It’s safe to say the SEC Tournament isn’t the most memorable part of the championship season.
Even blessed with the good fortune of the Tournament taking place in Memphis’ Pyramid aka Pigamid aka
Barnhill Bud Walton East, the Hogs just weren’t playing their best, and got knocked out in the semi-finals against the much-hated Kentucky Wildcats.
The Razorbacks obviously earned a bye to the Friday quarterfinals, where they met Georgia. Arkansas had trouble slowing down the Bulldogs, actually trailing at halftime 50-46. The game stayed close in the second half and was tied as late as 67-67, but the Hogs were able to pull away thanks to Corliss Williamson’s career-high 30 points.
Corey Beck made a few big plays shortly after the game was tied at 67 to instigate Arkansas’ late run. He took a charge, hit a pair of free throws (nine of Beck’s 11 points came from the free throw line), and made a nice pass to Wiliamson that resulted in a three-point play that put the Hogs up 77-71 with 6:12 to go. The Razorbacks ended up winning 95-83.
Afterward, Nolan Richardson had this to say about his point guard, "Beck is probably the most underrated basketball player in the Southeastern Conference. We’ll go as far as Corey Beck takes us. He's the man."
The win sent the Hogs into a Saturday semifinal battle with Kentucky, and the Hogs had too much trouble shooting the ball against the Wildcats’ defense.
Big Nasty had another monster game with 23 points and 16 rebounds, but Arkansas as a whole shot just 32.1%, including 28.6% from three. Kentucky, meanwhile, shot an even 50% and 44.4% from beyond the arc. Arkansas actually won both the turnover and rebounding battle, and even took 20 more shots from the field but still made four fewer field goals.
The game was close for most of the first half, but Kentucky started keeping some decent separation between the two teams by halftime. Arkansas made a run in the second half that cut as close as 61-58 after a Scotty Thurman three, but it was Kentucky’s little-used Gimel Martinez, with a wad of cotton sticking out of his nose after taking a hit earlier, who scored his only five points of the game after Thurman’s shot and killed Arkansas’ run.
The Hogs couldn’t make enough shots to tie the game or take the lead. At one point the Hogs missed 10 consecutive field goals and even suffered a shot clock violation turnover, which was of course very rare for Richardson’s teams. The final score was 90-78.
The Razorbacks didn’t even get a single dunk in the game. It was just an odd day for college basketball. Six of the top eight teams lost that Saturday, with only Kentucky and North Carolina surviving.
It was a disappointing loss, Arkansas’ third straight in the SEC Tournament semifinals, but the Razorbacks wouldn’t be down long.