PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Arkansas was down six (67-61) with 7:02 left and eight (74-66) with just under five minutes to play but #14 North Carolina was able to withstand any threats by the #20 Razorbacks for an 87-72 victory in the third-place game of the 2023 Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis Friday afternoon.
The outcome took a back seat to an injury suffered by Razorback Tramon Mark, who left the game on a stretcher with 1:12 left in the game. The junior was having his best career game with 34 points, making 13-of-17 shots (including 4-of-6 from 3-point range) and had a team-best five rebounds.
North Carolina was down three at halftime but shot 58.6% from the field in the second half while out-rebounding the Razorbacks 20-12 to secure the win.
RJ Davis led North Carolina with 30 points (10-of-10 from the free throw line) with 21 of his points coming in the second half. Harrison Ingram finished with a double-double (13 points and 10 rebounds) and Seth Trimble scored 11, making a pair of key 3-pointers in the second half.
Arkansas closed the first half on a 15-4 run, including an 8-0 spurt that turned into a 12-1 run. Mark scored seven and Layden Blocker had a steal and dunk with three seconds left before the break to put the Hogs up three, 38-35. Mark scored 20 in the first half, going 8-of-8 from the field and making both of his 3-pointers.
Blocker finished with 11 points and three steals.
Memphis 84, Arkansas 79
No. 20 Arkansas fell to Memphis 84-79 on Thanksgiving night at the Battle 4 Atlantis semifinals in the Bahamas.
The loss dropped Arkansas (4-2) to the third-place game on Friday at 4 p.m. CT against North Carolina on ESPN2. It seemed Memphis got the momentum in final minute of first half and never surrendered it. Arkansas held a 37-36 lead with 1:09 remaining in the first half, but Memphis hit a pair of 3-point baskets to close the half up by five. The Razorbacks never led in the second half. Eric Musselman pointed to that final minute of the first half after the game.
"Yeah, just disappointed defensively with some of our letdowns and thought the end of the first half cost us the game," Musselman said. "The way we closed out the first half, that was really the difference. Second half tied it up at 42 and it was a 1 or 2-point for most until the last minute of the half. Obviously crucial, crucial turnovers and no real offensive flow whatsoever."
Memphis shot 30 free throws and Arkansas 27. But three technical fouls called on the Hogs were very costly. Trevon Brazile, Davonte "Devo" Davis and Layden Blocker each got a technical. Blocker should have had an and-1 on a layup, but no foul was called. A minute later he was hit with his technical when he said something to the referee, who had clearly missed the foul against a Memphis defender.
"I don’t have any comment whatsoever on the officials tonight, you could read what you wanted to into it," Musselman said. "But we gave up five points on technical fouls as well."
Khalif Battle came off the bench to lead the Hogs with 21 points. Davis added 15, Brazile a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Tramon Mark 12 and Blocker, who got his first start of the season, added nine points. Blocker is a true freshman. Big men Makhi Mitchell and Chandler Lawson combined for nine points, Lawson five of them, and five rebounds. Lawson had three of the rebounds.
Memphis was led by David Jones who scored a career-high 36 points and added five steals. Nick Jourdain had 12 points and Jaykwon Walton 11 including a clutch 3-point basket late in the game. Memphis (5-0) will now face Villanova for the championship on Friday.
The Hogs committed 18 turnovers that led to 27 points for the Tigers. Arkansas forced Memphis into 13 turnovers, but that only led to 10 points.
"We want to try and dribble drive," Musselman said. "Going into the game we led the nation in free throws attempted by 31 and tonight the opposition shot more free throws than us. Again all credit goes to Memphis. They caused the turnovers. We were careless with the ball but there were some things that just didn’t make much sense as well."
The Razorbacks did outrebound Memphis 33-24. Arkansas shot 47% from the field compared to 49 for Memphis. But Arkansas hit on 7-of-18 shots from behind the 3-point line for 39% compared to only 33 for the Tigers.