No. 1 Kansas shot 17-for-25 from the free throw line. But at the end of the game, when it needed a miss, it got a make at just the wrong time.
The Jayhawks trailed No. 9 Arkansas 72-70 as forward Jalen Wilson went to the line to shoot his second free throw with three seconds left on the clock. Kansas needed a missed free throw and an offensive rebound in order to have a shot at tying the game and avoiding the second-round defeat.
But Wilson accidentally banked in his second free throw, turning the ball back over to the Razorbacks. Arkansas was able to pass the ball around enough into open space to avoid any fouls in the waning seconds and exit the Wells Fargo Arena with a 72-71 win and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen. After the game, Wilson confirmed it was an unintentional make.
“I was trying to miss it,” Wilson said.
NO. 8 ARKANSAS STUNS NO. 1 KANSAS 😱
Razorbacks are heading to the Sweet Sixteen! pic.twitter.com/11KJwsOeH1
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) March 18, 2023
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Kansas began to run out of chances late in the game after Ricky Council IV made both free throws to push Arkansas’ lead up to 70-67 with 21 seconds left. The Jayhawks used their final timeout with 17 seconds on the board.
Out of the timeout, the ball found its way to Wilson, who cut inside and took a foul from Jordan Walsh with eight seconds left. Wilson made both free throws to make it a one-point game, but Council responded with two more on the other side of the floor to bring the lead back to three points.
Interim head coach Norm Roberts was asked after the game why Kansas didn’t try for 3 and instead had Wilson go for the layup, but he said the plan was always to go for whichever was available.
“We were trying to go for a 3 too, whichever one we could get,” Roberts said. “J Wil did a great job of attacking the basket and getting fouled and keeping the game going. So both options were there and J took the two-point option.”
MORE: Arkansas coach Eric Musselman celebrates shirtless after win
Wilson, a redshirt junior playing in what is expected to be his final game in Kansas, was clearly distraught after the game.
No one more emotional coming off the floor than Jalen Wilson, really tough way to end a special career with the Jayhawks pic.twitter.com/5mURas3ROC
— Sully Engels (@sullyengels) March 18, 2023
The Big 12 Player of the Year and SN first-team All-American, Wilson has been the undisputed leader for the Jayhawks in their bid to become back-to-back champions. He averaged 20.1 points during the season with 8.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. He made 79.8 percent of his free throws during the season.
Wilson finished Saturday’s game with 20 points, four rebounds and shooting 5-for-9 from the field and 9-for-11 from the free throw line.
“I just love this place so much,” Wilson said when asked about his legacy. “Putting on this jersey every day has changed my life for the rest of my life, I’ll remember putting on this jersey and I just want to be remembered as a guy that loved this place and did everything to make this place special. I’ve never wanted it to be about me, even now, because of so many different guys that’s been here, I just want to make this place as special as I can.”
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Kansas’ defeat ensures that Florida in 2006-07 will remain the most recent back-to-back champion for at least another year. The Jayhawks’ loss also marks the first time since 2018 that two No. 1 seeds were eliminated before the Sweet Sixteen, after No. 1 Purdue was eliminated in the first round of this year’s tournament.
For the Razorbacks, they will await the winner of No. 4 Connecticut vs. No. 5 Saint Mary’s as their Sweet Sixteen opponent in Las Vegas.