More Thoughts on Rotnei and the Basketball Season Opener

Forgive the trite observation, but one of the great things about sports is that each game offers the possibility of something wonderfully unexpected happening, of history being made. However, I'll confess to not being of such cheery and hopeful mind when the basketball Hogs began the regular season on Friday.

Given the way things have gone recently, I was predicting a depressingly close win. A loss didn't seem out of the question. Either way, I didn't think the Alcorn State game would be one that Arkansas fans would want to recall.

And then Rotnei Clarke shot his way into the record books.

My head is still spinning from his performance. 51 points, a Razorback single-game record. 13 three-point field-goals, a school and conference record. 21 field-goals attempted, 15 made. Eight of nine free throws. 

Granted, this was against Alcorn State, but still ... 51 points is 51 points. And regardless of the quality of the opponent, Clarke's performance was some good news for a program and fans in desperate search of something to cheer about.

Understandably, Rotnei's history-making night grabbed the headlines, but there were other reasons to cheer on Friday night. Junior college transfer Jemal Farmer had perhaps the quietest 28 points in Razorback history. He made nine of 16 field goals, nine of 10 free throws and grabbed 12 rebounds.

Freshman Marshawn Powell also had a double-double, with 17 points and 11 rebounds, and freshman point guard Julysses Nobles (awesome name, by the way) had nine assists and only two turnovers. In fact, the Hogs as a whole had 26 assists against just nine turnovers. They made nearly 76 percent of their free throws, truly unchartered territory for recent Arkansas squads.

I don't want to make too much of this. This was against Alcorn State, after all, and the Razorbacks will likely lose and lose big to Louisville on ESPN2 tomorrow night. A tough season almost certainly awaits them.

But maybe Friday's surprisingly spirited win indicates there's more to these Hogs than we've been thinking. Maybe, maybe not.

But I do know this: I'll be in front of the TV tomorrow night, cheering them on. After all, as former St. Louis Cardinal pitcher and noted philosopher Joaquin Andujar once said, "There is one word in America that says it all, and that one word is, 'You never know.'"

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