With 6:25 left in the first half of Arkansas' NCAA 2nd round clash with North Carolina the Tar Heels held a commanding 26-11 lead. That's when Hog junior guard Daryl Macon began a personal mission to try to carry his team into the Sweet 16. North Carolina head coach Roy Williams had a front row seat for the comeback.
"He (Macon) made a three right in front of me and got fouled because we didn't get him picked up," Williams recalled. "Then Kennedy fouled him and he made three (free throws) and then Kennedy didn't get up to him and he made a three. So he scored ten points on three possessions."
Arkansas closed the gap to 38-33 by halftime but Macon and his teammates were just getting warmed up. With 13:05 remaining the Razorbacks took a 47-46 lead on a Dustin Thomas jumper. With Macon and guards Jaylon Barford, Dusty Hannahs and Anton all connecting on three pointers that lead went to 65-60 with 3:38 left. But by that time those guards were spent.
Barford was the first to leave the court with a leg cramp. Shortly after he returned Beard went down with the same problem. Then Macon had to be treated during a timeout as his right leg tightened up. Hannahs did not cramp up but he was clearly exhausted by the time he suffered the last of his six turnovers with seven seconds left in the game.
Arkansas would come up empty over the final three and a half minutes of the game as Tar Heels defenders controlled the Hogs ball handlers.
"We got conservative with the ball," Beard noted. "We weren't moving the ball. A one person iso, pick and roll and that's not how we play. We just couldn't make plays in the last three minutes. It's just one of those things in March Madness where it just happened to us."
"We played our hardest," Macon added. "That's the hardest we ever played. We just ran out of gas."
When it was over Hannahs and Macon went to the floor as North Carolina's players celebrated. Senior guard Manuale Watkins pulled his jersey over his head as he left the court for the last time as a Razorback.
"It was right there. Two minutes away from shocking the world," Macon said softly a few minutes later in the locker-room. It was gonna be the greatest feeling ever. Now it's the worst feeling ever."
"We were having fun," Hannahs recalled of Arkansas' second half run. "It hurts now. It was fun while it lasted. We just didn't finish. Had 'em where we wanted 'em. Just can't play like that."
Head coach Mike Anderson acknowledged his players' pain and frustration telling reporters, "These guys here, they're hurting right now and they're hurting for the right reasons. They came in here to win and move on in the NCAA Tournament. So disappointed in that but I'm so proud of these guys and what they've done this year."
Perhaps it was the frustration of the moment but Macon offered a "no comment" when asked about next season and whether or not he would return for his senior year at Arkansas. "This is not the time to answer questions like that," he added.
Barford, however, was clear about his future plans.
"We're going to be back next year for sure," the junior guard stressed. "We're probably going to make a good run next year. We expect to make a good run. It's going to be a great summer. We're going to get C.J. Jones ready, Adrio Bailey ready and Brachen Hazen ready and our freshmen. We're going to be back. For sure."