DES MOINES, Iowa — Arkansas took down Illinois, 75-65, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon.
Arkansas used a 10-0 second half run and then held off a late Illinois run to advance to the second round to take on defending national champion and No. 1 seed Kansas on Saturday.
Illinois scored first but the Razorbacks answered with an 8-0 run, never surrendering the lead, and holding the lead for the final 37:15.
Arkansas’ first half defense was key in the win, holding the Illini to just 8-of-29 shooting (27.6%) to help build a 10-point lead at the break. Nine Illinois turnovers led to 13 Arkansas points with Anthony Black and Devo Davis each recording a pair of steals.
While the Hogs were shining on the defensive end, Ricky Council IV was making the difference at the free throw line. Council sank 5-of-6 from the charity stripe and scored 10 total points in the first half.
Illinois made two runs in the second half. Frist, the Illini used an 8-9 run to get to within nine (55-46) with 8:05 left. Later, Illinois trimmed the Arkansas lead to five (62-57) with 2:39 left. Council, however, iced the game himself, scoring the next six Arkansas points to put the game out of reach.
The Razorbacks’ free throw shooting in the second half sealed the game as the Hogs went 15-for-17 with Council going 6-of-6.
Council led Arkansas with 18 points, including 11-of-12 from the free throw line, to go with a team-high 10 rebounds for his first double-double as a Razorback and third for his career. Davis chipped in 16 points and Black 12. Jordan Walsh scored six points and had four rebounds with three steals but was an amazing +22.
Arkansas will face top seed and #4/5 Kansas in the second round on Saturday (Mar. 18). The time and TV station will be announced at a later time.
FIRST HALF: Arkansas 36, Illinois 26
• Illinois scored first but Arkansas answered with an 8-0 run and never surrendered the lead.
• Arkansas led by as many as 14 (34-20) with 3:19 left.
• Arkansas only has two assists but shot 42.4% from the field. The Razorbacks held Illinois to 27.6% shooting.
• Ricky Council IV had seven rebounds and Kamani Johnson five as Arkansas outrebounded the Illini, 26-16.
• Council, who was 5-of-6 at the line and hit the Hogs’ lone 3-pointer, led Arkansas with 10 points.
• Terrence Shannon Jr., led Illinois with eight points.
SECOND HALF: Arkansas 37, Illinois: 37
• Arkansas shot just 33.3% from the field in the second half, but was 15-of-17 at the line to seal the win.
• Makhi Mitchell had seven points and six rebounds in the second half.
• Davonte Davis, who only played 9:37 in the first half due to foul trouble. However, he played all 20 minutes of the second half and scored 10 points, making 2-of-4 from 3-point range.
• Illinois shot 52.7% from the field, but only made two more field goals than Arkansas (12 to 10).
• Arkansas’ starting lineup was Anthony Black – Nick Smith Jr. – Davonte Davis – Ricky Council IV – Kamani Jhnson for the second time. Arkansas used that lineup in the SEC Tournament win over Auburn.
• Illinois won the tip.
• Illinois’ Coleman Hawkins scored the first points of the game at 19:03. Davonte Davis scored the first points for Arkansas, a layup at 17:43.
• Makhi Mitchell was the first Razorback sub.
• This was the first time Arkansas had ever beaten Illinois. The Illini won the previous five meetings (1949, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004).
• Arkansas is 6-1 all-time versus current Big 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament.
• Arkansas is 49-34 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, including a 19-8 record in first round games.
• This is the first time since 1996, ’95 and ’94 that the Razorbacks have won three straight NCAA openers.
• Anthony Black had one steal, giving him 66 for the season, which is a program record by a Razorback freshman.
• Eric Musselman is 7-2 as head coach at Arkansas in the NCAA Tournament. Overall, he is 9-5 as a collegiate coach in the NCAA and is 24-12 in all postseason games (conference tourneys, CBI, NCAA).
• Ricky Council has made 155 free throws, three shy of the Arkansas single-season top 10.
• Arkansas had four blocked shots and have 177 from the season to rank 7th and five shy of #6.
Information from Arkansas Communications is included in this story.