SAN FRANCISCO — For 40 frenzied minutes Thursday night, JD Notae, Jaylin Williams and their Arkansas teammates played a maddening, muscular style of basketball on both ends of the court that took Gonzaga out of its game.
It also took the Bulldogs right out of the NCAA tournament, far earlier than they — and plenty of other folks — expected.
Notae scored 21 points despite missing 20 shots, and the fourth-seeded Razorbacks showed their determination as they dashed the No. 1 overall seed’s title hopes with a 74-68 win that tipped off this year’s Sweet 16.
“We’ve been disrespected the whole year, so it’s just another thing for us,” Williams said. “We saw everything they were saying, we felt like they were dancing before the game. That was disrespect for us. We just came into the game playing hard, and we had a chip on our shoulder. Every game we do.”
When the buzzer sounded, Notae tossed the game ball into the air in triumph, while Williams flexed and roared near midcourt. Coach Eric Musselman made his way into the stands to find his mother, Kris, for a celebratory embrace as she watched her well-traveled son coaching the Razorbacks in person for the first time.
After a throwback performance from the program that once promised “40 Minutes of Hell,” it was pure bliss for these Hogs.
Notae finished with six rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocked shots for the Razorbacks (28-8), who reached the Elite Eight for a second straight year and will face second-seeded Duke in the West Region final Saturday. The only previous tournament meeting between the schools came in the 1994 title game that Arkansas won 76-72.
Drew Timme scored 25 points but couldn’t rally the normally high-scoring Bulldogs (28-4), who for the second straight season were favored to win that elusive national title but couldn’t match up with an athletic, scrappy foe. Gonzaga had been undefeated last year before losing to Baylor in the championship game.
“We just wanted to be physical, plain and simple,” Musselman said. “We wanted them to feel bodies. Obviously they played a really tough schedule early in the season, but it’s been a long time in conference play since they faced a team like us.”
An emotional Timme addressed his teammates afterward, then fought tears during a postgame news conference.
“It was a hell of a ride,” Timme said. “It didn’t end up the way we wanted, but we came to play hard. It was their night.”
Arkansas continually challenged 7-foot, 195-pound freshman Chet Holmgren in the paint, and the skinny NBA prospect fouled out with 3:29 remaining. Holmgren scored all 11 of his points after halftime and had 14 rebounds in what might have been his final college game.
Notae shot 9-of-29 overall and 2-for-12 from 3-point range, yet still did a little bit of everything for Arkansas. The senior guard’s 3 with 6:38 left made it 59-50, and the Razorbacks held on from there. Au’Diese Toney’s one-handed slam with a second left punctuated the victory.
Toney converted a three-point play with 8:36 left by going right at Holmgren to draw his fourth foul and send him to the bench. The big man returned at the 6:46 mark, but Notae drove at him three minutes later and drew the freshman’s fifth foul. Holmgren raised his arms in protest.
During one key sequence, Notae scored, then sneaked in from behind Timme for a steal as Williams held his ground on the block. Notae swatted an early shot and made a steal to get his team going. He hit the floor repeatedly to corral loose balls.
“He kept the momentum our way,” Trey Wade said.
Gonzaga trailed at halftime for just the fifth time this season and never found the shooting touch that made the Bulldogs the top scoring team in the nation at 87.8 points per game. They shot 37.5% and went 5-of-21 from 3-point range. Andrew Nembhard, limited to seven points on 2-of-11 shooting, was not a factor.
“It’s always so tough when it finally ends, especially short of the goal we all had,” coach Mark Few said. “First time we lost in this round in quite a while. All the credit goes to Arkansas. Their defense was tough to get any rhythm against. To me that was the difference in the game.”
Williams took a charge late in the first half — his 45th of the season — and drove through the lane for an emphatic dunk during a 9-0 run by Arkansas in which the Zags were 0-for-5 with three turnovers.
Williams had 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Wade also scored 15.
Duke 78, Texas Tech 73
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski moved within one win of a record-breaking 13th trip to the Final Four in his farewell season, thanks to two late baskets by Jeremy Roach that helped seal the second-seeded Blue Devils win over third-seeded Texas Tech in a taut regional semifinal.
Roach’s shots were part of a 7-0 run as the steady sophomore came through in the clutch for a second straight game to send Duke (31-6) into the Elite Eight for the 23rd time in program history.
Paolo Banchero led Duke with 22 points, Mark Williams scored 16 and Roach added 15 as the Blue Devils held off Texas Tech (27-10) for Coach K’s record-extending 100th NCAA tourney victory.
Duke played from behind for much of the first half but was much sharper offensively in the second, when Williams got free for three easy baskets early in the half to get the Blue Devils rolling.
Then the vocal Duke contingent on hand for the first NCAA tournament games in San Francisco since 1939 made its presence known midway through the period when A.J. Griffin tied the game at 47 with his third 3 of the night and Banchero followed with a jumper that gave Duke the lead.
But an opponent featuring four super seniors and five players with more than 120 career games didn’t go away as the Red Raiders kept the game tight. Kevin McCullar and Banchero traded 3s, with Banchero’s long-range shot putting Duke up 69-68 with less than three minutes to play.
The Blue Devils then pulled away thanks to a pair of clutch jumpers by Roach. Bryson Williams had a shot blocked by Mark Williams, committed a turnover and shot an airball. Griffin’s two free throws with 12.9 seconds to play gave Duke a 77-73 lead. Adonis Arms then missed a 3, and Krzyzewski gave an emphatic fist pump.
Bryson Williams scored 21 points to lead Texas Tech, McCullar added 17 and Kevin Obanor had 10 with 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double in as many career NCAA tourney games.
Villanova 63, Michigan 55
SAN ANTONIO — Jermaine Samuels scored 22 points and carried Villanova’s offense as the second-seeded Wildcats finished off 11th-seeded Michigan.
Samuels shot 8-of-13 from the field, with much of his scoring coming on tough drives through Michigan defenders and around big man Hunter Dickinson. The Wildcats had long stretches of misfiring on 3-pointers but did enough to move on and face Houston in the Elite Eight.
It’s the deepest run in the tournament for Villanova (28-7) since coach Jay Wright won the second of his two national titles in 2018 — against Michigan. The loss ends a turbulent season for coach Juwan Howard and the Wolverines (19-15), who squeaked into the tournament field only to shine in the first two rounds.
Justin Moore scored 15 points and Collin Gillespie 12 for Villanova, which has been launching 3-pointers all season and pushed through its long-range struggles against Michigan to go 9-for-30 from behind the arc. It was their ninth game this season with at least 30 attempts from distance.
“We have a saying: ‘Shoot them up, sleep in the streets,'” Wright said. “We’re OK if we’ve got open shots.”
Dickinson led the Wolverines with 15 points and 15 rebounds, and Eli Brooks added 14 points.
Howard was suspended for five games late in the season for hitting a Wisconsin assistant during a postgame handshake line.
“We learned a lot (about) who we are,” Howard said. “We always talk about Michigan being a family. We’ve been the most connected group this year because of the fact everyone has been supporting each other. When I walk away from this season and I look back, there’s no reason not to hold your head up high.”
Houston 72, Arizona 60
Jamal Shead scored a career-high 21 points as fifth-seeded Houston led top-seeded Arizona throughout, moving the Cougars within one win of a second straight Final Four.
With Taze Moore getting into early foul trouble after his 3-pointer for a 5-0 lead in the first two minutes, Shead and Kyler Edwards were both on the court nearly the entire game for the Cougars (32-5). Edwards, the Texas Tech transfer who played in the 2019 national championship game for the Red Raiders, had 19 points with five 3-pointers.
After quick consecutive layups by Dalen Terry got Arizona within 64-58 with just more than two minutes left, Edwards settled things for Houston with a 3 from the right wing.
Terry had 17 points for Arizona (33-4), while Pac-12 player of the year Bennedict Mathurin had 15 and Christian Koloko 10.
The Cougars, this year’s American Athletic Conference champions, became the second former Southwest Conference team to knock a No. 1 seed out of the tourney in a matter of hours. Arkansas, which eliminated overall No. 1 seed Gonzaga in San Francisco earlier Thursday, went to the Southeastern Conference in 1991, five years before the SWC’s final season.
These Cougars are much different than the ones coach Kelvin Sampson took the the Final Four last year — their first since going three times in a row during the Phi Slama Jama era from 1982-84.
Houston lost four starters from last season and then lost Marcus Sasser, the lone returner and leading scorer who broke his left foot before Christmas. Sophomore guard Tramon Mark also had a season-ending shoulder injury.
The Cougars were playing about 200 miles from their campus, and will do so again Saturday when they face Villanova.