Watch the clip for the game highlights, and the references to the postponement of that night's "Grace Under Fire" and "Home Improvement" episodes. '90s baby!
For kids like me, this was simply the biggest Arkansas sporting event of the year. This was it. I know it was just a regular season game with nothing particularly on the line, but still, the Arkansas/Kentucky games were huge events. Pitino and Richardson. Blue and red. Both teams played really fast styles of basketball. And they were clearly the two elite programs of the SEC. It was the measuring stick. It was awesome.
The 1994 game on February 9th was a top-5 match-up, with the Hogs ranked #3 and Kentucky #4. Coming into the game, Arkansas of course had only lost the two games by three total points. Kentucky had lost three times to Indiana, Georgia (in OT), and at Florida.
The Wildcats came out hot and led 39-24 with under five minutes remaining until halftime, but then Rhodrick Rhodes was called for a technical foul after jawing with Corey Beck, and the game's momentum changed. Arkansas went on a run following the whistle, cutting their halftime deficit to just six, 47-41.
The score remained tight at the beginning of the second half until the Razorbacks found a way to pass over the Kentucky press and went on a 19-3 run and took the lead for good. Kentucky cut the lead to two points with two minutes to go, but couldn't convert, and Arkansas rolled out of Lexington with a big win.
Looking at the box score, it's really pretty amazing Arkansas won the game. Kentucky took 14 more shots than Arkansas, had a few more rebounds, more assists, and even one more steal. The turnovers were even at 17 apiece. And Arkansas only shot 59.5% from the free throw line. What cost the Wildcats the game is really bad three-point shooting. They attempted 40 (!) threes and only made 10.
Meanwhile, Arkansas shot 50% from the floor, led by Scotty Thurman's 9-for-17 and Corliss Williamson's 6-for-12 performances. The pair combined for 47 total points. And because Arkansas didn't spend nearly as much time behind the three point line as Kentucky, the Hogs were able to get to the free throw line a lot more, shooting 22-37 from the stripe compared to just 14-26 for Kentucky.
Big Nasty also had 14 rebounds that night, which at the time was a career high. I know Arkansas fans remember Williamson as being a great Razorback, but I'm not sure people remember exactly how great. His numbers are just astonishing looking back. Nearly unstoppable.
Dwight Stewart had 13 points and Clint McDaniel had nine. Beck, Roger Crawford and Davor Rimac each had six.
Rhodes led Kentucky with 22 points and Tony Delk had 16. Jared Prickett (who I swear played for Kentucky for like 10 years) had 11 points and 20 rebounds.
Kentucky was riding a 33-game home winning streak going into the game. It was a streak that began following the last time Arkansas went into Rupp Arena and beat them in 1992.
Normally, when Arkansas would take on a ranked Florida team inside Bud Walton Arena, but the Kentucky game overshadowed the Saturday showdown with the Gators.
Florida didn't appear in the rankings until the very end of January, but actually finished SEC play 12-4, winning the SEC East over Kentucky, and making the SEC Tournament final against the Wildcats. Oh, and the Gators would also join Arkansas in Charlotte for the Final Four, where they lost to Duke in the semifinal (And aren't we glad? Beating Florida for the title wouldn't be quite the same).
So in recollect, this looks like a bigger game than it probably felt at the time.
The game was tight in the first half but Arkansas held the lead throughout the second. Thurman kept up his hot shooting from the Kentucky game and led the team with 24 points. Williamson had 20. Darnell Robinson set a career-high at the time with 15. Dan Cross led the Gators with 29
What Florida coach Lon Kruger said after the game:
"I feel they are the best team in the country. With Williamson inside and Thurman outside, that makes them a tough team."