Darious Hall provides hope for Arkansas’ future in disappointing NCAA Tournament loss

DETROIT — Arkansas’ basketball season came to a disappointing end Friday with a loss to Butler in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Hogs fell behind by 19 points early, then recovered to take a temporary lead, only to again fall behind by double digits in the 79-62 defeat. It was an extremely frustrating 40 minutes for the Razorbacks and their fans.

It wasn’t all bad, though. In particular, freshman forward Darious Hall was a bright spot. His performance provided some hope for the future.

Hall checked in for the first time Friday just over 6 minutes into the action. Arkansas was on the verge of getting run out of Little Caesars Arena at the time, trailing 21-2. Hall’s energy immediately helped give the Hogs a lift they needed. He was everywhere in his 10 first-half minutes — compiling 4 points, 2 rebounds, a block and a steal.

“I just knew with me coming off the bench, they wanted energy,” Hall said. “So, I came in there and brought energy and brought us back in the game. That’s just part of my game.”

Arkansas outscored Butler by 16 with Hall on the floor in the first half. That was a team high as he was one of three bench players to have a positive plus-minus in the opening 20 minutes.

“Darious Hall, Arlando Cook, Trey Thompson, C.J. Jones, those guys were the catalyst,” said Arkansas coach Mike Anderson. “ If there was a game ball, it goes to those guys for getting us back in.”

Hall played in all 35 games for Arkansas in his first season with the Hogs, even making five starts. The 6-foot-6 forward from Little Rock averaged 5.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in his 14.8 minutes per game. He carved out a crucial role on a 23-12 team led by five key seniors.  Playing on a roster rich with experience was an important growing experience for Hall.

“They showed me the ropes,” Hall said. “They showed me how it’s supposed to be done. I’m going to remember them for the rest of my life, and I hope they do good things in life.”

But with those key seniors gone — and possibly standout freshman center Daniel Gafford as well — it’ll soon be Hall’s time to lead the way. If nothing else, Friday gave Hall confidence he can play well on the big stage going forward.

That moral victory ideally would not have been Arkansas’ bright spot from this NCAA Tournament. But it’s far better than this trip to Detroit being a total loss.

“I got a taste of it this year, so I’ll be back next year,” Hall said.

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