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Class Reunion Once again the Hogs strutted their stuff in Dallas

THE Arkansas-Tulsa Midwest Regional semifinal game in Dallas's
Reunion Arena couldn't have been held in a more aptly named place.
For one thing, there was the reunion of the hall and the Razorbacks,
who were returning there for the first time since Arkansas's
departure from the Southwest Conference after the 1990-91 season.
Reunion is the site of the SWC tournament, and it had become known as
Barnhill South because of the way the Hog fans snapped up tickets. In
1989, '90 and '91 Arkansas won the tournament, and in '90 the team
advanced to the Final Four by winning the Midwest Regional in
Reunion. Preparing for Tulsa the Hogs were in the midst of an 11-game
winning streak in the building.
There was also the reunion of Nolan Richardson and Tulsa, the
school that gave him his first Division I job, in 1980. ''I'll always
be grateful to Tulsa,'' said Richardson, who coached the Golden
Hurricane to the 1981 NIT title. But he was wary of this season's
Tulsa team, which had given Arkansas a scare in December before
falling 93-91 in overtime. In the first two rounds of the tournament
Tulsa, a No. 12 seed, had stunned fifth-seeded UCLA and fourth-
seeded Oklahoma State.
The game began with a 12-0 Arkansas spurt that lifted the Hogs to
a 21-9 lead with 11:03 remaining in the first half. The catalyst was
guard Clint McDaniel, who came off the bench to score 15 first-half
points. Arkansas built a 17-point advantage in the second half before
Tulsa closed to within eight, 62-54, with 12:06 to go. But the Hogs
regained control and went on to a 103-84 victory. Corliss Williamson
and Scotty Thurman each had 21 points, and McDaniel added a
career-high 19.
''We played about as hard as we can, but Arkansas was making
unbelievable shots from a long way out,'' said Tulsa coach Tubby
Smith. ''It's like we were a light heavyweight fighting a
Richardson, though, was not pleased that his team had let Tulsa
back into the game. ''We're a ways away from playing good,'' he said.
''We're better than we played tonight.''
Next up was the meeting with Michigan, a program notably similar
to Arkansas's. The Michigan juniors said they had admired the 1989-90
Razorback team of Todd Day, Lee Mayberry and Oliver Miller, which had
reached the Final Four before losing to Duke. ''When I was in high
school,'' said Wolverine center Juwan Howard, ''I kind of looked up
to them. I liked their style of play.''
By the same token the Arkansas kids had taken a shine to
Michigan's trademark baggy shorts and shaved heads. Although
Richardson would not allow his players to wear black sneakers --
''I'm kind of old-fashioned, I guess,'' he said -- he gave in to
their request to wear longer shorts. When Michigan guard Jalen Rose
was asked about the Arkansas attire, he sounded like a disapproving
old man. ''I like our shorts better,'' said jaded Jalen. ''I think
Arkansas's are a little too long.''
On the morning of the game Richardson was told that the Tipoff
Club of ; Atlanta had named him Naismith Coach of the Year. But with
Michigan looming, he couldn't savor the award. His main concern was
the 6 ft. 9 in. Howard, who had done an excellent job of replacing
Chris Webber in the pivot. ''Juwan is a special, special basketball
player,'' Richardson said before the game. ''He was in the shadows of
the man who's with Golden State right now, but he took his team on
his shoulders and said, 'I'll deliver you.' That's what the real
players are all about.''
Unfortunately for the Razorbacks and their followers at Reunion --
including President and Hillary Rodham Clinton and their daughter,
Chelsea -- Howard did exactly what Richardson said he was capable of
doing. He outscored Williamson 30-12 and outrebounded him 13-6. But
the Wolverines paid so much attention to Williamson inside that the
Hogs' outside shooters were left open, and they drilled 10
After trailing 8-3 the Razorbacks went on a devastating 20-1 tear
and cruised into intermission with a 40-31 lead. Yet Howard, Rose,
Jimmy King and Ray Jackson, veterans of two NCAA title games, weren't
about to go down easily. They chipped away at the Hogs until, with
1:04 remaining, Rose canned a three-pointer to cut Arkansas's lead to
71-68. The game was stopped 16 seconds later when a referee detected
blood on Howard's shorts. Under a new rule prompted by fear of the
AIDS virus Howard had to leave the game to have his cut treated and
to change shorts.
At this point Howard became the first basketball player ever to
drop his pants in the presence of a First Lady. Instead of waiting
until he reached the bench to change so that his teammates could
gather around him, he dropped trou right there on the court. The
crowd gasped and then laughed. Howard was wearing yellow compression
shorts under his uniform.
Play resumed, and the Hogs' Darnell Robinson missed the front end
of a one- and-one with 36 seconds to go. Rose rebounded for Michigan,
but with 19 seconds on the clock he was short on a three-point
attempt and then fouled Thurman on the rebound. Thurman made both
free throws to seal the 76-68 win. Before being whisked from the
arena, President Clinton went onto the floor to congratulate and
embrace Richardson.
''Never,'' said Richardson, ''has a coach had these things happen
in one day: be named Coach of the Year, have the President come to
the game and hug you, and win the game and a trip to the Final Four.
Fellas, that's a heck of a day.''