The Razorback survived a late push from Vanderbilt to win what would ultimately and unexpectedly be their final game, 86-73.
Razorbacks Win Final Game
Despite a surprisingly good start to their season, the Razorbacks fell to 11th in the conference after a key injury in the midst of their season. This caused the Hogs to start their postseason play a day earlier than they would have liked to. Needing 22-23 wins to give themselves a shot at the now cancelled NCAA Tournament, Arkansas finished the regular season with 19 wins and a chance to add more in the SEC Tournament. They ended up with a favorable matchup in round one, facing off against the last place Vanderbilt Commodores.
After controlling the game for much of the second half, the Hogs fell suspect to a Vandy run late in the second half. Arkansas led by as many as 19 points during the second half, but the Commodores were able to cut the deficit to only 10 with roughly 2:30 left in the game. A seemingly dagger triple from Isaiah Joe allowed the Hogs a moment of breathing room.
That is, until he and Mason Jones both fouled out on the ensuing Vanderbilt possession with under two minutes to play. Suddenly, the Hogs had to maintain an 11-point lead for less than two minutes without their two best players, and free throw shooters, on the court. Fortunately, a combination of the Arkansas’s smothering defense, Vanderbilt’s lack of depth combined with foul trouble, and free throws made from all five players in the Hogs’ closing lineup sealed the game. The Hogs held on to win 86-73, and their reward would have been a rematch with South Carolina in round two.
Due to the rapidly spreading pandemic known as the COVID-19, the SEC, along with many other conferences canceled their postseason tournaments as a precaution. The NCAA and NIT would soon follow suit. This means that for Arkansas and college basketball teams everywhere, the season had suddenly ended right before it got good. The seniors across the nation have been understandably heartbroken. This was their last shot at a championship run and, for many of them, the culmination of their basketball careers. Some of them will go onto to the NBA or other professional leagues regardless, but for many, the big dance would have been their final curtain call before calling it a career.
The virus is something that should not be taken lightly. Many fans have criticized the drastic decision to cancel an event as big as March Madness, but the need for caution is widely understood. Despite this outbreak not having the same gut-wrenching statistics as other deadly diseases such as influenza, the lack of knowledge and uncertainty makes this outbreak predictable and highly dangerous. The virus is spreading fast worldwide with no known antidotes to date. While the mortality rate for anyone under 70 years of age is graciously low, the severity and infectivity of this disease should not be overlooked. The NCAA, among other major sports organizations, made a safe decision in canceling or postponing their events.
Razorbacks Seniors’ Season Cut Short
Unfortunately for the seniors on the Razorbacks squad, the win over Vanderbilt would prove to be their final game in a Hog uniform. Adrio Bailey, after a solid start to the season, played only five minutes in his final outing. He tallied two points on 50% FT shooting, three rebounds, and one assist. As crazy as it sounds, Bailey would actually finish the season as the Hogs leading three-point marksman shooting upwards of 38% from long range. He also averaged 6.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.4 blocks, and 1.3 steals during his senior campaign. His Razorback legacy will be one of effort, energy, and passion for the cardinal and white.
Whitt, on the other hand, had a very solid performance in his unbeknownst last game. He finished with 12 points on 40% shooting, seven rebounds, 3 assists, and a steal. After spending his freshman season with the Hogs in 2015, Whitt transferred to SMU, where he would sit one year and play the next two. With the arrival of Coach Eric Musselman, Whitt brought his talents back to The Hill for one final run. His leadership and unorthodox shooting style quickly became well known to Razorback fans everywhere in this his senior season. His nickname, Jimmy “Midrange” Whitt, fit his inside-the-arc play style to perfection. The Razorbacks would not have been anywhere near contention for the big dance without him.
What Now, Razorbacks?
The NCAA has announced that it will be granting an extra year of eligibility to the seniors of spring sports that were canceled due to the virus. This is a wonderful gesture that needed to happen for the sake of all the young adults that worked most of their lives to compete on the stage that was just taken from them.
There has been no word about giving basketball seniors their eligibility back, and I doubt there will be. Considering the entire regular season had been completed before the cancelations, it is unlikely they will be granted another year.
As for the rest of the world, be patient and be safe. There’s no need to panic, but it is also not smart to underplay what is happening. Taking even minor precautions and waiting it out is the best option for everyone at this point. Stay safe and as always, GO HOGS!
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