Each Wednesday, we take a look back at a memorable and/or important (to us, anyway) Razorback game. So, sit back, relax and let the memories (and, in some cases, the heartache and angst) flow.
Everyone remembers the Razorbacks' upset of No.1 North Carolina in February of 1984. But not as many fans recall that, exactly three weeks after that thrilling afternoon in Pine Bluff, the Hogs notched a win over the No. 2 team in the country, the Houston Cougars - a team that I think was even better than those vaunted Tar Heels.
When Hakeem Olajuwon and his Cougars walked into Barnhill Arena on Sunday, March 4, 1984, they came armed with some impressive stats. For starters, they were coming off two straight appearances in the Final Four. In 1983, they had advanced to the national championship game, which of course they lost in heartbreaking fashion; one month after their Barnhill battle against the Hogs, the Cougars advanced to the championship game for a second consecutive year before falling to Georgetown.
Furthermore, Houston had not lost a conference game in more than two years, steamrolling through the SWC with a 16-0 mark in '83 and bringing a 15-0 conference record to the regular-season finale in Fayetteville.
The Hogs of this era, ranked no. 12 when this game began, were no slouches themselves. Over the course of the 1982-83 and 83-84 seasons, Arkansas compiled an overall record of 51-11. In SWC regular-season play, the Razorbacks were 28-4; three of those losses were to the Cougars. But Arkansas, playing before a sold-out crowd that was rowdy even by Barnhill standards as well a national CBS television audience, finally got the best of Houston this afternoon.
The Hogs trailed by two at halftime, but rallied behind the play of Smokin' Joe Kleine, whose energetic effort forced Olajuwon to foul out with more than five minutes left in the game. Kleine hit all 10 of his free throws and scored 22 points. Joe had lots of support: Charles Balentine had 16 points and 8 rebounds; Ricky Norton scored 14 points; and Alvin Robertson took a break from whatever deeply disturbing off-the-court behavior he was presumably engaged in at the time to score 13 points and dish out nine assists.
When the game ended, the Hogs appeared to have a very bright immediate future. They had finished the regular-season with a 24-5 mark and would find themselves ranked No. 8 in the next day's AP poll. They seemed to be serious contenders to reach the Final Four for the second time under Eddie Sutton.
Alas, it was not meant to be. In fact, the '84 Hogs would win only one more game, against Texas A&M in the semi-finals of the SWC Tournament. In the next day's championship game, the Cougars would exact revenge by rallying from a double-digit, second-half deficit to deal Arkansas a truly devastating loss. One week later, in their NCAA Tournament opener against Virginia, the Razorbacks looked surprisingly sluggish and lost in overtime to eventual Final Four participant Virginia by the very Eddie Sutton-esque score of 53 to 51.
Heartbreak was nowhere to be found on that March afternoon in Barnhill, though: the Hogs had finally conquered their tormentors.
(Game details and AP rankings courtesy of the 2010 Razorback basketball media guide.)