The 10th-seeded Butler Bulldogs earned a 79-62 victory over the seventh-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks in the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball tournament on Friday at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Senior forward Kelan Martin scored a game-high 27 points, while sophomore guard Kamar Baldwin finished with 24 points. Each player also collected nine rebounds to help Butler finish with a commanding 45-25 edge on the glass.
Arkansas couldn’t have started off much worse, as Butler built a 21-2 lead to open the game. Baseball Prospectus’ Matt Sussman tweeted about the Bulldogs’ offensive outburst:
The Razorbacks, however, responded with a 27-6 run to take a 29-27 lead with three minutes, 50 seconds left in the first half after a three-pointer from sophomore guard C.J. Jones.
Butler recovered to retake the lead and went into the locker room at halftime up 36-31. The Bulldogs never trailed in the second half, and their lead never shrunk below four points.
Butler head coach LaVall Jordan drew up a great defensive game plan to neutralize the Razorbacks’ top two leading scorers, senior guards Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. The pair entered Friday averaging 34.9 points per game.
Not only were Barford and Macon’s 27 points down from their season average, but they also shot 7-of-21 from the field and 3-of-12 from beyond the arc. As a team, Arkansas shot 35.7 percent and connected on just four of its 18 attempts from three-point range.
And defensively, Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson had no answer for Butler’s ability to beat the Razorbacks’ press.
The Razorbacks are the first SEC team to lose in the NCAA tournament after the conference won its first five games. HawgSports.com’s Trey Biddy thought the result was also a deflating way for the collegiate careers of Barford, Macon and guard Anton Beard to end:
Arkansas has won 20-plus games in four of the last five seasons, but Anderson could be in for a rebuilding year in 2018-19 with six players graduating from this year’s squad.
For Butler, an opening-round tournament win is business as usual. The Bulldogs have now advanced to the second round in their last seven appearances at the Big Dance. They’ll meet the second-seeded Purdue Boilermakers on Sunday.
Butler’s hopes of reaching the Sweet 16 were aided by an injury to Purdue center Isaac Haas. The Boilermakers confirmed the senior suffered a fractured right elbow in the team’s 74-48 victory over the Cal State Fullerton Titans. He’s out for the tournament.