Devo Davis-led Hogs upset reigning National Champion Kansas, 72-71
By Otis Kirk
Arkansas is headed to the Sweet 16 following a 72-71 over No. 1-seed Kansas at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday.
The No. 8 seed Arkansas became the first team this season to trail Kansas at the half and then win. The Jayhawks were up 35-27 at intermission with the Razorbacks only leading once at 2-0. Eric Musselman has been telling people the Hogs are getting better following a slow ending to the season. On Saturday, they proved it.
“That’ s such an unbelievable win for our program,” Musselman said. “I keep telling people we’re getting better. Not many teams get better at this time of year. I’ve never been prouder of a team than tonight.”
However, Davonte “Devo” Davis and Ricky Council IV led a rally in the second half that saw the Hogs defeat the defending national champions. Davis led all scorers with 25 points, including 21 in the second half, and also chipped in eight rebounds. Davis was teary eyed after the hard-fought victory.
“Put in the work,” Davis said. “This team has struggled but we figured out. And I’m glad we did at the right time. I’m happy we had the team to do it.”
Musselman praised Davis for his performance that allows Arkansas to go to Las Vegas now.
“Devo was absolutely incredible,” Musselman said as Davis was nearby. “I feel like he’s my son.”
The Hogs were celebrating the win and Musselman talked about what topping Kansas meant.
“We’re celebrating back there because we have such incredible respect for Kansas, defending champions, MVP of their league in No. 10, Jalen Wilson,” Musselman said. “They are a hard, hard, hard team to prepare for. Didn’t play defense as well as we normally do but we wanted to create more pace in the second half and certainly did that scoring 45 points and then the clutch free throw shooting by Ricky, 10 of 11 in the game, the second-chance points was a big part of our win today.
“Kamani (Johnson), 6 offensive rebounds, 10 rebounds, and then the play of Devo Davis taking the ball to the basket and middle pick-and-roll, his defense all game and then once he fouled out we were able to, you know, win! The offensive rebound off the missed free throw was incredible.”
The Razorbacks went on an 11-0 run to take a 52-51 lead with 8:55 remaining in the game. It was a Jordan Walsh 3-pointer that put the Hogs on top by one.
The second half was much different than the first where the Jayhawks led basically the entire time. The lead changed hands and several ties in the last nine minutes of the game. It was Council who took over late to provide the Hogs with the win after Davis fouled out with 1:56 remaining in the game.
Council broke a 67-67 tie with 23.7 seconds remaining when he made a free throw. He missed the second, but got his own rebound. He went back up with the shot and was fouled again. This time, Council made both free throws giving Arkansas a 70-67 lead with 21 seconds remaining. Council talked about taking over after Davis fouled out.
“Yeah, Devo pretty much had the second half,” Council said. “I was on the first half and Devo had the second half, and I was in the corner ready to rebound if he missed and he wasn’t missing. And Coach, when he fouled out, looked at me and he wanted me to take the role that Devo had. I was just trying to make the right play and I think I only missed one shot out of that and Kamani got that rebound and put it back up. Other than that, I was getting fouled. I was just glad he had the confidence in me and we pulled through.”
Leading scorer for Kansas was Jalen Wilson with 20 points. He hit two free throws with eight seconds remaining to pull his team within one, 70-69. Kansas then fouled Council sending him back to the charity stripe with 7.1 ticks left on the clock. He made them both.
Wilson was fouled with three seconds remaining in the game. He made the first to pull the Jayhawks within two at 72-70. He tried to miss the second, but it banked into the basket to provide the final score. Arkansas inbounded the ball and the celebration started.
An area Arkansas has struggled much of the season is at the free throw line, but not on Saturday. Arkansas hit 21 of 26 (80.8 percent) compared to just 18 of 25 (72 percent) for Kansas. Arkansas also won the battle of the boards 36-29. Arkansas only hit 3 of 15 (20 percent) from distance and shot 41.4 percent from the field. Kansas countered with 5 of 13 (38.5 percent) from behind the 3-point line and 48 percent from the field.
Council finished with 21 points, six rebounds, four assists and a block. Walsh added 10 points, two rebounds and a pair of assists.
Arkansas will play the winner of Sunday’s Saint Mary’s and UConn game in Las Vegas later in the week.