FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. –-Arkansas’ 1994 men’s basketball national championship team is going to be honored by the university the weekend of the March 1 Georgia basketball game.
Saturday, Feb. 28, and Sunday, March 1, have been designated “Celebration of a Championship” weekend.
The festivities get under way on Saturday with a reception and banquet. Ticketshave initially been madeavailable to Razorback Foundation members. Should tickets remain after the initial offering, they will be made available to the general public.
The weekend closes with the Razorbacks playing host to Georgia on Sunday at 3:05 p.m. in a game being televised by Raycom Sports.
On Sunday, arena doors will open at noon. From noon until 2 p.m., members of the team and coaching staff will be available to sign autographs at tables in the concourse area. Beginning at noon, the 1994 championship game will be played in its entirety on the video board in the arena and on monitors in the concourse.
A limited number of commemorative posters will be available to fans as they enter the building.
The team, coaches and staff will be recognized on the court at halftime.
Individual single-game tickets are still available for the Georgia contest by calling the ticket office at 479-575-5151 or 800-982-4547.
Ranked No. 1 nationally for 10 weeks during the regular season in 1994, head coach Nolan Richardson’s club lost only twice during the regular campaign.
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 were probably the best defensive guards in college basketball. 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.
The roster also included forward Ray Biggers, guard John Engskov, forward Reggie Garrett, guard Reggie Merritt, guard Davor Rimac and forward Craig Tyson.
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.
Earlier 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 Arkansas in Dallas. The rematch 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 the Hogs reached the Final Four with a 76-68 win attended by President Bill Clinton.
By the time the Hogs arrived at Charlotte, N.C., they were a confident bunch. 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. Stoudamire and Reeves 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.
Williamson finished with 23 points, but Thurman got the shot and 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.
Arkansas finished the year 31-3 with the NCAA title and a No. 1 ranking.
The 1994 NCAA championship trophy is on display in Bud Walton Arena.