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 past president and member 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.
LIKE IT IS:
Savoring a glimpse at Arkansas’ royal past
Former president Bill Clinton and former Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton, right, talk during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game between Arkansas and LSU on Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Gareth Patterson)
FAYETTEVILLE - Tradition and history raised their handsome heads in Walton Arena on Saturday as players and coaches from the Arkansas Razorbacks’ Final Four teams were honored in a glorious halftime presentation and former President Bill Clinton was presented with a framed No. 42 jersey.
Clinton was the nation’s 42nd president and became known as the Razorbacks’ No. 1 fan during his years as president as he attended games during the regular season and during the NCAA Tournament, including the 1994 national championship game.
The jersey was not retired. For some reason Arkansas doesn’t believe in honoring former players, other than Sidney Moncrief’s No. 32, although no one seems to know where it is now.
Retiring jerseys might help the ambiance of Walton Arena. Don’t retire the numbers, just the jerseys. Hang them from the rafters and give future players something to play for.
Numerous former players as well as head coaches Eddie Sutton and Nolan Richardson were brought to the court with Arkansas leading 37-33 at halftime Saturday tobe applauded for all they did to build this once proud program.
Sutton laid the foundation, and Richardson added a championship wing. They were involved with the NCAA Tournament as much as the month of March. That was a long time ago.
The extended halftime celebrated a great basketball history and left no doubt about the monumental chore Mike Anderson took on when he became the head coach after a dismal absence of defense, dedication and discipline.
The decline may have been as much the result of a power struggle between then-Chancellor John White and then-Athletic Director Frank Broyles, but after watching video of the Razorbacks’ success and seeing guys who spilled their blood, sweat and tears for the program, there is no doubt why fans still come. And they came Saturday for the whole show.
Sutton and Richardson, who are two of 10 finalists for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, emphasized defense. Maybe they should have addressed the teams before the game. At the half the teams had combined for 68 attempted field goals.
The Hogs led because they were 6 of 9 on three-point attempts. They won because they finished 10 of 17.
Yet, since sleepwalking to a victory over Alabama, the Razorbacks have started playing with a style that at least resembles Hawgball. They are playing more intensely and more unselfishly, and the defense has extended. But what the Razorbacks seem to struggle with is putting away teams, which they weren’t able to do Saturday until late.
The Hogs led 21-11 and had seven more field-goal attempts than the Tigers, but they went cold, again, and the visitors were back in the game by halftime.
Arkansas stumbled out of halftime, with Sutton, Richardson and Clinton at courtside for the second half, and fell behind 57-54 with 11:00 minutes to play. It was the first time they hadn’t led since 1:08 into the game.
This time they roared like a lion. Alandise Harris sliced through the Tigers for a dunk, Bobby Portis grabbed an offensive board and stuck it back in to regain the lead, and it was mostly Razorbacks the rest of the way.
Coty Clarke stuck a three-pointer, Madden followed with another, Clarke added another three and Portis came up with a steal and then took a behind-the-back lob from Madden for another field goal to make it 75-66.
Madden made 8 of 10 free throws in the final five minutes, and the Hogs outscored the Tigers 27-13 to finish the game.
Saturday was a spectacular look at the past, and maybe at the future of Razorbacks basketball.
Sports, Pages 21 on 02/16/2014