It's hard to fathom right now an Arkansas basketball team going on the road in the SEC and putting up 117 points. But it did happen. Yes, of course it came against Auburn.
But an interesting part of that game, is that it almost didn't happen. Or, at the very least, it almost happened differently.
In January of 1994, the Black Coaches Association, upset with new NCAA rules involving scholarship numbers and college entrance requirements that they believed disproportionately affected minorities, threatened to walk out/boycott games, and Nolan Richardson was one of the faces of the group.
With the Razorbacks being such a high profile program at the time, Richardson was among the most well-known coaches in the group, and as such, had to answer questions about it frequently, even appearing on ESPN to discuss the matter. And before the Auburn game, he said this on the SEC Coaches Teleconference according to the Baltimore Sun:
"I'm not sure if there's going to be a boycott, but you'd better bet your bottom dollar that if there is one, Nolan Richardson is on his way out," Richardson proclaimed yesterday during a teleconference of Southeastern Conference coaches.
This was really happening. Conferences and television crews were making contingency plans. It was unknown how many players might go along with it, so the threat of cancellation, as opposed to just playing the game with an interim coach, was very real.
It wasn't until Friday, January 14th, the day before the game at Auburn on Saturday, that it was announced the BCA would not boycott the Saturday games and instead waited until later in the year to pursue the matter.
So the game did take place on the 15th, and it was likely one of the most exciting games the team played that year. Arkansas led by just a point at halftime 57-56 en route to both teams breaking the 100-point mark. The Hogs actually trailed 86-79 with about 10 minutes left, but scored eight straight to take the lead and win going away.
If you're doing math, that means Arkansas scored an incredible 38 points in the last 10 minutes of the game. In. Sane.
It still stands as Arkansas' record for points scored in an SEC game.
It was a huge game for Scotty Thurman, who scored 32 points on 12-for-18 shooting. Corliss Williamson pitched in 22 points and 11 rebounds. Roger Crawford, Corey Beck, and Clint McDaniel were also in double digits. Auburn was led by Aaron Swinson with 29 points, future pro Wesley Person with 28, and Little Rock native Wes Flanigan scored 14. It seemed like the Little Rock kids like Flanigan who played for other SEC West schools always killed us.
"Today was a coming-out party for us," the Razorback coach said. "It's been a long week with all of the talk about the BCA, and I am certainly part of that. And that's not about basketball totally."
Four days later, the Hogs travelled to Starkville for a second consecutive road game, and as can happen with the second part of back-to-back road games, Arkansas played one of its worst games of the year.
The Razorbacks started off hot, building a 10-point lead in the first half, but it didn't last long. Mississippi State came back to take a two-point lead at halftime, and eventually won by a point 72-71.
Alex Dillard missed a shot at the buzzer that would have won the game. Williamson and Thurman were the only two Hogs in double digits, and Thurman only scored 10. The Bulldogs had five players score 10+, including future NBA player Erick Dampier. Arkansas as a team was just 13-of-28 from the free throw line. Ugly.
The victory was Mississippi State's sixth straight and actually gave the Bulldogs a two game lead in the division race, but that didn't last long on account of them going 4-7 the rest of the way.
Can you imagine the Internet outrage back then after the #1 team in the nation started 3-2 in conference play? "Nolan can't win the big one!" and related dreck.
Arkansas, down to #5 in the polls after their second loss, finally came back to Bud Walton Arena a few days later on the 22nd to take on South Carolina, and it wasn't close. The Hogs led at the half by 11 points and eventually won 79-53. The Razorbacks went 11-of-12 from the free throw line. Williamson led with 27 points and five rebounds. He really couldn't be stopped at this point.