What we learned from Arkansas' 72-65 loss to North Carolina

By: Dudley E. Dawson
Published: Sunday, March 19, 2017
Arkansas' Daryl Macon, right, shoots over North Carolina's Theo Pinson, left, during the first half in a second-round game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Greenville, S.C., Sunday, March 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Photo by Associated Press
Arkansas' Daryl Macon, right, shoots over North Carolina's Theo Pinson, left, during the first half in a second-round game of the NCAA men's college basketball tournament in Greenville, S.C., Sunday, March 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

That Daryl Macon was the star of the game for Arkansas and was truly ready for his close up.

— Macon stuggled out of the gate in the NCAA Tournament with only 7 points on 1of-7 shooting from the field in Arkansas’ 77-71 win over Seton Hall on Friday.

But he was ready to go off the bench on Sunday and finished with a game-high 19 points while shooting 6-of-8 from the field, 3-of-5 from 3-point range and 4-4 from the free throw line.

He was a key cog in getting Arkansas up 65-60 with 3:28, but had to leave the game at that point with cramping in his legs.

“It happens,” Macon said. “I don't know how I started cramping. It just happened. I wish I was out there helping my team win. It hurts losing like this, but it is what it is.”

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson knows the cramping came because of the all-out effort that Macon was putting forward.

“He played hard,” Anderson said. “That's why. He played hard. He left his heart out on the floor. I think that's what causes cramping. We saw a lot of our guys, they left it out on the floor.”

North Carolina’s Kennedy Meeks was impressed with Macon.

“I think he did a great job getting his shot off,” Meeks said. “I know he drew a couple fouls from the 3- point line, and kind of got him going. And Coach mentioned he had scored like 10 points in three and a half minutes or something like that.

“So he was definitely one of the guys we wanted to contain the best way we could. And when he got out of the game I think they kind of didn't have that 3-point threat, I guess, you could say. Because he does great creating the shot like that.

“So I think together for us as Carolina, we came together at the end of the game, and we really did a great job of getting stops.”

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams noticed that Macon - who had a four-point play in the game - was not in during his team’s late comeback.

“The guys said it well,” Williams said. “He was hurting us. He made ten points in three possessions. He made the 3 right in front of me. He got fouled because we didn't get him picked up. We had a mistake on the match-ups. Then Kennedy fouled him and he made three. And then Kennedy didn't get up to him and he made three. So he scored ten points on three possessions.

“So we talked at halftime, he had 12 points but we gave 10 of them on three possessions. We needed to get up to him, and you can't allow somebody to jump up and shoot it in your face. And you can't foul if a guy is shooting a 3-point shot.

“I noticed he was out at that point. I didn't know he was cramping up or anything like that. But I think that — early I think he made two or three baskets, the first four or five minutes of the second half, too. So late he didn't make much. And that was probably because of his legs.”

That it was something - a charge, a block, a travel.

When Joel Berry rammed into the lane, he barreled into a Razorback defender, then ran a few steps with the ball before tossing it up off the board for Meeks to put in and give the Tar Heels a 68-65 lead.

“Yeah, it was a horrible shot on my part, but I just tried my best to get it up on the backboard and just so happened Kennedy was there to make up for it, so I've got to thank him for that,” Berry said.

Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson was clear on what he thought happened.

“I thought he ran over one of our guys,” Anderson said. “If he didn't, he traveled.”

That Dusty Hannahs and his teammates have nothing to apologize for after this loss and this season and neither does the SEC.

Hannahs tweeted the following after the end of the Arkansas-North Carolina game:

“I’m sorry. I gave y'all every single ounce I had left in my body. Thanks for having me Razorback Nation #wps

Arkansas was left for dead at 17-7 after three losses in four games, including one to basement dweller Missouri.

But they would finish the season by winning 9 of their last 12 games and earned a great deal of respect in doing so.

“We had North Carolina on their heels for the most part,” Anderson said. “But they did what an experienced team do: They made the plays going down the stretch.

“When you look at our team, we did some of the things that an inexperienced team does in this format. Because you've got to remember, this is a one-and- done. It's over with. It's different pressure than the SEC Tournament or a regular season game.

“But these guys here, I'll tell you what, they're a special group. I think the Razorback Nation, and even the nation got a chance to see them. Because a lot of people didn't even think we had a chance to come here.

“But I beg to differ. I know my guys. I know me. I like to win. So I'm proud of them for coming out and really just leaving it all on the floor. It was an up-and-down game. But we just came up a little short.”

The SEC is now 7-2 in its NCAA Tournament games with three teams - Kentucky, South Carolina and Florida combining to go 6-0, Arkansas 1-1 and Vanderbilt being the only first-round loser.

The league split games with the ACC on Sunday with North Carolina edging Arkansas and South Carolina upsetting Duke.

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