Like It Is:

Hogs can take inspiration from 2000 run

By: Wally Hall
Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2019
From left Arkansas' Blake Eddins, Dionisio Gomez, Joe Johnson, Brandon Dean, Carl Baker, Larry Satchell and Chris Walker celebrate on the court after beating Auburn 75-67 Sunday, March 12, 2000 in the championship game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
From left Arkansas' Blake Eddins, Dionisio Gomez, Joe Johnson, Brandon Dean, Carl Baker, Larry Satchell and Chris Walker celebrate on the court after beating Auburn 75-67 Sunday, March 12, 2000 in the championship game of the Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

LSU was the No. 1 seed, and Tennessee and Kentucky were the big dogs from the SEC East.

The University or Arkansas head coach’s seat had grown a bit warm as the team struggled from start to finish, never winning more than two consecutive games.

The season was 1999-2000, and the Arkansas Razorbacks came into the SEC Tournament as long shots with only one chance of making March Madness — win four games in four days. That had not been done since the league expanded in 1992.

In 2000, the Razorbacks — a No. 3 seed from the SEC West — had a tough schedule, opening with Georgia in the Atlanta Dome, less than two hours from the Bulldogs’ campus.

Georgia led 36-34 at the half, but the Razorbacks used their pressure defense to control the second half and pulled away for a 71-64 victory, led by Alonzo Lane with 23 points and eight rebounds. The Bulldogs had focused on slowing down Joe Johnson, who had 15 points.

Kentucky, ranked No. 16 with a 23-10 overall record and 12-4 in the SEC East (tying the Wildcats with Tennessee for first in the East), was up next. With an opening-round bye, they watched the first half of the Arkansas game and then left to grab a late snack and get off their feet.

The Wildcats never knew what hit them, and at the break Arkansas led 36-22 and won 86-72 behind Johnson’s 21 points. Four starters scored 10 or more points with Teddy Gibson adding 16, Chris Walker 10 and Blake Eddins 10. Brandon Dean got 12 off the bench.

Knowing fatigue makes cowards of everyone, Nolan Richardson played 12 guys in that game, and the bench covered 62 of the 200 minutes.

Earlier that day, South Carolina had upset Tennessee 75-68, and LSU cruised by Vanderbilt 71-60. They were in their hotel rooms before the Razorbacks were on the bus headed to their hotel to get a little rest before taking on the Tigers less than 14 hours later.

LSU went ahead at the half 38-32, but Arkansas’ defense was giving Stromile Swift problems. Dean, who was coming off the bench for Arkansas, had something to prove to the Tigers, who had not recruited him despite being from Monroe, La.

Dean, who reportedly had a 40-inch vertical, would finish with 20 points, just one behind the scoring leader Johnson, who had 21 and 8 rebounds. Eddins was the third-leading scorer with 8 points, but he also had 1 steal and 4 rebounds.

It was LSU who hit the wall in the second half instead of the Hogs, who went on to win 69-67.

Auburn, the No. 2 seed from the West, appeared to be plenty rested as the Tigers jumped out to a 32-27 halftime lead, but in the second half the Hogs reached into their hearts and turned on the heat. By the end of the game, they had forced Auburn into 17 turnovers, eight of them Razorback steals.

Behind Dean’s 22 points, Gibson’s 14 and Johnson’s 12, the Hogs won going away 75-67 to win their first and only SEC Tournament championship.

Dean was named MVP, and later that day the NCAA punched the tickets of six SEC teams to the 2000 NCAA Tournament.

Arkansas was an 11 seed and lost to No. 6 Miami 75-71, who lost its next game to Ohio State. Kentucky and Auburn went 1-1, LSU and Tennessee made it to the Sweet 16 before losing, and Florida made it to the championship game where it lost to Michigan State.

Since then, Georgia in 2008 and Mississippi State in 2009 have won four games in four days in the SEC Tournament.

This path to March Madness isn’t easy, but it’s been done.

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