Two tries. That's what could've been the difference between Arkansas not advancing to play North Carolina for the right to go to the Sweet 16.
That's what could've been the difference between Arkansas not celebrating on Thursday and advancing to play North Carolina for the right to go to the Sweet 16 next week. Two tries. That's how close Wofford came to possibly becoming the fifth double-digit seed to register an upset on the wildest first day of the NCAA tournament in years.
Two tries. One rattled out. The other was off the mark.
Exhale. Breathe. Advance.
[daily_cut.college basketball] Sometimes that's what March is about. It doesn't matter how the win comes, just so long as it does. Few will remember the broke defensive schemes on the final two possessions, that allowed the Terriers consecutive possessions to steal the game away. Few will remember the ill-advised three-pointer with a three-point lead and 41 seconds left to play by Rashad Madden, that breathed life back into Wofford. Or the missed free-throws in a game's final minutes.
Few will remember, because Arkansas won. Not pretty, not efficiently and certainly not in a way that inspires a whole lot of confidence. But it's a win. When the three-point attempts to tie the game by Spencer Collins and Eric Garcia didn't fall through, the Razorbacks could finally celebrate.
Entering the tournament at 26-8, Arkansas was looking for a measure of recognition, to finally make the statement it was more than just "that other team in the SEC." A convincing win on the first day of the Round of 64 would have been a step in that direction, only this wasn't a regular day in a regular NCAA tournament.
No, you didn't need Rod Serling standing behind the basket to know that the higher seeds would have to fight to survive. So, when Wofford held a one-point lead at halftime, it was just another ho-hum moment in a whirlwind day.
Arkansas was just the latest team to have to endure it.
It did. The second half was a see-saw lead-changing bonanza. Wofford up two. Then Arkansas up one. Wofford tying it. Then going up two. Then tied again. The largest lead of the game was five points ... and that came with over eight minutes to play in the first half. For the final 37 minutes of the game, neither team led by more than three points.
Oh, there were fireworks for sure. Michael Qualls, the Razorbacks high-flying guard, scored a game-high 20 points and put on a dunk show in Jacksonville. Star teammate Bobby Portis added 15 points and 13 rebounds for the double double. Wofford got 16 points from Collins and 12 each from Karl Cochran and Jaylen Allen.
It was enough to keep pace with Arkansas for 40 minutes and give the Terriers a chance at pulling off the upset. They had two final chances at tying the game and sending it to overtime. Neither fell.
Survive and advance, Arkansas. Survive and advance.