Celebrating the 20th Anniversary of 1994: The NCAA Tournament Begins

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Despite the loss to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament, Arkansas still entered the NCAA Tournament as a 1-seed with a 25-3 record.

As 1-seeds are traditionally able to do, the Razorbacks didn't have to travel far to begin the NCAA Tournament. They just had to go to Oklahoma City. This was before they built what is now the Chesapeake Energy Arena, and Arkansas had to play in the Myriad Convention Center, whose capacity was in the 13,000-range. It would not be an NCAA Tournament venue today.

Everyone expected Arkansas to dispose of their 16-seed opponent pretty easily, and although Arkansas did win comfortably, it likely wasn't as smooth as many anticipated.

The Hogs led North Carolina A&T by just four points at halftime, but Arkansas was able to pull away in the second half and win by 15 points, 94-79.

The Aggies were able to stay even with Arkansas in the turnover column, forcing 20 Razorback turnovers just as Arkansas collected 20 of their own, but 16 of them were steals by North Carolina A&T. They also got to the free throw line much more frequently than the Hogs, led by Joe Bunn who went 10-for-11 from the stripe. He finished with 20 points to go along with Tyrone Price's 20 and Phillip Allen's 19.

But it wasn't enough to keep up with the Razorbacks. Corliss Williamson put up a 24/7 on 10-for-13 shooting. Scotty Thurman went for 19 and Al Dillard for 13. Four Hogs had either eight or nine points. The Hogs held the Aggies 34.3% shooting while Arkansas shot 54.5%.

The Hogs advanced to the next round against Georgetown on March 20th. I admit this was one of the few televised games I did not watch that season but I had a good excuse. WrestleMania 10 was on at the same time as the Arkansas game, and as special as that 1994 team was, 11-year-old me was not about to miss Bret Hart beating Yokozuna for the world championship. Priorities, you know.

So while my friends and I were watching the Shawn Michaels/Razor Ramon ladder match, Mom was watching the Georgetown game in the other room. I would sneak out to get updates. Here are the highlights:

Why CBS ever updated their graphics is beyond me. I still love those.

Anyway, it was an eventful game. Arkansas again won easily (part of why I wasn't worried about missing the game. 11-year-old me never thought the Hogs could lose to a team like like '94 Georgetown) but had to do it even though Thurman was ejected in the first half for leaving the bench during a fight.

I'll just paste the recap from the New York Times. It documents everything, even though it incorrectly refers to Thurman as "Thurston". Nolan Richardson probably used that as an example of disrespect to motivate the team through the Tournament.

Georgetown had been shooting well recently but this evening the Hoyas made only 10 of 30 shots in the second half while Arkansas made 15 of 22. The Razorbacks toyed with Georgetown inside with a three-pronged attack led by Corliss Williamson (21 points), Dwight Stewart (16) and the freshman Darnell Robinson (13).

Joey Brown scored 13 points for Georgetown and George Butler, the hero of Friday's game against Illinois, scored 10 but made just 4 of 14 shots.

This evening's victory sends the Razorbacks to the Sweet 16 for the second straight year. This time, though, they had to brawl, literally, to qualify.

With 3 minutes 23 seconds left in the first half and Arkansas leading, 34-33, the Hoyas' Robert Churchwell tried to tie up the Clint McDaniel in a battle for a loose ball. The official whistled a foul as the two tumbled to the court, but McDaniel, apparently upset by the hard foul, poked an elbow at Churchwell's head, jumped to his feet and kicked Churchwell.

The two players got up and squared off as order was quickly restored. But two players, Don Reid of Georgetown and Scotty Thurston of Arkansas, left their benches to join the fight and, under the N.C.A.A. fighting rule, were automatically ejected.

Churchwell was called for a foul and McDaniel was hit with a technical. Arkansas led by 41-39 at intermission. Growing Without Leader

Thurston, an all-Southeastern Conference selection averaging 15.8 points a game, was the Arkansas leader, and Richardson said that he wondered how his loss would affect the young Razorbacks.

"Scotty's been the man for us," Richardson said. "He's carried us in a lot of basketball games. But I'm so proud of what happened with him out -- that's a plus for us. Our kids picked it up and Scotty learned a lesson the hard way."

The Razorbacks led by 74-58 with 6 minutes 56 seconds left. But just as it seemed that Georgetown would be run off the court, the Hoyas made one last run. Othella Harrington's three straight foul shots, a basket by Butler and another by Harrington cut the lead to 76-65 with 4:58 left. Williamson scored for Arkansas but John Jacques hit a jumper and Georgetown forced a turnover with 3:40 left.

The Hoyas failed to capitalize, however. Williamson scored two straight baskets and Arkansas led by 80-67 with 2:43 to go.

"I thought Nolan did a good job when he went big," Georgetown Coach John Thompson said. "It really was the first time I've seen him go big. I thought he did a good job of preventing us from getting the ball inside with that size. They deserved to win. They are a great team."

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