Rapid Reaction: Arkansas survives scare from New Mexico State to advance to Sweet 16
Arkansas did not look great in Saturday’s Round of 32 matchup. In the end, the Razorbacks did enough to survive and advance past 12-seed New Mexico State.
Immediately out of the gate, both teams struggled to find their range. Over the first 8 minutes of the game, the two sides combined to score a total of 12 points. That stretch included a number of forced shots and ugly looks at the basket.
At the half, Arkansas had established a 9-point lead at 26-17. Unfortunately, the Aggies came storming back and made it uncomfortable for the Razorbacks the rest of the way.
A big reason for the closeness of the game was an out-of-sync offense for Arkansas, particularly evidenced by the play of JD Notae. Notae not only struggled to shoot the ball throughout the game but was also whistled for a number of uncharacteristic charge calls, including one with less than 1:30 to play that fouled him out of the game.
In the end, Arkansas was able to hit enough free throws to ice away a win at 53-48. The 53 points by the Razorbacks go down as the new low-point total for a winning team in this NCAA Tournament. (Ohio State and Illinois both have won with 54 points scored.)
Notae did lead all scorers with 18 points but was inefficient with a 5-for-18 shooting night. That was a common theme for the Razorbacks with the team shooting 27.5% from the floor. Jaylin Williams added a double-double with 10 points and 15 rebounds for Arkansas.
Fortunately for Arkansas, its defense was more than up to the task against the Aggies. Teddy Allen – fresh off a 37-point performance in New Mexico State’s Round of 64 win – was held to 12 points on 5-for-16 shooting. Johnny McCants led the Aggies with 16 points.
Now, Arkansas can sleep well in the Sweet 16 and await its next opponent. The Razorbacks will play the winner of 9-seed Memphis vs. 1-seed Gonzaga in the next round.