For many of us who suffered through Saturday's loss to Mississippi State, the game may have brought back memories of a certain 1991 NCAA Tournament defeat to Kansas. The contests followed the same pattern: In each game, Arkansas played a close-to-perfect first half and roared into halftime with a double-digit lead; then, in the second half, the wheels came off completely, and the Hogs lost by a convincing margin.
Thanks to Sports Illustrated's mighty online archive, we recently recently reacquainted ourselves with the gruesome details of that defeat to the Jayhawks in the Midwest Regional Final. Among some of the more painful specifics: the Razorbacks coughed up their 12-point halftime lead within the first four minutes of the second half. Also, Todd Day followed a 21-point first half by shooting 2 for 11 and scoring five points after intermission. That stuff, unfortunately, we more or less remembered.
What we had completely forgotten about until reading the Sports Illustrated article, however, were Oliver Miller's thoroughly obnoxious pre-game comments. Frustrated that the Hogs would be playing Kansas instead of Indiana, the Big O said the following:
"I'm disappointed. I've always wanted to play against a Bob Knight team. [Kansas has] good talent—I'm not going to downgrade any team or any coach—but I wanted to go out there and brutally beat [Indiana] with Arkansas-style ball. [But,] Kansas stepped up. Now they're going to have to take the beating Indiana was going to take."
According to the article, then-Kansas coach Roy Williams was alerted to Miller's comments by Dean Smith's secretary (Williams was once an assistant of Smith's), and Williams then told his players about them. After the game, Kansas forward Alonzo Jamison, who torched the Razorbacks for 26 points on 11-for-14 shooting from the field, told SI:
"I think about what [Miller] said, and it still gets me mad. They're disappointed they didn't get to play Indiana? Guess they're real disappointed now."
As amazing as that 1991 season was - a 34-4 overall record, a 15-1 conference record, a No. 2 ranking for much of the season and the mid-season showdown against UNLV - it's not a terribly good memory for me. First of all, there was the ugliness of the "dorm incident," which cast a very long and dark shadow over the SWC and NCAA Tournaments. Secondly, that wasn't a terribly likable cast of players. In particular, Day, Miller and Roosevelt Wallace - who never met a flagrant foul he didn't like - were all pretty obnoxious.
I was in college in Memphis during this era, and I would gamely try to defend these Hogs when people would talk about how hateable they were. Even then, when I was super-thin-skinned about any and all criticism of the Razorbacks, I knew deep inside that they were right. My heart was never entirely into arguing otherwise; while re-reading this article, I was reminded why.