Wildcat Strike Kentucky employed several savvy ploys to bury the Hogs in the Pyramid - Sports Illustrated Vault | SI.com
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Wildcat Strike Kentucky employed several savvy ploys to bury the Hogs in the Pyramid

THE SEC tournament was held in Memphis, which seemed fortunate for
the Razorbacks, the nation's No. 1-ranked team at the time. Arkansas
fans have long had a fondness for the metropolis across the
Mississippi, a hotbed of basketball talent that has provided them
with a plenitude of players -- Ron Huery, Todd Day, Corey Beck and
Dwight Stewart, to name a few. The proximity of the 20,000-seat
Pyramid also guaranteed the Hogs virtually a home court advantage.
WELCOME TO BUD WALTON EAST read a sign held up by a Razorback fan
behind the scorer's table during Arkansas's opening game, against
Georgia. The Pigamid, some fans called the place. But during the
Hogs' next game, against Kentucky, the arena turned out to be much
less a cozy sty than an abattoir.
Things began to get uncomfortable for Arkansas against 14-15
Georgia, an underachieving team all season. The Bulldogs, who led by
as many as 11 in the first half, had a three-point lead with 4:54 to
go. But 38 seconds later Stewart neatly stepped in front of Bulldog
forward Shandon Anderson to draw a charge. Anderson, Georgia's
regular-season scoring leader, fouled out on the play, whereupon the
Razorbacks went on a 15-5 run that lifted them to a 95-83 victory.
Corliss Williamson bulled his way to a career-high 30 points on 12-
of-19 shooting and forced Georgia's 7-footer, Charles Claxton, into
foul trouble.
''He presented us with matchup problems because we had to put our
center on him,'' said Bulldog coach Hugh Durham of Big Nasty. ''He
can create for other people, and he has good hands. Arkansas is a
better team than last year because Corliss is really good at posting
However, not even Williamson and his 23 points and 16 rebounds
were enough to stave off Kentucky in the semifinals. Burying a
tournament-record 16 threes and deploying a variety of swarming zone
defenses to hold Arkansas to a season-low 32.1 shooting percentage,
the Wildcats roared to a 90-78 win to avenge the Hogs' 90-82 comeback
victory on Feb. 9. Kentucky's three-point binge was made possible by
a combination of the Wildcats' wide spacing on the floor and their
crisp passing. Both ploys served to defuse the Razorbacks' traps. The
loss was the second most lopsided for the Hogs in the SEC since they
joined the conference for the 1991-92 season (the worst came at the
hands of Vanderbilt by a score of 102-89 a year later), and it
snapped a 13-game winning streak. ''Everyone was jacked up for this
one,'' said Kentucky guard Tony Delk. ''The players, the coaches and
what few fans we had.''
After having feasted off spurts all season, Arkansas simply got
outspurted. The Hogs would get as close as 61-58 with 12:28 to play
on a Scotty Thurman three, but the Wildcats answered with three
threes of their own in an 11-0 run that sealed the win. A couple of
Memphians were stunned by their team's lack of intensity. ''We came
out too relaxed. We were terrible,'' said Beck. Added Stewart, ''We
just didn't come prepared to play.''
Then again, it may have been something in the air that day. Among
the nation's other highly rated losers on that Saturday, March 12,
were No. 2 Connecticut, No. 3 Missouri, No. 5 Duke, No. 7 Arizona and
No. 8 Michigan. ''It was a hell of a day, wasn't it?'' said Nolan
Richardson, shaking his head.
The blowout, though, didn't shake Richardson's confidence or even
cause him much concern. He figured that the Hogs had already clinched
a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament and that a resounding loss might
stoke the fires he knew were smoldering inside his players. ''I'd
like to congratulate Kentucky,'' Richardson said. ''Sometimes you
take for granted that all you have to do is show up. It doesn't work
that way. You can get full and not be hungry. Being knocked sometimes
makes me hungry again.''