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2015 NCAA Tournament: Arkansas Falls to North Carolina

The Hogs couldn't keep up with the Tar Heels and bowed out in the second round.

John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

The Arkansas Razorbacks played an entertaining, back-and-forth game with the North Carolina Tar Heels but ultimately fell 87-78 in the second round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament.

The Hogs jumped out to early leads and maintained an edge until about the 12:00 mark in the first half. After breaking a 24-24 tie with a Nate Britt three-point play at the 7:48 mark, UNC led most of the rest of the half but never built a lead of more than five. Michael Qualls gave his team a 34-33 lead on a three with just over two minutes to go, but UNC took the lead back with a pair of Britt free throws on the next possession. With the halftime margin just 39-36, it was anyone's game.

In the second half, the referees decided they hadn't had enough screen time and called a much tighter game with many more fouls. It didn't matter a ton for the first ten minutes of the half with the game remaining close, but UNC soon after built a 75-63 lead with a 12-3 run over a four minute stretch from the 9:26 mark to the 5:38 mark. From there, Arkansas just couldn't make enough shots to cut the lead appreciably, as it never got to be less than seven the rest of the game.

Qualms led all scorers with 27 points, and he had 10 boards to go with them. Bobby Portis similarly had a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds, and he also had five steals. Marcus Paige led the Tar Heels in points with 22, with 20 of them coming in the decisive second half. Justin Jackson had 16 for UNC as well, and Britt had 10 off the bench.

The season was a step forward for Arkansas, which made its first tournament appearance in seven years. If Portis and Qualls don't declare for the NBA Draft, then next year can be even more. It's bad luck that the Hogs ended up in the brutal West regional rather than one with a weaker 4-seed, giving them the worst draw of any SEC teams this year. Coming up just short against a better team shouldn't put a damper on the year, as Arkansas basketball is in good shape once again.