INDIANAPOLIS — Justin Smith had 20 points and played a key role in a final-play defensive stop, helping Arkansas beat Texas Tech 68-66 on Sunday in the NCAA Tournament, securing the program's first trip to the Sweet 16 in a quarter-century.
In the final seconds of a tense finish, Smith found himself defending Kyler Edwards beyond the 3-point arc. Edwards drove into the paint with Smith on his hip and missed a layup, with Arkansas guard JD Notae snagging the rebound and sprinting up court to run the final seconds out.
When it was over, coach Eric Musselman celebrated with his players, and then ran across the court to climb atop a courtside table with arms raised. As he exited after a TV interview, he ripped off his mask to yell to the Razorbacks fans once more and repeatedly pump his fist in exuberance.
“Words can't describe it, man,” Musselman said as he munched on a piece of pizza after the game. “Myself, the staff — I mean, we're so excited. It's hard to make the tournament. It's hard to win a game. It's hard to win two games.”
The South Region's No. 3 seed is off to the regional semifinals for the first time since 1996 under famed former coach Nolan Richardson. Next up for Arkansas (24-6) is No. 15 seed Oral Roberts, which advanced with an 81-78 win over Florida.
The Razorbacks defeated ORU 87-76 on Dec. 20 in Fayetteville.
Star freshman Moses Moody scored 15 points for the Razorbacks, who led by 13 points after halftime only to have the sixth-seeded Red Raiders twice whittle that margin to a single point. And that came after Arkansas had climbed of its own double-figure deficit, down 10 in the first half.
Terrence Shannon Jr. scored 20 points for Texas Tech (18-11), which struggled with its shot for a long stretch only to regain its touch right as Arkansas seemed poised to pull away.
The Red Raiders climbed back with an 11-0 run, which included Chibuzo Agbo banking in a straightaway 3-pointer to bring Texas Tech within 58-57 with 5:30 left. Fittingly, Moody answered that improbable shot with one of his own, banking in a contested 3 off a crossover on the next possession.
The Red Raiders — finalists in the 2019 tournament — also had two late chances to take the lead in the final 2 minutes. But Mac McClung missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the line with 1:15 left in a 67-66 game, and then Shannon missed a shot inside with about 30 seconds left on the next possession.
“Obviously kind of a classic NCAA Tournament game,” Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said. “It could have gone either way. I was hoping it was going to be one of the games where the team that had the ball last wins it.”
FINAL — Arkansas holds on behind a pair of missed layups from Texas Tech. The Razorbacks win 68-66.
Arkansas’ long Sweet 16 drought is over. The Razorbacks are moving on to the second weekend.
Justin Smith led Arkansas with 20 points and six rebounds, and Moses Moody and Davonte Davis had 15 apiece. Jalen Tate had 10 point as well.
Eric Musselman, shortly after the buzzer, ran across the court and jumped up on a table and celebrated in front of Arkansas fans.
:19, 2H — Mac McClung fouls JD Notae, and Notae hits the first. He misses the second. Arkansas up two.
:54, 2H — JD Notae misses a three-pointer. Red Raiders rebound down one. Terrence Shannon then misses a layup, and Notae rebounds.
1:15, 2H — JD Notae misses a layup on the other end and Texas Tech rebounds. Notae then commits a foul, sending Texas Tech to the line. Mac McClung misses the first and it is rebounded by Justin Smith.
1:56, 2H — Jaylin Williams fouls Terrence Shannon on the interior and he hits both free throws. Razorbacks are up 67-66. Big possession upcoming for Arkansas.
2:36, 2H — Officials hit Moses Moody with a foul on what could have been a jump ball or no call. Kevin McCullar split the free throws. Arkansas up three.
2:47, 2H — Jaylin Williams again finds Justin Smith for a dunk. Arkansas’ lead is 67-63. Smith has 20 points, Williams four assists to lead the team.
3:06, 2H — Jalen Tate hit both free throws then Texas Tech hit a three. Red Raiders down 65-63 after a Kevin McCullar layup plus the foul. He has 14 points for Texas Tech.
3:55, 2H — Terrence Shannon called for a foul as Jalen Tate drives the lane and attempts a shot. He will be at the line when play resumes. Texas Tech has 11 fouls this half to Arkansas’ four. Justin Smith had 18 points, Devo Davis/Moses Moody 15 each, and Tate has eight.
Great job by Arkansas weathering a Texas Tech storm over two minutes then extended its lead. Razorbacks up 63-57 at the final media timeout.
4:15, 2H — Kyler Edwards fouled Jalen Tate following a TTU miss from three, and Tate hits both at the line. Razorbacks are up six. Tate has eight points tonight.
5:00, 2H — Moses Moody hits a big-time three. Razorbacks up four, 61-57, and Moody has 15 points. The last two threes in this game both went off glass.
5:48, 2H — Moses Moody settles the Razorbacks with a jumper, but the Red Raiders hit a three-pointer on the other end. Arkansas is up one. Texas Tech is on a 14-2 run.
6:24, 2H — Kyler Edwards hits a three-ball for Texas Tech. Red Raiders are down five after a Kevin McCullar layup. Terrence Shannon then hits a three. Razorbacks are up two. Texas Tech is back in this thing in a flash.
8:10, 2H — Devo Davis scores in the open floor and pushes Arkansas’ lead to 13. Davis now has 15 points, six rebounds. He got fouled on the play but missed his free throw. Kyler Edwards hits a three-pointer for Texas Tech. Arkansas’ lead is 56-46. Red Raiders call for time.
9:31, 2H — Jaylin Williams with his third assist of the game, this one to Devo Davis for a dunk. Davis was hit with a tech for hanging on the rim. Red Raiders hit a free throw but get no points out of their next possession.
10:52, 2H — Jaylin Williams forces a miss on defense, grabs the miss then gets fouled on the other end going to the rim. He made 1 of 2 free throws. Razorbacks up 52-42. Williams has one point and seven rebounds tonight.
11:28, 2H — Jaylin Williams and Moses Moody with a pair of offensive rebounds, and Moody gets fouled after grabbing his. He hits 1 of 2 free throws. Arkansas up 51-42. He now has 10 points.
11:57, 2H — Terrence Shannon hit both free throws out of the timeout, and Texas Tech is down 50-42. Shannon leads the Red Raiders with 14 points.
11:58, 2H — After Texas Tech turns the ball over with an over-and-back, Moses Moody knocks down a jumper to give Arkansas a 10-point lead. Moody now has nine points. Jalen Tate then fouled Terrence Shannon to send us to the under-12 media timeout. Razorbacks up 50-40. Justin Smith has a game-high 18 points and Devo Davis has 11.
12:33, 2H — Jalen Tate missed a jumper and Justin Smith was hit with an offensive foul going for the miss. He has two fouls now, so nothing to worry with. Pretty weak call to me. Arkansas up by eight.
13:30, 2H — Marcus Santos-Silva added a tip-in off a Mac McClung miss, then Jaylin Williams turned the ball over. Red Raiders are down 48-40.
14:28, 2H — Another Justin Smith layup, and Arkansas is back up 10. Smith had 18 points and 5 rebounds now. Williams found Smith again.
15:09, 2H — Jaylin Williams nearly tip-slammed a Moses Moody miss, but Justin Smith threw one down on the other end the next trip down, assisted by Williams. Hogs up 11.
16:02, 2H — Moses Moody takes a charge, and Texas Tech calls for time. The Razorbacks are on a 9-2 run and have their largest lead of the night. Justin Smith up to 14 points, and Devo Davis 11. No Red Raider is in double figures yet.
16:21, 2H — Arkansas hitting the glass hard, and Jalen Tate gets to the line after grabbing a Jaylin Williams miss. He hits both free throws, and the Razorbacks lead by nine, 44-35.
16:35, 2H — Jaylin Williams adds another charge taken to his tally. Arkansas then gets a Justin Smith layup on its next trip down. Moses Moody knocks down a three-ball and the Razorbacks are cup 42-35.
19:06, 2H — Jaylin Williams fouls Mac McClung, and he hits two free throws to pull Texas Tech within 35-33. Justin Smith then adds a dunk, assisted by Jalen Tate. Hogs up four.
19:40, 2H — Devo Davis with a jumper to open the second half. He’s got a game-high 11 on 5 of 8 shooting. The freshman has been awesome to this point.
HALF — Moses Moody misses a three-pointer to close the half and Arkansas leads 33-31 at the break.
Justin Smith and Davonte Davis were terrific in the first half. Smith scored a game-high 10 points and grabbed four rebounds, and Davis chipped in nine points on 4 of 7 shooting and four rebounds. Jaylin Williams, making his first start in more than two months, did not score but had four rebounds, too.
JD Notae added six points off the bench for Arkansas, and Moody and Jalen Tate each have four points. The Razorbacks shot 42% in the half and held the Red Raiders to 36%.
Terrence Shannon has a team-high nine points for Texas Tech, and Kevin McCullar/Mac McClung each have seven. Marcus Santos-Silva has three points on 1 of 5 from the floor.
Arkansas is 20 minutes away from its first Sweet 16 berth since 1996.
:48.0, 1H — JD Notae dribbled the air out of the ball then wound up turning it over along the baseline to a jump ball. Texas Tech possession, and it misses a three-ball on the other end.
1:47, 1H — Jalen Tate hit with an offensive foul, his second foul of the day. Jaylin Williams enters for him. Arkansas’ lead is 33-31.
2:06, 1H — Arkansas leads 33-31 at the final media timeout of the half. Devo Davis has nine points, Justin Smith a game-high 10. Terrence Shannon has nine for Texas Tech, which is shooting 39% against 44% for the Razorbacks.
3:11, 1H — Justin Smith is the first player in double figures with 10 after a layup puts Arkansas ahead 33-31. He is 4 of 6 from the floor and has four rebounds as well.
3:26, 1H — Justin Smith with an assist to Jalen Tate for a layup to tie the game 29-29, then Devo Davis adds another jumper. Razorbacks lead 31-29. Mac McClung then ties the game and Chris Beard calls for time all knotted at 31-31. Texas Tech has missed 11 of its last 14 shots.
4:47, 1H — Justin Smith blocks Micah Peavy’s layup out of bounds, then Terrence Shannon adds a layup for a 29-27 lead. But Jalen Tate adds a layup on Arkansas’ next possession.
5:46, 1H — Devo Davis with a midrange jumper from the top of the key ties the game 27-27. Razorbacks have held Texas Tech to 1 of its last 10 from the floor. Davis now has seven points and three rebounds.
6:32, 1H — JD Notae fouled Mac McClung on a drive to the rim, and he split a pair at the line. Justin Smith then adds a layup off a Devo Davis miss for Arkansas. Razorbacks are down 27-25. Smith has a game-high eight points.
7:06, 1H — Kevin McCullar with a layup following a Justin Smith miss from the right short corner. McCullar went right around Moses Moody in the open floor. Red Raiders up 26-23 after a Devo Davis layup plus the foul. Arkansas trails 26-23. Davis has five points.
7:38, 1H — Desi Sills entered the game and missed a left-corner three right away. He was then hit with a tough whistle on the other end to send us to the under-8 timeout. Arkansas trails 24-20. Texas Tech has missed its last seven shots. Terrence Shannon leads the Red Raiders with seven points, and Justin Smith and JD Notae each have six for Arkansas. Moses Moody also has four.
8:24, 1H — Justin Smith was fouled rebounding a teammate’s miss and hit 1 of 2 at the foul line. Razorbacks down 24-20 now. Smith has six points.
8:32, 1H — JD Notae missed a heat-check three from the top of the key, and Texas Tech got the ball on the interior on the other end. Marcus Santos-Silva split a pair at the line after a Moses Moody foul. Razorbacks trail 24-19.
9:31, 1H — Another three-ball by JD Notae and Arkansas has cut its deficit to four. Notae now has a team-high six points in seven minutes. Texas Tech up 23-19.
10:12, 1H — Moses Moody ends the Red Raiders’ run with a jumper, but Terrence Shannon hits a three. Texas Tech had a 10-point lead before JD Notae knocked down a right-corner triple. Red Raiders are 4 of 6 from deep to begin the game.
11:42, 1H — Kevin McCullar buries a left-corner three-pointer to push Texas Tech’s lead to 18-11, then Marcus Santos-Silva adds a layup. red Raiders up 20-11.
11:49, 1H — Texas Tech leads 15-11 at the under-12 media timeout. Kyler Edwards has five points, and Mac McClung and Terrence Shannon have four each for the Red Raiders. Justin Smith with five for Arkansas. Devo Davis/JD Notae/Jalen Tate each have two. Texas Tech is shooting 55% against Arkansas’ 38%.
The Red Raiders are 2 of 4 from deep, and the Razorbacks have missed all three attempts.
12:36, 1H — Terrence Shannon puts in a layup and Texas Tech’s lead is six, but Justin Smith quickly responds with a layup of his own after tough contest. Smith has five points now.
13:14, 1H — JD Notae’s turnover leads to a Kyler Edwards dunk. Red Raiders lead 13-9. Arkansas rebounded several of its misses in a row but couldn’t cash in. Texas Tech made it pay.
14:22, 1H — After missing a midrange jumper, Jalen Tate comes back and knocks one down to pull the Razorbacks within 11-9. That short midrange area is where he thrives.
15:08, 1H — Devo Davis made a layup to briefly give Arkansas a lead, but Texas Tech answers with five straight, including a three-ball by Mac McClung, to take an 11-7 lead.
15:56, 1H — Jaylin Williams is hit with a moving screen after the Red Raiders took their first lead. We’ve reached the first media timeout of the game and Texas Tech leads 6-5. Kyler Edwards has three points for TTU, and Justin Smith has three for Arkansas. The Razorbacks are 2 of 6 from the floor.
16:33, 1H — Kevin McCullar hits a tough jumper over Moses Moody in the right short corner to pull Texas Tech within 5-3. Kyler Edwards then buries a three, and the Red Raiders lead 6-5.
17:47, 1H — Mac McClung gets the Red Raiders on the board with a free throw. Devo Davis outed him on a midrange jumper from around the foul line. Razorbacks up 5-1.
18:07, 1H — Moses Moody with his first bucket of the game, a pull-up midrange jumper from the right elbow. It gives the Razorbacks a 5-0 edge.
19:01, 1H — Jaylin Williams rebounds a missed three-ball by Jalen Tate and draws a foul on Marcus Santos-Silva. Devo Davis then misses his first shot of the game. Arkansas still leads 3-0.
19:43, 1H — Moses Moody finds Justin Smith for a layup plus the foul to open the game. He hits the free throw and Arkansas leads 3-0. Great start for Smith, who has been playing like a grown man of late.
Arkansas' starting lineup: Jalen Tate, Moses Moody, Davonte Davis, Justin Smith and Jaylin Williams.
Today marks Williams' first start since Jan. 16 at Alabama.
Smith has scored 20-plus points in consecutive games for the first time in his college career, and he is averaging nearly 18 points and 8 rebounds over his last nine games. Texas Tech coach Chris Beard said he had one of the best performances in the first round of the tournament.
Tate added 17 points Friday after back-to-back off-scoring games in the SEC Tournament. Him staying out of foul trouble and getting into his short midrange and in-close spots offensively is key for Arkansas.
While Moody finished with 12 points against Colgate, he was not much of a factor offensively after the opening minutes. We'll see if he finds a groove. And can Davis continue his solid play? Of his six scores on Friday, four were layups and two were on off-the-bounce midrange jumpers.
Arkansas is looking for its first Sweet 16 appearance since 1996.
Texas Tech's starters: Mac McClung (6-2), Terrence Shannon (6-6), Kyler Edwards (6-4), Kevin McCullar (6-6) and Marcus Santos-Silva (6-7).
This game pits two of the top 20 teams nationally in terms of defensive efficiency, according to KenPom data. Texas Tech is No. 19, and Arkansas is No. 11. The Red Raiders rank 31st in offensive efficiency while the Razorbacks are No. 36.
Chris Beard’s team plays the 315th-fastest pace in the country and averages 65 possessions per game. Meanwhile, Arkansas averages 73, which is 17th most in the nation. We will see which style wins out, and who can bring more toughness to the floor.
McClung is Texas Tech’s top offensive player. He has taken 28.8% of his team’s shots when on the floor and has knocked down 34.1% of his three-point attempts. Edwards is a 41.4% three-point shooter as well and one of the Red Raiders’ most efficient players.
Defensively, keep an eye on McCullar, Shannon and Santos-Silva. McCullar and Shannon are very solid steals players, and Santos-Silva has shown he can turn away opponents’ shots at a fairly high rate.
Running updates by Scottie Bordelon