Beyond the Box: Dominant UConn ends Arkansas’ tournament run
It’s officially the offseason for the Arkansas Razorbacks basketball team after the UConn Huskies ended their magical tournament run in the Sweet 16 with a dominant 88-65 win.
Arkansas was very much overmatched from the start as the Huskies didn’t trail a single time in Thursday night’s contest and led by as much as 29 points in the second half.
The Huskies were led by Jordan Hawkins’ 24 points and Adama Sanogo’s 18 points and 8 rebounds. The Razorbacks were led by Anthony Black’s 20 points, 4 rebounds and 5 steals while Ricky Council added 17 points of his own.
Despite the tough loss, Arkansas basketball capped off a tumultuous season with a tournament run that many didn’t see coming. For that reason, this season could be considered a success.
As for Thursday’s game, it was decided in a few areas that were predictably going to be factors in the outcome. Let’s take a closer look and examine what UConn did to end Arkansas’ season in Las Vegas.
UConn's first half "kill shot"
(Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie – USA TODAY Sports)
Arkansas was hanging on early in the first half. Even though UConn was making it look easy on both ends, the Razorbacks were doing what they always do. Scrap and claw to stay in the game.
[autotag]Jordan Walsh[/autotag] was able to bank in a runner to cut the Huskies’ lead to 20-17 with 12 minutes to go before halftime. That would be the closest Arkansas would get for the rest of the night. Over the next five minutes of game time, UConn would go on a 14-0 run and deliver the first knock-out blow to the Razorbacks’ chances.
That is what’s known as a “kill shot.”
A “kill shot” is when a team goes on a 10-0 run or larger in a game, coined by college basketball analytics expert Evan Miyakawa. Over the course of the college basketball season, UConn was No. 20 in the country in the amount of those runs that they went on. In 81% of games this season, the team that has the most scoring runs won the game and this was an example of that.
UConn delivered a “kill shot” early to create separation that Arkansas could never overcome. That was a huge moment that helped decide this one.
Arkansas' defense struggled mightily
(Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie – USA TODAY Sports)
One of the main storylines entering Thursday’s game was how Arkansas was going to slow down UConn’s big man Adama Sanogo and, in general, the Huskies’ attack inside.
Arkansas really struggled from the onset to successfully defend UConn inside. [autotag]Kamani Johnson[/autotag] had moments where he was able to stop Sanogo’s first or second move, but the cutting from Husky perimeter players and their passing in the paint was good enough to keep the Razorbacks one step behind.
UConn outscored Arkansas 24-12 in the paint in the first half and 42-24 in the paint overall. They also out-rebounded the Razorbacks 22-9 in the first half, 43-31 for the total game. The Razorbacks’ lack of paint control really helped UConn open things up on their offense and their perimeter players, primarily Jordan Hawkins, took full advantage.
The Huskies were able to shoot 31-54 (57.4%) from the floor and 9-20 (45.0%) from three. A lot of that was due to the Hogs struggling to rotate and close out on UConn’s shooters. They gave up way too many good looks both inside and out and that was too much to overcome.
Arkansas ran into a well-oiled machine, a buzzsaw, in UConn and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the Razorbacks may have lost to the eventual national champions.
Arkansas' offense never got going
(Photo by Joe Camporeale – USA TODAY Sports)
[autotag]Devo Davis[/autotag] and [autotag]Ricky Council[/autotag] were Arkansas’ heroes in the first two tournament games, but Davis never found a rhythm. He finished with just 3 points on 1-10 shooting. That was a theme for most of the team throughout the game. Council was able to settle into a groove in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to make a difference
[autotag]Anthony Black[/autotag] and [autotag]Nick Smith Jr.[/autotag] struggled to produce on the offensive end of the floor in the first two games, but had decent outings against UConn. Black led the team with 20 points and Smith added 11.
The Razorbacks’ biggest issue was not getting into the paint and settling for outside jump shots. A lot of that is due to UConn’s stifling defense and intimidating size inside, but it was a theme in a lot of the Razorbacks’ losses this season. They have a lot of success when they’re able to get to rim and either get easy baskets or draw fouls. That just wasn’t happening on Thursday.
Too many contested, low-percentage jumpers combined with UConn’s elite rebounding led to a lot of empty possessions that were deflating at times when the Huskies were extending their lead.
UConn is well-rounded of a basketball team that Arkansas has seen this season, and they’re great at exposing their opponent’s flaws. That’s what they did to the Hogs on Thursday night. They forced Arkansas out of their comfort zone offensively with their size and discipline and it made the Hogs force a lot of things that they didn’t need to. Whether it was forcing bad passes, bad shots or both.
It was disappointing, sure, but it’s hard to hang your head too much after losing to one of the best teams left in the tournament.