Arkansas beats No. 1 Gonzaga, advances to Elite Eight

Arkansas forward Jaylin Williams celebrates a play during an NCAA Tournament game against Gonzaga on Thursday, March 24, 2022, in San Francisco.

Arkansas defeated college basketball’s top-ranked team again Thursday night. 

This time it sent the Razorbacks to within one game of the Final Four. 

Arkansas won in the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season with a 74-68 victory over No. 1 Gonzaga at Chase Center in San Francisco. 

The Razorbacks (28-8) will play Duke (31-6) in the final game of the NCAA West Region on Saturday, and the winner will advance to the Final Four in New Orleans. 

The Blue Devils, the No. 2 seed in the West Region, defeated Texas Tech 78-73 in the late game Thursday at Chase Center. It will be the first time Arkansas has played Duke since the 1994 NCAA Tournament championship game.

JD Notae scored a team-high 21 points and Jaylin Williams was solid on both ends with 15 points and 12 rebounds to lead Arkansas (28-8). The Razorbacks beat a team ranked No. 1 by The Associated Press for the second time in 45 days. 

"We're not always cosmetically pleasing, offensively," Arkansas coach Eric Musselman told CBS, "but we win." 

Arkansas defeated then-No. 1 Auburn on 80-76 in overtime on Feb. 8 in Fayetteville. Prior to the Auburn game, the Razorbacks had not beaten a No. 1 team since 1984 when they upset top-ranked North Carolina 65-64 in Pine Bluff. Arkansas improved to 3-11 all-time against AP No. 1 teams. 

The Razorbacks won a game against a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since the tournament adopted its current seeding format in 1979. Arkansas was previously 0-10 against top-seeded teams, including a season-ending 81-72 loss to Baylor in the Elite Eight last season in Indianapolis. 

"We believed; nobody else did," Musselman said. "We read everything, I'm telling you. We put it up on our screen every single meal. Thank you to everybody who said we had no chance." 

Gonzaga (28-4) led for most of the first half and by as many as eight points. The Razorbacks closed the first half on a 13-2 run to take a 32-29 lead at halftime. 

Notae drove the length of the floor for a layup as time expired in the first half. Arkansas gained possession with six seconds remaining when Williams drew his second charge.

The Razorbacks trailed only briefly after halftime. Trey Wade’s three-pointer with 16:35 remaining gave Arkansas the lead for good. Wade, who had scored 2 points combined in the previous 3 games, scored 15 points in 34 minutes — his most points since a season-high 17 during a Jan. 12 game against Missouri. 

Wade’s three-pointer with 2:08 remaining put the Razorbacks ahead 66-58. He made 6 of 10 shots, including 3 of 4 from beyond the arc. 

Gonzaga (28-4) cut the deficit to 66-62 on Andrew Nembhard’s two free throws with 1:27 remaining. After Williams missed the front end of a one-and-one on the ensuing possession, the Zags’ 6-10 All-American Drew Timme missed a shot underneath the basket with 22 seconds to play. 

Williams made two free throws on the other end to put the Razorbacks ahead 68-62. Arkansas, which leads the NCAA, finished 9 of 14 at the line. 

Nembhard’s off-balanced three-pointer with 16.5 seconds remaining pulled the Bulldogs to within 68-65. Chris Lykes made two free throws with 15.8 seconds remaining in a one-and-one situation.

Au'Diese Toney blocked Nembhard’s layup attempt with less than 10 seconds remaining, leading to two free throws for Davonte Davis that put Arkansas ahead 72-65. Nembhard made three free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining before Toney broke away with a dunk at the end of the game.

"We kept believing in ourselves," Williams told CBS. "We saw what everybody else was saying and we kept believing in ourselves from the jump and we just fighting and kept fighting, and we did our thing tonight."

Gonzaga lost one of its two AP All-Americans, freshman 7-footer Chet Holmgren, when he picked up his fifth foul with 3:29 remaining. Holmgren scored all 11 of his points after halftime and had 14 rebounds. 

Timme scored a game-high 25 points for Gonzaga, the national runner-up last season and No. 1 overall seed this year. The Bulldogs became the second No. 1 seed in the tournament to be eliminated. Defending national champion Baylor was eliminated in the second round. 

Arkansas is in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the 11th time. The Razorbacks are looking to advance to their seventh Final Four and first since 1995.