Earlier on Saturday I tweeted a fun little fact regarding the basketball series between Arkansas and Missouri: The 1993-94 season was historically the best season that Missouri has ever had in the modern basketball era. They finished with only four losses, earned their only #1 seed to date in the NCAA Tournament, and made the Elite Eight, which is as far as the Tigers have ever gone in the history of their program.
In that same season, Arkansas beat them by 52 points at Bud Walton Arena. Fifty-two!
An even more enjoyable fact from that game is that the Razorbacks could have gone scoreless in the first half, as in WITHOUT ONE SINGLE POINT, and still won the game by seven points.
The 2013 contest between the Razorbacks and Tigers was much closer, and due to Missouri's newbie status in the SEC, much more intense, but in the end the outcome was still the same. Mike Anderson's squad couldn't have gone scoreless for an entire half and won, but DID go scoreless over the first four minutes of the game and managed to pull off a victory regardless. Rim-clanging, no-shooting B.J. Young put the Hogs on the board for the first time with a 3-pointer at the 15:30 mark of the first half.
That's why, despite the poor shooting and the turnovers and the WHATAREYOUDOINGTHEREARETHREEGUYSONYOU!!!?!, he is the leader of this team. He was the one who finally got the Hogs started, and he was the one who finished down the stretch. Young scored the final seven Razorback points of the game, including two and-1 layups over the final 30 seconds of play.
That is to take nothing away from Marshawn Powell, without whom the Razorbacks would not have been able to keep up with Missouri over the course of the game, Young bookends or not. Powell was the one to give the Hogs their first lead of the game with a three-pointer early in the second half. It came as part of a spree in which he scored 10 consecutive points for Arkansas and 12 of their first 15 in the second half. Without his presence during that stretch, Missouri would have been able to cruise to an easy victory. B.J. Young ignited the Razorbacks' scoring and accounted for the crescendo in the finale, but Powell was who the Hogs leaned on during the grinding middle portion of the game.
In the end, the Hogs needed every ounce of both performances in addition to the contributions of every other player that trotted out on the court. The Hogs desperately needed Coty Clarke's 3-of-3 outing behind the arc that came out of left field. They needed Kikko Haydar's antagonistic defense and tenacity to fray the nerves of the Tigers' ballhandlers. They needed Rashad Madden's poise in his time at the point, dishing out four assists to go with only a single turnover. And they needed Michael Qualls' go-go gadget legs to provide five points and a critical four rebounds in only 12 minutes. Hunter Mickelson has been a target of many lately, myself included, but the Hogs desperately needed the fly-by tip-in he provided in the second half to help the Razorbacks regain a two-possession lead.
Young was the leader, and Powell proved the workhorse, but every ounce of effort from every player was required for the Hogs to win on Saturday, especially after the abysmal way the game started.
Four-and-a-half minutes before their first points. Down nearly double digits out of the gate. This wasn't the Florida game where the Hogs landed an uppercut early and were able to take advantage of a stunned opponent They had to fight for it against Missouri, and the fact that they did is damned satisfying. A home letdown against a talented squad like Missouri almost seems what the script would call for for this team, but Arkansas finally refused to let the recent past dictate the present.
It wasn't 120-68, and it isn't going to kick-start a national championship bid, but if the Razorbacks manage to make anything positive of this 2012-2013 season, today's rivalry rekindling victory over Missouri will undoubtedly serve as a significant milestone toward whatever the Hogs accomplish.
Trent Wooldridge will be that guy with enough bourbon. He loves the S-E-C chant and honks because he hates Texas. He puts honey on his pizza, demands aisle seats, and sees quitting golf as more of a hobby than actually playing golf. Follow @twooldridge and track his quest to transform his two-year-old into a southpaw ace in the bigs.