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Arkansas hangs on to beat Wofford 56-53, avoid 5-seed woes

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Arkansas surely knows about Wofford now.

Michael Qualls scored 20 points, Southeastern Conference player of the year Bobby Portis added 15 points and 13 rebounds, and the fifth-seeded Razorbacks held off the No. 12 seed Terriers 56-53 in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night.

Arkansas (27-8) escaped a slow-paced, back-and-forth game in the West Regional that featured 18 lead changes, 10 ties and neither team ahead by more than five points.

“I told our guys (Wofford) just ran out of time,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “Thank goodness they ran out of time.”

The Razorbacks advanced to play fourth-seeded North Carolina on Saturday. The Tar Heels edged Ivy League champion Harvard earlier in the night.

Arkansas looked as though it might become the latest No. 5 seed to get upset in the NCAAs — No. 12 seeds went 6-2 against 5 seeds the previous two years. But pesky Wofford (28-7) missed three 3-pointers in the final minute-plus, allowing the Razorbacks to hang on.

“We know we had a great team coming in,” Wofford coach Mike Young said. “Arkansas was just a little better. … The score was in the 50s, we took nine more shots and we had eight turnovers. I would bet my last dollar that we would win that game. We didn’t, obviously.”

Southern Conference player of the year Karl Cochran and Eric Garcia had decent looks on the final possession, but both shot off the mark. Garcia’s clanged off the rim at the buzzer.

“I felt the 3s were going to go in,” said Spencer Collins, who led Wofford with 16 points and nine rebounds. “That’s the same sometimes. Shots go in. Shots don’t go in.”

Cochran and Jaylen Allen added 12 points apiece for the Terriers.

Many picked Arkansas to falter, especially after Anderson and his players made it clear Wednesday they had done little preparation for the Terriers. Instead, they spent much of the lead time working on getting themselves ready.

It nearly backfired.

“We didn’t get rattled,” Qualls said. “If they would have made their bucket, we knew we would have taken care of business in overtime.”

Wofford had no answer for Qualls’ athleticism and Portis’ inside presence. Qualls made eight of nine shots, including three big dunks, and Portis scored all his points in the paint. Arkansas also played at Wofford’s pace, which was plodding and methodical at times.

“We can win a lot of different ways,” Anderson said. “We showed that tonight.”

The game was entertaining from start to finish, and included a couple of interesting moments involving shoes.

Moses Kingsley played a possession in the first half without a shoe, which he flipped to the bench. Rashad Madden also lost a shoe in the second half. He seemed to toss his toward the bench and then it got thrown back across the court. Officials called timeout and looked at the replay, but couldn’t decide what to do. They eventually tagged Arkansas with a delay-of-game warning.

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COCHRAN CLANGS

Cochran finished 4-of-19 shooting, including 2 of 12 from 3-point range. It was one of his worst shooting nights of the season. He did pick up his game in other ways, though, adding seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

TIP-INS

Wofford: Fell to 0-4 in the NCAA Tournament. … The Terriers set school records for wins and conference victories and had been looking for that elusive win on college basketball’s premier stage, but came up short. … The Terriers also were oh-so-close in Jacksonville in 2010, leading Wisconsin in the second half before faltering down the stretch and losing 53-49.

Arkansas: Improved to 10-2 in games decided by six or fewer points. … Razorbacks coaching great Nolan Richardson was in attendance, sitting a few rows behind the bench. … The Razorbacks improved to 2-0 against Wofford. The previous meeting was a 22-point victory on Nov. 9, 2007.

UP NEXT

Wofford’s season ended.

Arkansas advanced to play fourth-seeded North Carolina on Saturday.

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