Arkansas eliminates defending champion Kansas from March Madness

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Kansas’ national title defense ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday when Arkansas’ Ricky Council IV made five free throws in the closing seconds and the eighth-seeded Razorbacks beat the No. 1 seed Jayhawks 72-71 .

Davonte Davis scored 25 points and Council added 21 as Arkansas rallied from a 12-point second-half deficit. Kansas, playing without ailing coach Bill Self, became the second top seed to miss the tournament’s first weekend after Purdue lost Friday night to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson.

Arkansas (22-13) and coach Eric Musselman return to the Sweet 16 for the third consecutive year. The Razorbacks will play either Saint Mary’s or UConn in the West Region semifinals in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Musselman and his players rushed to a second of the fans sitting on the court after the final buzzer. Musselman tore off his polo shirt, waved it over his head and shouted with joy.

Self has been with the Jayhawks (28-8) since arriving in Des Moines and has attended practices and meetings, but he still doesn’t feel well enough to practice in a game after having a heart procedure March 8 to clear clogged arteries .

Longtime assistant Norm Roberts was acting coach for a fifth straight game in Self’s absence.

Kansas, bidding to become the first repeat national champion since Florida in 2006-07, led 35-27 at halftime and lost for the first time in 27 games when it entered the second half with a lead. Kansas had been 47-0 in the NCAA Tournament when he led by eight points or more at the half.

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Davis scored 21 of his points in the second half. He fouled out with 1:56 left, handing things over to the veteran councilman, a transfer from Wichita State who scored nine of the Razorbacks’ final 11 points.

Council’s free throws put Arkansas within reach, 68-67, with 24 seconds left. He then rebounded his own miss from the second free throw and made two more to give the Razorbacks a three-point lead.

The teams traded free throws, and Arkansas sent the Jayhawks’ Jalen Wilson to the line with 3 seconds left to prevent a potential game-tying 3-pointer. Wilson made the first free throw and appeared to try to miss the second on purpose, but it bounced hard off the glass and in, and Kansas never regained possession.

Arkansas played a No. 1 seed for the third year in a row. Last year, the Razorbacks knocked off Gonzaga en route to their second straight Elite Eight.


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