogs down six. Eight seconds later, Notae drained a 3-pointer to give the Razorbacks a 59-50 lead.
Holmgren fouled out three-plus minutes later while contesting Notae, who split the two free throws to give Arkansas a 63-56 lead.
A short time later, Wade drilled a corner 3-pointer to give the Razorbacks a 66-58 advantage with 2:08 to play. That hill proved too much for Gonzaga to climb.
Notae scored 10 first-half points as the Razorbacks led 32-29 at the break.
--Field Level Media