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There was the Scotty Thurman 3-pointer that was critical in beating Duke for Arkansas’ only national championship on April 4, 1994 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
And there was Feb. 8, 2022, in front of a Bud Walton Arena record crowd of 20,327 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, when the unranked Razorbacks beat No. 1 Auburn 80-76 in overtime.
“It’s a great feeling,” Arkansas sophomore forward Jaylin Williams of Fort Smith, Arkansas, said. “Like, we’re going to be remembered for the rest of Arkansas history.”
Probably so. Arkansas is just 2-11 all-time against No. 1 teams.
Arkansas (19-5, 8-3 SEC) had not beaten a No. 1 team since Feb. 12, 1984 at the Pine Bluff Convention Center, 230 miles south of campus. That was a 21-0 North Carolina team with a junior guard named Michael Jordan less than two years removed from coach Dean Smith’s first national championship in 1982.
A large swarm of that record crowd covered the Bud Walton floor from end to end within moments of the final buzzer.
“Kind of speechless about the crowd, to be honest with you. I mean, the student section,” Arkansas coach Eric Musselman said and paused breathlessly. “In-sane. You can go to college basketball games all over the country. You can go for the next 50 years, and there’s not going to be a crowd that’s better than that. There might be crowds close to that, but I doubt it.”
And Musselman jumped right into a crowd of students – shirtless with a shoulder sling after surgery in January. He had promised students – hundreds of whom lined up days before the game – that he would take his top off with a win. He did in the locker room, then reattached the sling.
“Earlier today, the students were asking if we won, would I take my shirt off,” Musselman said. “So, I said, ‘Yeah.’ I wanted to celebrate with the students. I mean, you don’t get an opportunity to be in that type of environment that often. But our guys deserved it.”
The Razorbacks won their ninth straight as Auburn (22-2, 10-1) saw its 19-game winning streak halted after not losing since November to Connecticut in the Bahamas.
“There’s not anybody that walked out of here that didn’t have fun at this game,” Musselman said. “That’s a guarantee, unless it was an Auburn fan. And there weren’t any.”
Or they were drowned out by the rising red storm. The Hog calls started shortly after Auburn’s players mistakenly danced on the Razorbacks’ logo before tip-off on ESPN2.
“We have incredible respect for Coach (Bruce) Pearl, for his program,” Musselman said. “It’s an incredible team. But we watched it. It was on video. It was on Twitter. So we watched it before the game – the last thing we did.”
Arkansas led by as many as 12 in the first half before Auburn cut it to 28-25 at the break. There were 12 ties in the second half before the 66-66 deadlock to send the game into overtime.
Arkansas’ JD Notae, who led all scorers with 28 points, scored six in the overtime with a 3-pointer. Williams scored five in the overtime, all at the free throw line, and finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Au’diese Toney added 14 with 10 rebounds, and Davonte Davis scored 10.
Jabari Smith led Auburn with 20 and nine rebounds. Wendell Green Jr. scored 19, and Walker Kessler had 16 with a career-high 19 rebounds, and he blocked seven shots. But Auburn committed 19 turnovers – its second most on the season.
“They disrupted us a little bit,” Pearl said. “We turned the basketball over too much.”
Look for Arkansas to get ranked next week.
“We’ve been overlooked in a nine-game winning streak,” Musselman said. “Completely overlooked. Tonight maybe we grabbed a little bit more attention nationally.”
Such a victory will undoubtedly boost recruiting as well.
“If I had you look at my phone – a lot,” Musselman said. “Look, this is really big for the state. I said before the game, all eyes in the whole state were going to be on this game. And then all eyes were going to be on it nationally – not to watch Arkansas. We knew that. We’re not ranked. I hope that this is a beginning.”
In other SEC games Tuesday night, No. 5 Kentucky won at South Carolina, 86-76, for its fifth straight win, LSU snapped a three-game losing streak and won 76-68 at Texas A&M, which lost its seventh in a row, and Vanderbilt beat Missouri, 70-62.
WEDNESDAY’S GAMES (All times eastern)
Georgia (6-17, 1-9) at Florida (15-8, 5-5), 6:30 p.m., SEC Network
Alabama (14-9, 4-6) at Ole Miss (12-11, 3-7), 8:30 p.m., SEC Network
No. 19 Tennessee (16-6, 7-3) at Mississippi State (14-8, 5-4), 9 p.m., ESPN2.