RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -Sonny Weems kept shooting, and Darian Townes was there to clean up when he missed. The pair helped Arkansas finally earn a second game in the NCAA tournament and bring a swift end to Indiana’s tumultuous season.
Weems scored a career-high 31 points, Townes added 17 points and 12 rebounds and the ninth-seeded Razorbacks beat eighth-seeded Indiana 86-72 on Friday night in the first round of the East Regional.
Weems hit 12 of 14 shots for Arkansas (23-11), which shot 54 percent and snapped a five-game losing streak in NCAA tournament games dating to a first-round victory against Siena in 1999. Their reward for making the second round for the first time in five tries: a date with No. 1 seed and top-ranked North Carolina roughly a 30-minute drive from the Tar Heels’ Chapel Hill campus.
D.J. White had 22 points in his third straight 20-point game and Armon Bassett snapped out of a slump with 21 points and five 3-pointers for Indiana (25-8).
The Hoosiers lost their tournament opener for the first time since 2001, went one-and-done in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments and ended its once-promising season on a free fall.
Ranked No. 7 as recently as two months ago, Indiana finished the year by losing four of seven since coach Kelvin Sampson’s scandal-tainted resignation and former Hoosiers guard Dan Dakich was named interim coach.
Eric Gordon, the Big Ten’s freshman of the year and its leading scorer, fizzled in his first tournament appearance. He was 3-of-15 shooting, missed all six of his 3-pointers and finished with just six points – more than 15 below his average.
The Razorbacks never trailed after halftime and gave themselves plenty of separation midway through the second half. After Lance Stemler pulled Indiana to 49-47 by hitting a 3 with the shot clock winding down, Arkansas took control.
Steven Hill’s dunk started the decisive 12-3 burst, Townes twice stuck back missed 3-pointers for layups, and Weems knocked down a 3 while drifting into the Arkansas bench before his basket with 7:40 left stretched the lead to 61-50.
Weems surpassed his previous high of 28 points set against South Carolina in January, while Townes finished one point shy of his season high reached four times, most recently last week against Vanderbilt.
Patrick Beverley added 12 points for the Razorbacks, who improved to 12-0 this season when scoring at least 80 points.