DALLAS - Bucknell's Charles Lee and Kevin Bettencourt were the main culprits in putting an end to Arkansas' planned weekend-long party in Dallas pretty quickly after it got started.
But it was Abe Badmus that sent everybody home.
Lee poured in 24 points and fellow senior Bettencourt added 18 for the Patriot League champs, but both missed key free throws late. before Badmus nailed a late pair to finish off the Razorbacks 59-55 Friday afternoon before a overwhelmingly pro-Arkansas crowd of 19,028 fans at the American Airlines Center.
"We're obviously disappointed," Arkansas head coach Stan Heath said. "We thought we would be able to stay here longer and we thought we would be able to win this game. We certainly didn't take Bucknell lightly, we weren't looking past them. They are a very good basketball team. We had a lot of opportunties. But we didn't make our threes and we didn't make our free throws. If we make them, it's a different outcome."
The ninth-seeded Bison (27-4) - who had upset Kansas in the opening round of the 2005 tournament - hit 11 3-pointers while ending the season for the Razorbacks (22-10), who were playing their first NCAA Tournament game in five years.
Bucknell was just 6-of-23 from inside the 3-point arc - four shots being swatted away early by Steven Hill - but a season-high 11-of-21 behind it.
"I think we were just feeling it today," Lee said. "They're a team that was really good defensively helping each other out. When we were getting in there to penetrate, I think we did a good job of looking out. I really think the big guys did a good job of screening for us and getting us open."
Bucknell will move on to second round action on Sunday awaiting the winner of the Memphis-ORU game.
Bison head coach Pat Flannery admitted after the game that he like the way his team started much better than how got toward the finish line with a flurry of turnovers.
"I thought from our perspective that we had to go out early athletically and make them respect us," Flannery said. "We did a great job of that in the first half. Then in the second half we got to a place where we didn't know what to do. We were tentative and tired because we do not go as deep as we wanted to."
Jonathon Modica - one of three Arkansas seniors who playing the last college game of their careers - had 19 points to lead the Razorbacks, who scored a season-low in points.
He scored 13 of those in the second half despite playing with a sore ankle that when taped tight cut off circulation, but when taped lightly didn't give the support that he needed.
Junior Ronnie Brewer - who may also have played his final game if he chooses to declare for the NBA draft - added 14 for Arkansas.
"It was difficult trying to get around their screens," Brewer said. "They were really big in cutting you off and screening hard. I still feel we played good defense."
That was a sentiment echoed by Heath.
"I know there have been a lot of questions addressed to the defense," Heath said, "but heck, we held them to 38 percent. That's great defense. I'll take that every night. That wasn't our problem in not winning today."
The Razorbacks shot just 40 percent from the floor, a season-worst 2-of-12 from 3-point land and missed six of nine free throws while trying to rally from a 10-point second-half deficit.
They were only 5-of-14 in the second half after going 4-of-4 in the first half and finishing 15-of-24 from the line on the day.
"None of those kids ever get to that line unprepared or trying to miss, so I don't ever point the finger at this, that or the other," Heath said. "They go up there to make them and sometimes they just don't go in."
Arkansas still managed to get a 50-41 deficit with 6:30 left in the game down to two twice, the last time being when Modica hit a pair of free throws with 1:54 left in the game.
Two more by Modica - shooting for the injured Steven Hill - tied the game 55-55 with 1:15 remaining.
"I was really proud of the effort that our team played out there with today," Heath said. "We played with togetherness and fought back hard and put ourselves in position to win the game."
But just as it appeared Arkansas might force a 10-second violation, Lee got open for a layup against the press and put the Bison back up 57-55 with 1:02 left.
"That one hurt so bad," Modica said.
Eric Ferguson had a three-pointer that would have given the lead with just over 30 seconds left, but it rimmed out as did many on a day when the Razorbacks were 2-of-11 from beyond the arc.
Lee and Bettencourt missed free throws and Arkansas missed a pair of potential game-tying free throws before Badmus hit two with 7.9 seconds left to seal the deal.
The American Airlines Center then quickly became half-deserted even though No. 1 seed Memphis and ORU were getting ready to play.
"They hit a lot of big-time shots," Modica said. "There wasn't much we could really do on some of them. I give Bucknell a lot of credit for doing that."
Arkansas led just twice in the first half with Modica opening the game with a basket and then Darian Townes' dunk off a assist from Brewer pushing the Razorbacks ahead 21-20 with 3:30 left in the half.
Bucknell quickly regained the lead on McNaughton's basket inside and later took a 27-23 lead that they Bison would take into the locker room on Lee's 3-pointer with 39.3 left before intermission.
Bucknell then quickly bumped that margin to 10 early on in the second half when Bettencourt hit three free throws after being fouled while shooting behind the arc and then bombing home a 3-pointer to put the Bison up 33-23 with 18:08 left in the game.
"Three points are a part of the game," Flannery said. "Obviously we have some guys that can shoot the basketball."
Arkansas' Eric Ferguson collapses in agony after Bucknell's 59-55 win over the Razorbacks on Friday afternoon in the NCAA Tournament.
Bucknell 59, Arkansas 55
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