Like It Is:

Razorbacks really no match for Bulldogs

By: Wally Hall
Published: Saturday, March 17, 2018
Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford goes up for a shot during a NCAA Tournament game against Butler on Friday, March 16, 2018, in Detroit.
Photo by Ben Goff
Arkansas guard Jaylen Barford goes up for a shot during a NCAA Tournament game against Butler on Friday, March 16, 2018, in Detroit.

DETROIT -- It is tough to lose in the NCAA Tournament. One minute you are part of the national stage and everyone knows your name.

Then you are one and done and most don't remember your game.

Yesterday, fittingly on truTV, the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville had a chance to be part of the triumphant march the Southeastern Conference was making in March Madness.

The SEC was 5-0 when the No. 7 seeded Razorbacks took the court to play No. 10 seed Butler, but someone forgot to tell the Bulldogs they were playing a SEC team with a better seeding.

They dominated the Hogs who started and ended like they were stuck in sand with no low gear.

The Bulldogs jumped to a 21-2 lead, held off a surge by the Razorbacks that was led by an active Darious Hall that cut the lead to 36-31 at the half, only to be outscored in the final 20 minutes 43-31.

Arkansas' vaunted defense -- and Mike Anderson abandoned the man-to-man plan early and went with a match-up zone that slowed Butler -- had few answers for senior Kelan Martin or sophomore Kamar Baldwin.

At his Thursday news conference Anderson stressed how important those two players were to Butler. It seemed like only the media was listening.

Martin logged 39 minutes and didn't seem to break a sweat as he scored 27 points and grabbed 9 boards. He hit five three pointers, one more than the Razorbacks. Baldwin, who is 6-1, went 36 minutes, scored 24 points and also had 9 rebounds. He also had five assists.

They were easily the best players on the court yesterday, and even though the Razorbacks forced 14 turnovers, they only got nine points off mistakes. Time after time when it seemed a trap had been sprung, the ball would go to Martin and he made all the right moves.

It simply appeared Butler wanted it more.

They got nine more field goals, including seven more threes, and had 45 rebounds to Arkansas 25'. The Bulldogs played like there was no tomorrow, and for the Hogs that is the stark reality.

Butler had T-shirts that said: "Not Pretty, Just Gritty." That was half true, they were gritty. Their offense and defense was pretty.

With 6:44 to play Daryl Macon made two free throws to cut it to 61-53 and then they appeared ready to make their move. The defense tightened and had Martin cornered on the sideline. With six seconds on the shot clock he had to grab a timeout.

After the timeout it took the Bulldogs three seconds to score -- a Baldwin three.

Desire and determination wore Butler Blue. From that point on the Hogs managed only two field goals.

As the Razorbacks came off the floor they seemed stunned and deeply disappointed. Their heads were up, but their eyes were glassy.

Six seniors and most likely one freshman, Daniel Gafford, had just played their final game as Razorbacks. It was a season with highs and lows but it wasn't supposed to end in Detroit. Maybe Boston, the East Region site for the Sweet 16, or even San Antonio, but not here. Not yesterday.

It would have been an ambush but Butler was the better basketball team because of effort. They were more athletic than expected and they fought harder on defense than offense.

The Bulldogs were unselfish, undaunted and came to survive and advance.

No excuses.

For most of 40 minutes Butler was the engine driving the train and tomorrow they take the court again, this time against Purdue.

By then, the Razorbacks will be home, like 35 other teams, a season finished sooner than expected.

Sports on 03/17/2018

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