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SAN FRANCISCO — “We are going there to win!”
Those were the words of Coach Eric Musselman addressing his team a day before their trip to San Francisco for a Sweet-16 matchup with the Gonzaga Bulldogs.
“I’m not freaking going out there thinking, ‘hey we’re playing the number one seed we’ll just see how it goes.’”
Muss demanded that his team be in a winning mindset. He knew if Arkansas was going to upset the #1 overall seed in the tournament, everyone had to believe it.
“I don’t want you getting on this plane tomorrow if you don’t think in every fiber [of] your body that we’re going to win this game,” Musselman stated.
His team took those words to heart and played like bats out of hell.
The Razorbacks brought the fight to the Zags from the opening tip.
Offensively, they attacked the Bulldogs’ formidable frontcourt of Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren while playing like junkyard dogs on the defensive end.
This Razorback team played with pride.
Toughness. Grit. Determination.
Nothing was stopping this wild band of razorback hogs.
The valiant effort displayed by Arkansas propelled them to a 74-68 victory over the one-seeded Bulldogs, clinching their second straight trip to the Elite Eight.
The Razorbacks stayed true to their winning formula of Jaylin Williams recording a double-double (15 points, 12 rebounds) and J.D. Notae scoring twenty-plus points. Notae ended the night scoring 21.
Arkansas ended the first half on a 13-2 run capped off by a buzzer-beating lay-up from Notae giving the Hogs a 32-29 halftime lead.
The bright spot for Arkansas was Witchita State grad-transfer Trey Wade, who scored 15 points (including three 3-pointers) and grabbed 7 rebounds.
Au’Diese Toney had a game-high 4 offensive rebounds, which all seemed to come at crucial moments. He also recorded a block late in the game that prevented Gonzaga from cutting the lead to one possession.
The Razorbacks deployed a six-man rotation for most of the night, but Chris Lykes came off the bench and made two clutch free throws with 15-seconds left to play.
Arkansas was flat out the grittier team and were plus-12 in the extra-possession battle.
“Thank you to everybody who said we have no chance,” Musselman shouted in his post-game interview. “We’re not always cosmetically pleasing offensively, but we win!”
The Razorbacks now await the result of the Duke/Texas Tech game airing on CBS. They will play the winner Saturday night in the Elite Eight.
Hog fans will either get a rematch of last year’s Round-of-32 game against Tech or a matchup against the Coach K Farewell Tour.
All I know is I won’t be betting against Arkansas.
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