Heady Times in Big D

LARRY HAGMAN  DALLAS

With tonight's game against Baylor in Dallas, I imagine that many Razorback basketball fans are remembering the abundant good times that the program has enjoyed in the city. Among the highlights: the 1990 and 1994 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional championships, and the 1982, '89, '90 and '91 Southwest Conference Tournament championships.

Trying to pick my favorite Dallas moment is tough, but if forced to choose, I would go with the 1990 Midwest Regional victory. Obviously, the 1994 tournament is a better overall memory than the 1990 one, but I think the '90 NCAA games in Dallas were more exciting than the ones four years later, plus they marked the first time I had ever watched a Hog team clinch a trip to the Final Four.

Nearly 18 years ago, the Hogs came to Dallas after having dispatched of Princeton and Dayton in the first and second rounds, respectively, of the NCAAs. In their third-round match-up in old Reunion Arena, the Hogs, led by the underrated Lenzie Howell's 25 points, blew away Dean Smith and the North Carolina Tar Heels by a score of 96-73. Granted, that wasn't one of Smith's better Sweet 16 teams, but still: after Nolan Richardson had struggled for much of the late 1980s to get the program back on its feet, watching the Razorbacks so thoroughly whip UNC was pretty damn exciting.

Two days later, on March 24, 1990, the Hogs played none other than the Texas Longhorns, their most bitter rival, with nothing less than a trip to the Final Four at stake. And the game lived up to the hoopla: Arkansas pulled out a thrilling and tense 88-85 win. Once again, Howell topped all Hog scorers with 21 points to capture regional MVP honors.

In 1986, with his daughter dying from leukemia, Nolan Richardson guided his first Razorback team to a 12-16 record. Many fans and media, after years of watching Eddie Sutton compile 20-plus victory seasons and make trip after trip to the NCAAs, were pretty tough on the new coach. To see him headed to the Final Four just four years later after going through so much ... well, Dallas memories don't get any sweeter than that.

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