Wally Hall is the managing sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Arkansas-Little Rock after an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force, he is a member and past president of the Football Writers Association of America, member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association, past president and current executive committee and board member of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame, and voter for the Heisman Trophy. He has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year 10 times.
LIKE IT IS:
Razorbacks’ revival sparks old-time spirit
Arkansas' Michael Qualls argues a call during the first half an NCAA college basketball game against Florida in Fayetteville, Ark., Tuesday Feb. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE It was obvious the students wanted to storm the court Tuesday night after their Arkansas Razorbacks knocked off No. 2 Florida, 80-69, on national television.
The current of excitement was racing from the front of the student section to the back and from side to side.
The band looked interested, too.
So did many of the fans.
With time running off the clock, even before the victory was assured, UA workers were in position to discourage the celebration from leaving the stands.
It had been a night of thrills and chills not experienced in Walton Arena in a very long time.
It was truly the fastest 40 minutes of basketball, at least for one night.
In every facet of the game where the Hogs have struggled this year, they excelled.
They hit three-pointers, they rebounded and their perimeter defense was stifling. The on-court chemistry was great, too, especially in the first half.
The movement was sharp in their half-court offense, especially in the first half, the spacing almost perfect and the shot selection couldn’t be questioned.
There was no doubt the fans appreciated the effort.
It was the Razorbacks’ best game, not only of the season but maybe in years.
And the fans roared their approval from start to finish.
They were on their feet more than a Billy Graham revival crowd.
No one knows exactly what the victory means, but the future sure looked brighter at 8 p.m. Tuesday night than it has in a very long time.
John Pelphrey knocked off ranked Oklahoma and Texas in his second season, but then the Razorbacks tanked in SEC play.
At their current pace, the Hogs are getting further away from having to try and win five games in five days to make it to the NCAA Tournament.
Currently, there is no Wednesday playing date in the SEC Tournament for the Hogs. Of course, the tournament was extended a day to accommodate new members Missouri and Texas A&M.
If there was one minor concern after the victory over Florida, it might have been the second-half play when it appeared the Hogs were playing not to lose. That may have been more that the Razorbacks were playing their third game in six days and fatigue was a factor - not enough to make them cowards, but enough to affect their shooting.
It was a night when almost all the luck was wearing a Razorbacks uniform, but the intensity by the Hogs matched it.
The crowd knew it and embraced it, and toward the end it was a great effort by the staff that kept the students - and probably some other fans - from getting the UA fined $5,000 by the SEC.
Maybe, in hindsight, it would have seemed worth it, but there is a renewed trend of fans rushing the court and injuries have become a major concern.
The bottom line is that the fastest 40 minutes of basketball turned Walton Arena into Barnhell for the first time in a very long time.
Sports, Pages 19 on 02/07/2013
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