Memory Lane: Arkansas 67, Arkansas State 64 (1987)

In March 1987, for the only time since 1948, Arkansas played Arkansas State in basketball. The footage below (once again courtesy of YouTuber acnhs09) is from that legendary game, which took place in the first round of the NIT.

To set the stage: Nolan Richardson was in his second season at Arkansas and, before the contest against ASU, had compiled a record of 30-29 at the school. Speculation was rampant that a loss to the then-Indians - whom, along with other in-state schools, Frank Broyles refused to schedule regular-season games against - would result in Nolan getting canned.

Richardson has long maintained that Frank assured him before the game that his job was safe, regardless of how the game against ASU turned out. However, I have always found it hard to believe that Frank wouldn't have fired Nolan if the Hogs had lost this game. This, after all, is a man who fired Jack Crowe immediately following a season-opening loss to The Citadel, and losing to Arkansas State surely ranked very, very high on the athletic director's list of nightmare scenarios.

The anticipation and hype surrounding this game were incredible, and, amazingly, the game lived up to the billing. ASU led by nine at intermission and by as many as 21 points in the second half (around the 2:42 mark of the clip below, you can hear the color commentator say, "This thing is close to being out of hand.").

Needless to say, Nolan's job status wasn't looking so rosy.

But the Hogs, fueled by the late-game heroics of Ron Huery and - somewhat surprisingly, to say the least - Cannon Whitby, returned from the brink to force overtime, in which they outscored ASU eight to five.

All in all, an absolutely electric night in Barnhill Arena. Amazingly (and this probably warrants a separate post to flesh out the point), the Razorback media guides does not list this game as one of the program's 10 most memorable contests. (One can almost imagine Frank Broyles ordering this game off any such list.)

Whatever the opinion of the athletic department, it's hard to think of a more memorable and important game from the Richardson era. If the Hogs had lost this one, Nolan might not have been around to create the glory years that followed.

 


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