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OPINION | NATE ALLEN: Relentless rebounding the key to UConn’s runaway win

by Nate Allen Special to the NWA Democrat-Gazette | March 25, 2023 at 1:00 a.m.
Arkansas forward Jordan Walsh (left) looks to rebound the ball along with Connecticut’s Alex Karaban (center) and Tristen Newton during Thursday’s NCAA Men’s Tournament game at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Razorbacks were outrebounded 43-31 in an 88-65 loss. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

FAYETTEVILLE -- The University of Connecticut's two missed three-pointers at the outset warned the Arkansas Razorbacks their basketball season likely would end at Thursday night's NCAA Tournament West Regional semifinal in Las Vegas.

UConn's Huskies easily rebounded the missed treys and drove them back in for deuces.

Easily erasing wayward treys by erasing the boards freed the Huskies to keep firing away without consequence.

UConn eventually found that three-point range 4 of 9 first half times while outrebounding the Razorbacks, 22-9 during its 46-29 first 20 minutes parlayed into an 88-65 Huskies victory.

For the game UConn canned 9 of 20 three-pointers and dealt an astonishing 22 assists.

During a brief CBS in-game interview, Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman explained UConn's 14-0 first half run breaking the Razorbacks.

"The rebounding was too much to overcome and we're not defending the three like we're supposed to," Musselman said.

Two fouls before the game was two minutes old on Arkansas guard Davonte "Devo" "Davis didn't help. Arkansas' hot hand offensively and defensively during the eighth-seeded Razorbacks' 73-63 victory over ninth-seeded Illinois and 72-71 stunner over No. 1 seeded Kansas in the West Subregional at Des Moines, Iowa, Devo never untracked against fourth-seeded UConn.

Davis hit but 1 of 10 shots after scoring 16 and 25 points on Illinois and Kansas.

An ignominious Arkansas end, but upon reflection an amazing overall tournament for a Razorbacks team only 8-10 in the SEC. Arkansas advanced to its third consecutive Sweet Sixteen at the expense of Illinois from the ballyhooed Big Ten and No. 1 Kansas.

The ups in these 22-14 up and down Razorbacks more than outweighed the downs. They had to overcome plenty, especially the on again off again knee problem afflicting freshman phenom Nick Smith and the season-ending December knee injury to versatile sophomore transfer big man Trevon Brazile.

Now for all but center Kamani Johnson, his eligibility expired with UA degree in hand, Razorbacks career decision time awaits.

Pro possibilities for some and the transfer portal for all are options.

Turning pro seems all but assured for freshman past McDonald's High School All-Americans Anthony Black, Smith and Jordan Walsh, though Walsh might be tempted upping his draft stock returned in an increased role.

Junior transfer Ricky Council and Brazile wield pro potential.

The Mitchell twins, Makhi and Makhel, transferred twice already, and transfer Jalen Graham likely wish seeing where they fit as Musselman works the portal.

Senior-to-be Devo Davis, the Hogs' "Mr. March" of two Elite Eight teams and again vs. Illinois and Kansas, appears likely to return but nothing these basketball days etches a given.

Freshmen Joseph Pinion, Derrian Ford and Barry Dunning didn't play much, but all were 4-star recruits. Morrilton's Pinion seems the purest three-point shooter on a team lacking three-point consistency.

Where they all aspire to fit, and how many Musselman aspires will fit, remains conjectured as the portal swings both ways.

Print Headline: Relentless rebounding fueled UConn


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