Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of 1994: SEC Play Begins And It's, Uh, Sketchy

ArkansasRazorbacks.com

Arkansas opened SEC play on January 5th, 1994, and it didn't take long for games to get pretty interesting.

The Razorbacks blew out the Rebels in Fayetteville on January 5th. Corliss Williamson threw up 25 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out of a game Arkansas led 42-22 at halftime and went on to win 87-61 (Attendance: 20,096).

But then, on January 8th, something happened you may not be aware of. The 1994 national champion Razorbacks lost a game in Tuscaloosa to an Alabama team that up to that point had been pretty awful. The Tide entered the game with a 3-5 overall record and dropped their first SEC game to South Carolina by 16 points. They'd lost to Tennessee-Chattanooga and College of Charleston by double digits.

It was a game in which Alabama controlled the tempo and Arkansas couldn't get anything going. Only seven Razorbacks scored, well below their average, and they only ended up with 64 points - 40 points below their season average to that point.

But it was still a close game, and Arkansas had an opportunity to tie or win on the final possession but couldn't get a shot off. A Tide freshman named Antonio McDyess hit the go-ahead jumper for Alabama with 4:27 to go, and Arkansas never could get the lead back.

Williamson fouled out after scoring 12 points and grabbing 8 rebounds, but Scotty Thurman was just 4-of-13 for 10 points, while Clint McDaniel and Dwight Stewart were both 2-for-7. The team as a whole shot just 35.3%

The Tide actually ended up being a pretty solid team that year, going 12-4 in the SEC - good for a 2nd place finish in the SEC West - and earning a 9-seed in the NCAA Tournament where they beat Providence in the first round but lost to 1-seed Purdue in the second.

I'm pretty sure all video of this game was obtained one way or the other by Arkansas and burned.

Nolan Richardson after the game:

"When we play on the road, the other team always plays their best game," Arkansas Coach Nolan Richardson said. "Our kids have been trying so hard" to maintain the No. 1 ranking, "but now we're off the merry-go-round. We've got the incentive to go back."

Alabama coach David Hobbs, however, used the opportunity to fire back at critics after the Tide's slow start. It's kind of funny:

"I can take it," he said. "I'm paid to take it. But it's tough on these kids to have to read some things they've had to read. I believe in freedom of the press and I believe you guys should write what you need to write. But I'm not all of a sudden a genius for winning this game and I'm not a dummy for losing those others."

Dropped to a #4 ranking, the Hogs headed back to Fayetteville to host LSU on January 11th, and clearly, the Hogs started the game in a similarly sluggish manner against the Tigers, falling to a nine-point halftime deficit, trailing 42-33.

But Arkansas roared back in the second half, and, well, here's how the game ended in a crazy final three minutes:

Corliss Williamson, who had 24 points, scored inside and then kicked the ball out to Stewart for a 3-pointer as Arkansas (11-1, 2-1) took an 81-77 lead with 2 minutes 54 seconds to play. Henderson's jumper bounced off the rim, but Sean Gipson of the Tigers put it back uncontested and Arkansas fouled underneath. Burns made two free throws to tie it at 81-81.

With the shot clock winding down, Stewart threw up a 3-pointer that missed. Brandon made two free throws to make it 83-81 with 1:26 to play. Stewart's baseline jumper tied it and then McDaniel swiped the ball from Andre Owens, who committed the deciding foul.

McDaniel made just one of the two free throws with 39 seconds left, but LSU's Jamie Brandon missed two shots to tie the game, and Arkansas escaped with the one-point victory.

LSU's Ronnie Henderson was on fire all night, scoring 25 points (he only averaged 15.9 for the season) and four other Tigers were in double digits. In addition to his 24 points, Big Nasty also had eight rebounds and six assists, while connecting on 11-of-13 shots from the field. Stewart had 17, 3, and 3. Thurman had 15, 6, and 3. Corey Beck also had nine points and eight assists.

The Tigers didn't have a great team that year (finished 11-16, 5-11 in the SEC) but they certainly gave Arkansas fits. Attendance for the classic: 20,208.

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