Arkansas was down by 12 points five minutes into the second half Saturday and was on the verge of being on the wrong side of a historic upset. But much like its previous two men’s NCAA Tournament games, the Razorbacks stormed back for a 72-70 victory to advance to the Elite Eight.
Devonte Davis made a game-winning basket with three seconds left to secure the victory in the Sweet 16 at Indianapolis, while dispatching the tournament’s Cinderella that was trying to become the first No. 15 seed to advance to the Elite Eight.
Instead, Arkansas punched its ticket, making the Elite Eight for the first time since 1995. Oral Roberts star Max Abmas (25 points), the leading scorer in the country, missed a potential game-winning three-pointer as time expired.
“Nothing I would have done different,” Abmas said of the final shot. I guess shoot it up a little bit more. When it left my hands, it felt good, and it ended up coming up short. We didn’t get the job done. …Nobody thought we would be here, so just to see everything we accomplished, it’s something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”
Jalen Tate (22 points) was the hero for Arkansas down the stretch, helping the team take the lead for the first time in the second half off a bucket with minutes remaining and then making scoring six key points in the final few minutes. The Razorbacks fed off offensive rebounds for second-chance points, while out-rebounding Oral Roberts 46-35. Davis added 14 points, while Moses Moody contributed 14.
Arkansas (25-6), the No. 3 seed from the SEC, trailed by seven at halftime but kept its cool, having come back from a big first-half deficit vs. Colgate in the first round and barely escaping Texas Tech in the second round. The program is back in the Elite Eight for the first time since Nolan Richardson’s heyday, drawing South Regional No. 1 seed Baylor on Monday.
Oral Roberts was much closer in this game than during a Dec. 20 meeting between the teams when the Razorbacks won by 11. The Golden Eagles (18-11) were trying to shed the narrative that they were just a two-man team behind Abmas and Kevin Obanor (58 points in first two games). For a while, that was happening. Role players Carlos Jurgens had 13 points and Francis Lacis had 11 points and six rebounds. But both players had four fouls and Oral Roberts got no points from its bench.
Follow college basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson.