NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT:

Motown meltdown: ‘Dogs send Hogs packing early

By: Bob Holt
Published: Saturday, March 17, 2018
Arkansas guard C.J. Jones walks off the court following a loss to Butler in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 16, 2018, in Detroit.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas guard C.J. Jones walks off the court following a loss to Butler in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, March 16, 2018, in Detroit.

DETROIT -- Business remained unfinished for the Arkansas Razorbacks in the NCAA Tournament.

"Unfinished business" was a theme for the Razorbacks this season -- especially the team's five seniors -- after losing to eventual national champion North Carolina in last year's NCAA Tournament second round.

Game Sketch

RECORDS Arkansas 23-12; Butler 21-13. STARS Butler senior forward Kelan Martin (27 points, 9 rebounds) and sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin (24 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists).

TURNING POINT Butler outscored Arkansas 9-2 the final 3:22 of the first half to take a 36-31 halftime lead after the Razorbacks had overcome a 19-point deficit to move ahead 29-27.

KEY STAT The Razorbacks shot 35.7 percent (20 of 56) from the field, including 4 of 18 on three-pointers.

Getting the program at least to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1996 was a driving force for guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon to withdraw their names from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville for their senior seasons.

But Butler wouldn't cooperate.

The Bulldogs ended Arkansas' run before it could get started as Butler knocked the Razorbacks out of the NCAA Tournament with a 79-62 victory Friday in the first round of the East Regional at Little Caesars Arena before an announced crowd of 20,163.

"I didn't want to end it like this," Macon said. "Not just me. I know nobody wanted to end it like this."

Barford sounded philosophical after the game.

"It's tough, but I mean, it's life," he said. "We have to keep moving forward.

"I love the game and all my teammates love the game, but we've got to wake up the next day and get on with our lives."

While the Razorbacks (23-12) contemplate what might have been, Butler (21-13) advanced to play Purdue on Sunday.

Senior forward Kelan Martin led the Bulldogs with 27 points, 9 rebounds and 1 assist. Butler sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin had 24 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists.

"Butler did good tonight by making tough shots, getting rebounds, getting key stops," said Barford, who led Arkansas with 15 points. "They just made plays down the stretch that hurt us a lot."

Butler led the game for 38:11, but the Bulldogs didn't put the Razorbacks away until the final 10 minutes -- a time that usually belongs to Arkansas.

Arkansas had cut a 53-40 deficit with 12:29 to play to 53-47 at the 10:17 mark on a jump shot by senior forward Trey Thompson.

Butler then failed to score on three consecutive possessions as Baldwin and Martin had turnovers and Martin missed a three-point attempt.

But instead of the Razorbacks cutting further into the lead, C.J. Jones and Barford missed shots and Darious Hall had a turnover.

"We had three straight stops and didn't capitalize on them," Thompson said. "Against a good team when you're down and trying to get back on top, you've got to make those plays."

The Razorbacks couldn't get closer than six points the rest of the game and the Bulldogs pushed their lead to an insurmountable 73-59 with 2:01 left on Baldwin's layup.

"Give them credit," Arkansas Coach Mike Anderson said. "I thought they were the more physical team -- and it showed in rebounding the basketball."

Butler outrebounded Arkansas 45-25 and outscored the Razorbacks 34-22 on points in the paint.

"I just thought we weren't in attack mode," Anderson said. "I didn't think we finished strong around the basket.

"I think they pushed us around a little bit. That's what you get in the tournament -- they let you play."

The Bulldogs shot 49.2 percent (29 of 59) and hit 11 of 26 three-pointers, including 5 of 11 by Martin.

Arkansas shot 35.7 percent (20 of 56) and was 4 of 18 on three-pointers.

It was the fewest made three-pointers by the Razorbacks this season -- they were 3 of 8 in a 94-86 loss at LSU -- and the 22.2 percent from beyond the arc matched their low in a 75-54 loss to LSU at home when they also shot 4 of 18.

The Razorbacks came into Friday's game shooting 40.1 percent on three-pointers for the season.

"That was a heavy discussion point through the week," Butler Coach LaVall Jordan said. "We had to get them off the three-point line.

"They do a good job in their motion offense, setting screens, but I thought our guys did a good job chasing them. We were good off the ball, which was a big emphasis."

Barford -- a 43.6 percent three-point shooter on the season -- was 2 of 6. Macon -- a 42.9 percent three-pointer shooter -- was 1 of 6.

"Today was one of those days where it just wasn't falling, and we just didn't adjust to it," said Macon, who scored 12 points. "They made shots -- made tough shots -- and we just didn't execute on either end of the floor.

"So these were the results of it."

Arkansas 6-11 freshman Daniel Gafford struggled throughout the game and finished with 7 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocked shots.

The first half featured big runs by both teams.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 21-2 lead on Martin's three-point basket with 13:42 left in the first half as the Razorbacks started 1 of 11 from the field and Butler 8 of 11.

Anderson called two timeouts by the 13:39 mark of the half trying to slow down Butler's scoring barrage.

"That first game, you never know how they're going to come out," Anderson said. "I thought we came out on our heels."

The Razorbacks heated up and the Bulldogs cooled off.

Arkansas outscored Butler 27-6 over a 9:42 span to take a 29-27 lead with 3:48 left in the half on Jones' three-point basket.

But the Bulldogs regrouped and took a 36-31 halftime lead that they held throughout the final 20 minutes.

"I didn't expect to beat them by 20," Jordan said. "They've got firepower and some offensive weapons that can get you back in the game.

"I thought our guys just had a really good response when they came back to the huddle. It was about the next play, so mentally that help us keep a poise about us even when they made that big run."

Macon, who scored eight points in the run to help Arkansas take its only lead of the game, said the rally took a physical toll.

"When you dig yourself a hole like that -- you're down 19 against a great team -- it takes a lot of energy out of you coming back," Macon said. "I don't think they exerted as much energy as we did.

"The second half those last seven or eight minutes, they took off."

One and done: Arkansas’ opening losses in the NCAA Tournament

2018 Butler, 79-62

2007 Southern Cal, 77-60

2006 Bucknell, 59-55

2001 Georgetown, 63-61

2000 Miami, 75-71

1988 Villanova, 82-74

1984 Virginia, 53-51 (OT)

1982 Kansas State, 65-64

1980 Kansas State, 71-53

1977 Wake Forest, 86-80

1949 Oregon State, 56-38

Arkansas is 19-11 in NCAA openers.

Sports on 03/17/2018

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