Corliss Williamson made his Razorback debut on Dec. 2, 1992, and appeared for the last time in an Arkansas uniform on April 3, 1995. In between, Big Nasty and Co. treated Hog fans to the most outstanding and exciting era in the basketball program's history.
In Part 1 of our tribute to the recently-retired Williamson, John provided a top-notch overview of Corliss' college and pro careers. In part 2, I'll nerd out a little bit and look at some of Big Nasty's most memorable games as a Hog. This is a topic that I could go on about for far too long and bore many people to tears. To keep the post somewhat manageable, I've decided to focus on three games from each of Corliss' three seasons on the Hill.
Let's get this party started, shall we?
* Arkansas 81, Memphis State 76; Dec. 2, 1992; Fayetteville - Darrell Hawkins (20 points) and Roger Crawford (18 points) received most of the credit for this rousing, come-from-way-behind upset of the No. 8 ranked Tigers, but Corliss, in his first game in a Razorback uniform, showed that he was more than capable of living up to the considerable hype that accompanied his arrival on campus. Before having to leave the game in the second half with a broken foot, Corliss scored 13 points and grabbed 6 rebounds to help the unranked Hogs, who trailed by as much as 20 points in the first half and 14 points at halftime, get the post-Day-Mayberry-Miller era off to an unexpectedly good start.
* Arkansas 101, Kentucky 94; Feb. 10, 1993; Fayetteville - In his sixth game back since returning from his foot injury, Corliss scored a then-career high 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds to help No. 14 Arkansas defeat the No. 2-ranked Wildcats. The Hogs held a 13-point lead with just less than five minutes to go, but Kentucky came back to narrow the deficit to within four with more than a minute remaining. However, Big Nasty hit some key free throws and threw down one monster slam dunk over Jamal Mashburn to help the Razorbacks hold on for their last victory over a ranked opponent in Barnhill Arena.
* North Carolina 80, Arkansas 74; March 26, 1993; East Rutherford, N.J. -It may seem strange to include a loss in this retrospective, but I think this game indicated to a national audience what a serious national title contender the Hogs would be the following season. A surprise entry in the NCAA Tournament's Sweet Sixteen, Arkansas was a serious underdog in this game but gave eventual national champion North Carolina all the Tar Heels could handle. The game was tied 45-45 at halftime, and the Hogs were within one point with just more than a minute to go. And no Razorback played better than 6-7 Corliss, who was matched up against the 7-0 Eric Montross, but used his dazzling footwork to spin circles around the Tar Heel giant and score 16 points while making all seven of his field-goal attempts.
* Arkansas 90, Kentucky 82; Feb. 9, 1994; Lexington, Ky. - After having spent much of the season at the No. 1 spot in the polls, the Hogs came into this SEC mid-season showdown at No. 3 and were facing their first game against a ranked opponent. Kentucky was No. 4. The game got off to a tough start, as Arkansas found itself down 39-24 late in the first half. However, a technical foul against the Wildcats' Rodrick Rhodes minutes before halftime turned the momentum around, and Corliss finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds as the Razorbacks outscored Kentucky by 23 points after the technical. The win ended the Wildcats' 33-game home win streak, which began after a Hogs' victory two years earlier. "It's a farce," Kentucky coach Rick Pitino told reporters after the game. "I feel like throwing up."
* Arkansas 91, Arizona 82; April 2, 1994; Charlotte, N.C. - Given the heroics and the intensity of the matchup against Duke two days later, it's easy to forget what a good game this was. The teams were tied at halftime, and Arizona led by two with eight minutes to go before a late surge by the Hogs put the game way. Thoughout it all, Corliss had perhaps his finest game as a Razorback, scoring 29 points, grabbing 13 rebounds (7 of which were offensive) and dishing off five assists.
* Arkansas 76, Duke 72; April 4, 1994; Charlotte, N.C. - Every Razorback fan probably knows the details of this game inside and out, so no need to rehash all of that. But as for Big Nasty: clearly showing an understandable case of nerves, he missed his first five field goals, but quickly gathered himself and made 10 of 19 shots from the field the rest of the way. Corliss finished with 23 points and eight rebounds on his way to Final Four MVP. What a night. Hard to believe it was more than 13 years ago.
* Arkansas 94, Kentucky 92; Jan. 29, 1995; Fayetteville - Possibly the best regular season game the Hogs have participated in. Both teams were in top form this Super Bowl Sunday afternoon. No. 9 Arkansas staked out a two-point halftime lead over the No. 5 Wildcats after Reggie Garrett hit a half-court shot just before the buzzer, and the teams traded leads throughout the second half. Scotty Thurman may have grabbed the headlines with his 18-foot, game-winning jumper with eight seconds to go, but Corliss was the Hogs' MVP, finishing the day with 28 points, nine rebounds and three blocked shots.
* Arkansas 96, Memphis 91 (OT); March 24, 1995; Kansas City - With seven and a half minutes to go in this Midwest Regional semifinal, the Hogs found themselves down by 12 points, 79-67, and their hopes of defending their national championship were fading away. That's when Corliss and Scotty went to work. Big Nasty quickly scored six points on some head-spinning post moves, and Thurman nailed a three-pointer to bring Arkansas within three; the Hogs eventually prevailed in overtime. (Memphis fans will forever howl about the controversial hand-check foul called on Chris Garner with seconds left in regulation that sent Corey Beck to the line for the game-tying free throw.)
Corliss tallied 27 points and 13 rebounds and after the game said his on-court fury was fueled in large part by some dumb comments that Memphis center Lorenzen Wright made after Arkansas' one-point regular season win over the Tigers a couple of months earlier. "Inside, I'm more of a man than Corliss," Wright had said after that game. On this night at least, Big Nasty was twice the player.
* Arkansas 75, North Carolina 68; April 1, 1995; Seattle - The last win of the Corliss era and a Final Four matchup featuring the two previous national champions. It was not a particularly artful game, and the Hogs looked downright sloppy in the first half, with Big Nasty totaling all of two points. The momentum began to change, though, when the incomparable Dwight Stewart nailed a 55-foot bomb as the first-half buzzer sounded to bring the Hogs within four, 38-34.
In the second half, Corliss took over, spinning, weaving and ducking his way around the 7-0 Rasheed Wallace to score 19 second half points. Simply put, Wallace looked helpless at times in his attempts to stop Big Nasty. And the Tar Heels looked helpess on the offensive end as well, going 12 minutes without a field goal to help the Razorbacks build a double-digit lead. North Carolina eventually got back on track, though, and Arkansas had to hold off a late-game rally for the win.
When that game ended, I felt certain that the Hogs would defeat UCLA two days later to repeat as national champions. Alas, it was not to be. But, let's not go too far down that road right now; more than 12 years later, the wound of that defeat still hasn't healed.
Instead, on the occasion of Big Nasty's retirement, let's remember the almost ridiculously abundant good times that he and his teammates provided. Best of luck, Corliss, and thanks for all of the great memories.
(Note: Game information gathered from Razorback media guides, Sports Illustrated, the New York Times and Hogville.net. And, there's more from the expats at www.razorbackexpats.com)