At one point Sunday night, Arkansas, the No. 8 seed in the East Region, seemed destined to upset No. 1 seed North Carolina.
The crowd on its side, the Razorbacks fought back from a 17-point deficit in the first half. And there, with just 3:28 remaining, they seized their largest lead of the game at 65-60 on a layup by Jaylen Barford.
That, however, marked the last field goal for Arkansas. And in the wake of a season-ending 72-65 loss, the Razorbacks’ locker room was filled with thoughts about what could have been.
“We came to dance,” coach Mike Anderson said. “But we didn’t come to do the one-step.”
Arkansas seemed in control for most of, if not all of, the second half of Sunday's second round of the NCAA Tournament. But when UNC’s defense buckled down late, the Razorbacks’ offense didn’t seem to handle the pressure.
“When it’s that close of a game and you’re up, the only thing you can do is stay poised and try to milk the lead,” said freshman forward Adrio Bailey. “I guess they pressured us a little bit more than we could handle.”
Sitting in the locker room, redshirt senior guard Dusty Hannahs held back tears. The game marked the last one of his career, and he finished it with six turnovers, the last one coming on Arkansas’ final possession.
“I’m just really disappointed. Just a bad time for me to turn the ball over like that,” said Hannahs. “There were a couple of times where maybe I got bumped that they might call something, but that’s how the game goes sometimes. That’s no excuse. I just picked a really bad day to play my worst game of the season.”
▪ Charlotte Hornets forward Marvin Williams, a member of UNC’s 2005 national championship team, attended Sunday’s game. After beating the Washington Wizards on Saturday night, the Hornets were off Sunday. They host the Atlanta Hawks at 7 p.m. Monday night.
▪ Arkansas had the fewest fans in attendance for Sunday’s games, but the ones who were there made their presences known from the opening tip. The cheers for the Razorbacks grew even louder once the Duke and South Carolina fans started filing into the arena. “We were having fun,” said Hannahs about the crowd. “It hurts now, but it was fun while it lasted.”
▪ At the final media timeout, the North Carolina and Arkansas cheerleaders held a contest to see who could their respective cheerleaders up the longest. The Razorbacks won, and they received a raucous applause.
▪ Needing just one 3-pointer to pass Shammond Williams for the most made by a UNC player in a single season, junior forward Justin Jackson knocked down his first attempt just 58 seconds in. Jackson made two more 3-pointers, giving him 98 for the season.
▪ Kennedy Meeks hauled in two crucial rebounds, including one offensive, in the final 44 seconds of the game. The last one marked the 1,000th of his career. He’s the ninth player in school history to reach that total. Brad Daugherty ranks ahead of Meeks with 1,003 rebounds.