Kansas’ national title defense ended in the second round of 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 not to escape the tournament’s first weekend after Purdue lost on Friday night to No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson.
Arkansas (22-13) and coach Eric Musselman return to the Sweet 16 for the third straight year. The Razorbacks will play UConn in the West Region semifinals in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Musselman and his players rushed to a section of fans sitting courtside after the final buzzer. Musselman ripped his polo shirt off, waved it over his head and shouted with joy.
Self has been with the Jayhawks (28-8) since they arrived in Des Moines and has attended practices and meetings, but he still doesn’t feel well enough to coach 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, was ahead 35-27 at halftime and lost for the first time in 27 games when entering the second half with a lead. Kansas had been 47-0 in the NCAA Tournament when leading by eight points or more at the half.
Davis scored 21 of his points in the second half. He fouled out with 1:56 left, turning things over to the veteran Council, a transfer from Wichita State who scored nine of the Razorbacks’ final 11 points.
Council’s free throw put Arkansas ahead to stay, 68-67, with 24 seconds left. He then rebounded his own miss of 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 tying 3-pointer. Wilson made the first free throw and appeared to try to miss the second intentionally, but it banked hard off the glass and in, and Kansas never regained possession.
Arkansas was playing a No. 1 seed for the third straight year. Last year, the Razorbacks knocked out Gonzaga on the way to their second straight Elite Eight.