Favorite

Like 1994 

It's been a maddening few months to be a Hog aficionado, but as this strange and often unnerving basketball season unwinds, the fact that we are hearkening back to historical markers is pretty telling.

Twenty years had gone by since Arkansas pinned a loss on Kentucky at Rupp Arena. Granted, Arkansas does not travel to that garish place every year, but it's still a drought that has served as a microcosm of the program's deterioration (and, simultaneously, as proof of the Wildcats' dominance of late). That last win there, natch, was in the midst of the Hogs' memorable run to the national title, and so anytime the magic digits "1994" are flashed on ESPN, it incites nostalgia and aggravation for us all at once.

There's some real bittersweet irony, then, in the fact that the Hogs went to Lexington last week as a double-digit underdog and came out with a season- and possibly era-altering 71-67 overtime win. Obviously, Arkansas beating Kentucky is something that Hog fans contend shouldn't send ripples, but the reality is that it does. We celebrated a narrow victory over a modestly accomplished team — the Cats promptly followed up their sixth loss with No. 7 at woeful South Carolina on Saturday — the way we might've rejoiced in ... yes, 1994.

Different though the stakes may be, the impact isn't. For Mike Anderson, the Hogs' third road win of the season may have been the one that mattered the most for his long-term prognosis. He's clearly had some pent-up disgust over the erratic manner of play his team has employed, evidenced by the fact that he never loses his cool even when circumstances practically beg for it. As the Hogs started faltering in the middle stages of the second half against Kentucky, it was looking like another one of those near-miss moments we've been seeing every few days this year.

But the Hogs were, as this column posited a while back, buoyed by recent changes in fortune. They could draw on two close-shave victories at Nashville and Starkville and understand that, amazingly, you are not out of the game when the other team pulls ahead by a few points with time to spare. There was remarkable resolve on display during those last, critical junctures of regulation that weren't there in prior defeats: steady free throw shooting, smart and patient ball movement, and prudent doses of aggression on defense where bailout fouling might have once reigned.

For those reasons, once the Hogs managed to force that extra five-minute frame, the team's makeup was decidedly different than it had been before. Coty Clarke drained a long three and four free throws, and when Kikko Haydar sank a couple more to punctuate a 16-for-16 foul shooting effort, that was the wraps. And it was satisfying, yet the understated rejoicing on court led you to believe it was nowhere near enough to placate the staff or its charges, and that may have been the best sign of all.

The carryover was evident this time. Having followed the home upset of the Wildcats with a pretty much illogical clunker in losing at Georgia in late January, the Hogs minded history (see thesis above!) and got nasty in the rematch. The Bulldogs' seven-point first-half lead was built on false pretenses: They bagged 13 of 16 field goal attempts from all over the court early, and what happened the remaining 25 minutes or so was simply a matter of anomalies correcting themselves. Arkansas tuned its offensive game beautifully, and again Clarke was the catalyst, pouring in a career-best 23 in what ended up being a comfy 12-point win.

So that put the Hogs back in 20-win territory, hardly rarefied air nationally but, close to home, utterly meaningful. The last time they crested that modest hill was 2007-08, the first of John Pelphrey's fated four years as coach, and they arguably underperformed to get there. This time, finally, there's a sense that Anderson's influence is being felt: A team that has played a lot of flawed basketball even in the last four weeks has nonetheless figured out how to scratch out wins in seven of those eight, and it's that absence of perfection that seems to be fueling the Hogs.

They were turnover-prone at Kentucky and bullied in the paint, but mastered the nuances needed to overcome that; against Georgia, efficient play from Mike Qualls and Clarke offset the subpar showings of Bobby Portis and Rashad Madden. Imagine all of this coming together at once, and it frankly becomes pretty daunting, but the recent history of no-shows at the worst possible times also has to factor into the preparation as this season draws to a close.

Reflecting on 1994 is worthless if missteps in January 2014 aren't also given due treatment.

Favorite

Speaking of...

  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    December 8, 2016
    Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte. /more/
  • What coaches do lives after them

    March 28, 2016
    News that UALR was going to lose its first-year basketball coaching phenom Chris Beard to UNLV got me thinking about the potential ups and downs of coaching changes. /more/
  • Basketball Hogs in review

    March 17, 2016
    They were every bit of 16-16, 9-9. Average. /more/
  • A roller coaster for Hogs

    February 25, 2016
    You'd think that two nights in Bud Walton Arena against the undisputed dregs of the SEC would be gratifying, a return to normalcy of sorts, even for a pretty mediocre bunch coming off two horrible road losses. /more/
  • Down and out in Mississippi

    February 18, 2016
    Call it "Mississippi Burned." Arkansas took a spin through the Magnolia State, and it ended up being one of the harshest road trips in recent memory, even for a basketball team that's had its share of struggles abroad. /more/
  • Razorbacks up, down and up again

    February 4, 2016
    Even at a modest 11-10, Arkansas has so much still at stake. /more/
  • The long view on the Razorbacks

    January 21, 2016
    It's strange to feel so invigorated by a team that is just a notch above .500 and has lost to the likes of Mercer, but there's a growing and obvious reflection of Mike Anderson's coaching really resonating with this crew. /more/
  • Hogs trending up, down

    December 10, 2015
    Given that Arkansas is an indisputably intriguing team — who loses to Toledo at home and then wrecks Ole Miss' charmed season seven weeks later? — the Hogs' cemented bowl destination may come as something of a letdown. The Liberty Bowl does pay well, it provides the Razorbacks a Jan. 2 afternoon kickoff in a familiar and proximately fine location, and it affords the team a better than sporting chance at finishing with eight wins. /more/
  • Bad time for Arkansas basketball to be rebuilding

    July 30, 2015
    This program went from bull market to disarray in record time, and at the worst possible time, too. /more/
  • Bobby Portis takes the headband off

    July 30, 2015
    The former Razorback considers his future. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Beau Wilcox

  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Woeful

    On Thanksgiving night, Bret Bielema could settle into his bed knowing that after a rather miserable 2013 inauguration, he had slipped comfortably into his job and the results were bearing some small but edible fruits for this ravenous fan base. He was only 25-24, but 18-10 with two bowl wins over his last 28 contests, a smattering of takedowns of ranked teams, and a stabilized roster that showed off the staff's endeavors to enlist and develop a caliber of player that would lead to better days ahead in a rugged conference.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Williams shines

    Alternating wins and losses has been the pattern behavior of Arkansas's 2016 season as it draws to its terminus. So after the Hogs gave their most listless and disappointing home effort in a good while against LSU, why wouldn't they just explode all over the cowbell-clanging din in Starkville the next time out?
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • World leaders set to meet in Little Rock on resource access and sustainable development

    Next week a series of meetings on the use of technology to tackle global problems will be held in Little Rock by Club de Madrid — a coalition of more than 100 former democratic former presidents and prime ministers from around the world — and the P80 Group, a coalition of large public pension and sovereign wealth funds founded by Prince Charles to combat climate change. The conference will discuss deploying existing technologies to increase access to food, water, energy, clean environment, and medical care.
  • Tomb to table: a Christmas feast offered by the residents of Mount Holly and other folk

    Plus, recipes from the Times staff.
  • Rapert compares Bill Clinton to Orval Faubus

    Sen. Jason Rapert (R-Conway)  was on "Capitol View" on KARK, Channel 4, this morning, and among other things that will likely inspire you to yell at your computer screen, he said he expects someone in the legislature to file a bill to do ... something about changing the name of the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport.
  • Fake news

    So fed up was young Edgar Welch of Salisbury, N.C., that Hillary Clinton was getting away with running a child-sex ring that he grabbed a couple of guns last Sunday, drove 360 miles to the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington, D.C., where Clinton was supposed to be holding the kids as sex slaves, and fired his AR-15 into the floor to clear the joint of pizza cravers and conduct his own investigation of the pedophilia syndicate of the former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state.
  • Reality TV prez

    There is almost nothing real about "reality TV." All but the dullest viewers understand that the dramatic twists and turns on shows like "The Bachelor" or "Celebrity Apprentice" are scripted in advance. More or less like professional wrestling, Donald Trump's previous claim to fame.

Latest in Pearls About Swine

  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte.
    • Dec 8, 2016
  • Woeful

    On Thanksgiving night, Bret Bielema could settle into his bed knowing that after a rather miserable 2013 inauguration, he had slipped comfortably into his job and the results were bearing some small but edible fruits for this ravenous fan base. He was only 25-24, but 18-10 with two bowl wins over his last 28 contests, a smattering of takedowns of ranked teams, and a stabilized roster that showed off the staff's endeavors to enlist and develop a caliber of player that would lead to better days ahead in a rugged conference.
    • Dec 1, 2016
  • Williams shines

    Alternating wins and losses has been the pattern behavior of Arkansas's 2016 season as it draws to its terminus. So after the Hogs gave their most listless and disappointing home effort in a good while against LSU, why wouldn't they just explode all over the cowbell-clanging din in Starkville the next time out?
    • Nov 24, 2016
  • More »

Visit Arkansas

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

View Trumpeter Swans in Heber Springs

Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans

Event Calendar

« »

December

S M T W T F S
  1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Most Viewed

  • Belk bowling, b-ball

    Before Pearls breaks its brief silent treatment about Razorback basketball's latest bid to shake off listless irrelevance, we'll spend a word or two on the Belk Bowl, where the football team draws a Dec. 29 matchup with Virginia Tech in Charlotte.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Belk bowling, b-ball

    • Good analysis, something completely lacking from the daily newspaper's sports reporters/columnists.

    • on December 9, 2016
  • Re: Resurrection, reflection

    • http://hairtransplantncr.com/ hair transplant in delhi hair transplant ncr hair transplant cost hair transplant cost in…

    • on December 8, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation