The SEC picked up a pair of wins on Day 1 of the 2015 NCAA Tournament with Arkansas and Kentucky advancing to the next round. The Razorbacks outlasted Wofford 56-53, while the Wildcats blasted Hampton 79-56.
Arkansas's game played out in a way that favored upstart Wofford, which was looking for its first ever NCAA Tournament win. The Terriers prefer to keep a slow pace, while the Hogs love to fly up and down the court. As you can see from the final score, Wofford was able to dictate the tempo. The game was tight throughout the first half, with neither team gaining more than a four-point lead. Wofford led by a point at intermission 28-27.
The second half was more of the same, and the Terriers actually led for a lot of it. After a long stretch of Wofford leads and ties, Arkansas finally took a lead again on a Bobby Portis layup to go up 53-51 with 2:12 to go. Eric Garcia tied it back up for Wofford, but Alandise Harris converted a three-point play with 1:40 to go to give the game its final margin. Arkansas had only one possession from there on out, a missed three by Rashad Madden after Spencer Collins missed one for the Terriers. Wofford held the ball until the end, when Karl Cochran missed a three with ten seconds to go and Garcia missed one at the buzzer.
Michael Qualls led all scorers with 20 on the game, while Portis had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds. The 48 field goal attempts Arkansas had were the least in any game this season, beating out the 49 they had in their December win over Dayton. Collins had 16 for Wofford, while Cochran backed him up with 12.
The Razorbacks will face 4-seed North Carolina, which had a harrowing first round game of its own in beating Harvard 67-65.
Meanwhile, Kentucky had no problem in keeping 1-seeds' record clean while cleaning the clocks of poor Hampton. The Pirates were able to hang in there early, cutting the Wildcat lead to four with 8:27 to go in the first half. UK answered with a 14-0 run, nine points of which came from Karl-Anthony Towns. That run blew the game open for the Cats, and it wasn't close at any point the rest of the way. Even though Kentucky was not at its sharpest or at its giving-a-cariest, the talent gap between the teams allowed Big Blue to cruise anyway.
Towns had 21 and 11 for the Wildcats, while Andrew Harrison scored 14, Tyler Ulis scored 11, and Trey Lyles scored 10. Like Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein hit double digits in rebounds with 11. Quinton Chievous was the only Pirate to have a good game, as he got 22 points and 10 rebounds for his team. Take out his 7/14 shooting, and Hampton made just 10/45 from the floor.
Kentucky will next get to play its nearby neighbor 8-seed Cincinnati, which needed overtime to get past Purdue 66-65. UK will need to tighten things up as the tournament goes on, but they knew they could take it easy in this one and still win comfortably.