The National Championship
The National Championship
|Corliss Williamson was named the Most Outstanding Player of the 1994 Final Four after averaging 26.0 points and 10.5 rebounds in Arkansas’ two wins.|
Without a senior in the starting lineup, playing in the most palatial arena in college basketball with the President of the United States attending four games and led by a coach with a system that could not be drawn up on a blackboard, Arkansas vaulted into the elite of the elite when the Razorbacks won the 1994 NCAA championship.
Construction workers built Bud Walton Arena in record time and the 19,200-seat showcase dazzled fans and opponents as much as the Razorbacks did. Sellout crowds each time the doors were opened watched the Hogs go 16-0 at home. Only one game, the 84-83 victory over LSU, was decided by fewer than 10 points. UA won those 16 games by an average of 30 points.
UA blitzed Murray State, 93-67, in the Bud Walton Arena opener on Nov. 29, but the building was dedicated a few nights later when Missouri came to Fayetteville for an ESPN showcase game. The Dec. 2 game was decided in the first few minutes as Arkansas roared to a 120-68 victory over a Missouri club which went unbeaten in the Big Eight and came within one victory of reaching the Final Four.
Ranked No. 1 nationally for 10 weeks during the regular season, the Hogs lost only twice during the regular campaign. Alabama beat Arkansas, 66-64, in Tuscaloosa, and Mississippi State edged the Hogs, 72-71, in Starkville.
Sophomores Corliss Williamson and Scotty Thurman carried much of the load, and junior Corey Beck was the blue collar leader. When the Hogs had to score, they went inside to Williamson, who averaged 20.4 points per game. He shot .626 from the field and 70 percent at the free throw line.
Thurman, though, was the last-minute hero. His three-pointer with seven seconds left gave Arkansas a one-point victory at Tennessee. He hit another three in the last 30 seconds to lift the Hogs past LSU at Baton Rouge in overtime.
Beck did much of the dirty work, defending with tenacity and leading the team in assists. He and junior Clint McDaniel probably were the best defensive guards in college basketball. Head coach Nolan Richardson certainly thought so. McDaniel also provided perimeter firepower, as did junior Dwight Stewart, Arkansas’ fifth starter who was more a forward than a center.
Richardson used a deep bench to guide the Hogs to a 24-2 regular season finish. Al Dillard brought instant offense into any contest with his incredible three-point shooting range. He was Arkansas’ third-leading scorer behind Williamson and Thurman (15.9 ppg) with an 8.9 average even though he played just more than 12 minutes a game. Roger Crawford, one of only two seniors on the squad, also brought instant firepower off the bench, but he was injured early in the NCAA Tournament run and was not available for the Final Four.
In his honor, UA players wore a No. 31 patch on their jerseys.
Freshmen Darnell Robinson and Lee Wilson, a pair of 6-11 centers, gave the Hogs size they didn’t have in 1993 when they won 22 games and reached the Sweet 16 before falling to eventual national champion North Carolina. Senior Ken Biley and junior Elmer Martin also made significant contributions.
When President Bill Clinton visited Bud Walton Arena for a Dec. 28 blowout of Texas Southern, no one realized it would be a preview of later visits to the NCAA Tournament. The nation’s most recognizable Razorback fan later appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing sweats presented by Richardson.
A 13-game winning streak was snapped by Kentucky in the SEC Tournament, but the Razorbacks were still seeded first in the Midwest Regional at Oklahoma City. Williamson scored 24 points and had seven rebounds in a 94-79 first-round victory over North Carolina A&T. He followed with 21 points and Robinson, making a surprise start, added 13 in the 85-73 second-round win over Georgetown.
|Corey Beck averaged 12.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists in earning Final Four all-tournament honors in 1994.|
Early in the year, Tulsa gave Arkansas a scare before the Hogs won in overtime, 93-91, in Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane surprised UCLA and Oklahoma State to reach the Sweet 16 with UA in Dallas. This one was no contest as Williamson and Thurman scored 21 each, and McDaniel 19 in a 103-84 victory.
Michigan was Arkansas’ regional final foe and the Hogs could not contain Juwan Howard, but neither could the Wolverines handle Thurman. With Williamson smothered by Michigan’s inside defense and held to 12 points, Thurman tossed in 20 as UA reached the Final Four with a 76-68 win attended by President Clinton.
By the time the Hogs arrived at Charlotte, N.C., they were a confident bunch. They also had been somehow convinced by Richardson that they were not nationally respected, even though they had been ranked No. 1. Arizona was the semifinal opponent and the Wildcat guards, Damon Stoudamire and Khalid Reeves, were billed as the top offensive guards in the nation.
Beck and McDaniel were motivated to the hilt and smothered them. They combined to hit just 11 of their 43 shots, including just two of 22 three-point attempts. Williamson scored 29 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and the Hogs advanced to the championship game with a 91-82 victory.
An entire state stood still on April 4, 1994. Arkansas fans who could not be there (more than 3,000 made the trip to Charlotte) watched and listened in every corner of the state. President Clinton was there again, and so was Duke, the 1991 and ’92 national champion.
After an airtight first half that ended with Arkansas holding a 34-33 lead, Duke jumped out to a 10-point advantage in the first three minutes of the second half. However, the pace of the game picked up during the run and it never slowed down. The Razorbacks took advantage and were even with the Devils less than five minutes later.
When Arkansas built a 70-65 lead late in the contest, it looked safe, but Grant Hill’s three tied the game with 1:29 remaining.
Although Williamson finished with 23 points, there was no doubt who would take the next shot for UA. Thurman launched a high-arching three-point attempt with only seconds left on the shot clock. The shot fell with 51 seconds left and when it settled through the net, the outcome had been determined. A pair of free throws by McDaniel and another by Dillard sealed Duke’s fate, 76-72.
Once the national championship belonged to the Hogs, an entire state celebrated. President Clinton embraced Richardson on the court and later officially honored the Razorbacks at the White House.
The 1994 NCAA championship trophy is on display at Bud Walton Arena.
ARKANSAS’ NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICAL CHAMPIONS
|1991||Oliver Miller, 70.4 field goal percentage (254-361)|
|1976||Sidney Moncrief, 66.5 field goal percentage (149-224)*|
|1974||Rickey Medlock, 91.6 free throw percentage (87-95)|
|1961-63||Tommy Boyer, 89.2 career free throw percentage (315-353)**|
|1963||Tommy Boyer, 44 consecutive free throws, most by a major college player**|
|1963||Tommy Boyer, 91.3 free throw percentage (147-161)|
|1962||Tommy Boyer, 93.3 free throw percentage (125-134)(all-time NCAA record at the time)|
* All-time NCAA record for a freshman ** Since broken
TEAM STATISTICAL CHAMPIONS
|1999||292 three-point field goals made|
|1995||361 three-point field goals made*|
|1995||3,416 points scored|
|1995||39 games played|
|1994||91.2 winning percentage (31-3)|
|1994||301 three-point field goals made|
|1994||20.2 assists per game|
|1994||91.2 winning percentage (31-3)|
|1994||17.9-point margin of victory (93.4-75.6)|
|1991||3,783 points scored|
|1989||11.6 steals (372 in 32 games)|
|1978||54.6 field goal percentage (1,060-1,943)|
|1977||54.5 field goal percentage (849-1,558)|
|1962||.776 free throw percentage (502-647)|
* All-time NCAA record