Here's part 2 of our Q&A with former Razorback point guard Allie Freeman (for the scoop on what Allie is up to these days, read part 1). In today's final installment, Freeman discusses the crazy 1987 NIT game against Arkansas State, the most exciting win and the most depressing loss of his career, and which Whodini rap tune reminds him of his time in Fayetteville. Many thanks to Allie for his time.
Expats: Who did you enjoy playing for more, Coach Sutton or Coach Richardson? Whose style did you relate to more?
Freeman: I enjoyed playing for both of them immensely, but as far as playing style, I liked Coach Richardson's style a lot more. It was more of an up-and-down game. It was about making decisions in a split second.
Coach Richardson had a system where he didn't care about what teams did to us. He was always concerned about what we did to other teams. As far as adjusting, he didn't worry about doing a lot of adjusting. If one guy wasn't getting it done, he'd pull another guy off the bench and put him in.
Expats: One of the games that we wanted to ask you about was the 1987 NIT game against Arkansas State. Heading into that game, were you guys worried that if you didn't win that game, that Coach Richardson was likely to get fired?
Freeman: We didn't think a lot about that. We had heard the rumors. We didn't know how real or unreal they were. It was just like when Coach Sutton left - he's going, he's not going.
We really didn't focus on that. We just felt like we needed to control what happened on the court. I felt that if we executed and did the things that we needed to do, that we would win the game.
Being an Arkansan, I knew what that game meant. But I'm not sure that some of the guys who weren't from here really understood what it meant, initially.
I was really excited about it because I knew a lot of the guys that were on ASU. We played summer ball against each other, and I had played against some of them at various times in my high school career.
Expats: What was the mood like on the bench and in the locker room when you got so far behind?
Freeman: We were getting good shoots. The ball just wasn't falling. And they made some good decisions. They had some good players.
At halftime, Coach Richardson was upset but he was also somewhat calming. He said, "You guys go out there and play. Don't play for me. Just play the game. Play the game with the passion and desire that you practice with." He was like, "Just relax."
As we relaxed, we just started playing better. You saw it coming together. You saw us start hitting our shots. We started defending.
The guys from ASU, they had smirks on their faces. Overconfident, so to speak. They had a reason to be optimistic, but don't be so overconfident that you think you're going to win without a fight.
I remember telling Andrew [Lang], "Let's go, big boy. Let's get this done." We started going and before you know it, we were back in control of the game. We tied it, and it went into overtime. The place was rocking, and we won the game.
That was a real turning point with Coach Richardson. That game kind of helped propel us on to the season that we had the next year, in which we won over 20 games and went to the NCAA Tournament.
Expats: When you look back on your career, what was your favorite or most satisfying win? On the flip side, what was the hardest loss to take?
Freeman: As far as hardest losses, there are two. The first would have been my freshman year under Coach Sutton, when we lost to Chris Mullin and St. John's in the NCAA Tournament. That was a phenomenal game.
In the second half, we had chances to go up, but my teammate William Mills got the ball two times on a fast break. He attacked the basket and each time, he couldn't decide whether he was going to dunk it or lay it up. And both times, he missed it. They were very makeable shots.
Expats: When we asked this question of Charles Balentine, he gave a similar answer, and he specifically mentioned that botched dunk by William Mills.
Freeman: Yes, there were actually two in a row. Charles might not remember that, but [Mills] had two chances at the basket. If we had made those shots, there's no doubt in my mind that we win the game. No doubt about it. If it had been me, I would have made those buckets!
The other loss took place during my junior year when we played Alabama in Birmingham. Derrick McKey was the starting center for them, and Mike Gottfried, who later coached there, was one of the guards.
I did not get off the bench the whole game. It hurt me because I felt like I was ready, and I would have contributed. I had practiced well. The style that Alabama was playing, I thought I had something that would have helped us win.
Some friends of my family who were from Savannah, Ga., came all the way up there to see us play, and I did not get off the bench. I was a little bit embarrassed by that, to some degree.
After the game, Coach Anderson came over to me and said, "Ali, you've worked hard. We didn't get you in the game today, but coach wanted me to let you know that we will get you in the next game. In fact, you might start!" That's what he told me.
At that point in my life, being a junior, I was grown up enough to not take it personally. I supported my teammates and said, "There's nothing I can do about that." That was a coach's decision. My thing is just to keep myself ready. Coach Richardson and Anderson thanked me for that. I didn't hold any grudges. I just went back to work. That's all that you can do.
Expats: What was the most exciting victory of your career?
Freeman: Hands down, the most exciting victory had to be against [No. 6] Kansas in Barnhill. We ran Kansas out of the gym. My old high school teammate Tim Scott, who had joined us that year, he had 20-something points. I had double-digit points. Andrew Lang had a phenomenal game. We dominated Kansas.
There was nothing like Barnhill Arena with a sold-out crowd. It was a phenomenal atmosphere. You could feel the floor bouncing underneath you. We ran them right on back to Kansas.
By far, that was the greatest victory that I was a part of. It felt like a tournament game, a championship-type game.
Expats: This is kind of a random one, but it's led to some fun answers in our other Q&A's. What particular songs jump out at you and make you think of that time, or were songs that the guys on the team all listened to?
Freeman: "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" [by McFadden & Whitehead]. Coach Richardson used to play that at the beginning of our practices, particularly when we were going through two-a-days or three-a-days. That was a great song.
And there was a song by Whodini - "Five Minutes of Funk." That was when rap music was really starting.
Those are two that I think of. There are others that I might remember after I get through talking with you guys (laughs).