Tonight, the Texas Longhorns roll into Bud Walton Arena for their visit to Fayetteville since 1991 and only their second game against the Hogs in the past 18 years.
Back in the day, of course, the teams faced off twice a year as members of the Southwest Conference. And unlike in the football series, the Razorbacks usually got the best of the men in orange—Arkansas has an all-time record of 84-64 against Texas—so the games between the two have provided lots of good memories for Hog fans.
Below is a list of my three favorite victories over the Longhorns.
1a. Arkansas 103, Texas 96 (OT); Austin; Feb. 4, 1990. This, of course, is the game that Lee Mayberry sent into overtime with a 30-foot, three-point bomb with three seconds to play. This is also the game in which Nolan Richardson, infuriated over an intentional foul called on Mayberry, walked off the court and into the Arkansas locker room with 13 seconds left in regulation.
Nolan returned to the bench for overtime, launching a cascade of boos from Texas fans and outraging ABC color analyst Cheryl Miller to such an extent that it appeared she was on the verge of swallowing her tongue. I’m far from objective about the matter, but Miller called the game as if she were on the Longhorn payroll. I was hardly alone in that assessment. If the lunchtime chatter in the Little Rock Central High courtyard was any indication, Cheryl was the least popular woman in Arkansas that day.
Nolan, though, couldn’t have cared less what the Texas fans or Miller thought. ”This was the greatest win of my career, bar none,” he told the New York Times’ William Rhoden after the game. ”It’s just wonderful to come into Texas and play a great team and pull off a victory like we did here today.”
1b. Arkansas 88, Texas 85; Midwest Regional Final, Dallas; March 24, 1990. When the game described above ended, I thought no subsequent victory over Texas could match it. I was wrong.
Less than two months later, the Razorbacks beat the Longhorns to advance to Nolan’s first Final Four - and the program’s first visit to the national semifinals since 1978. Outside of troubled forward Ron Huery sealing the victory with a pair of late-game free throws, I don’t remember much about the specifics of this contest. As was his wont in the postseason, underrated forward Lenzie Howell came up big, scoring 21 points and grabbing nine rebounds to win Midwest Regional MVP honors.
I do remember feeling overjoyed after the game, though, not only because the Hogs were going to the Final Four, but because they punched their ticket in such perfect fashion—beating Texas in Reunion Arena, a.k.a. Barnhill South.
Victories don’t get much more satisfying than that.
3. Arkansas 99, Texas 92; Austin; Jan. 7, 1989. The first big win of the Mayberry-Day-Miller era. The young Hogs had looked good in close road losses to Virginia and Missouri, but were still underdogs when they traveled to Texas to take on Tom Penders’ first Longhorn squad. Penders—or “Sweet Tom,” as Nolan would later derisively label him—had guided Rhode Island to a surprise appearance in the Sweet 16 the year before, and there was a lot of hype surrounding his taking the reigns of a talented Texas team.
By the end of the afternoon, however, the Razorbacks had served notice that they were putting the struggles of the past few seasons behind them. This win was a strong indication that, after a slow and often painful start, the Nolan Richardson era was finally ready to take off.
Well, that’s enough from me. Please share your favorite Arkansas-Texas basketball memories in the comments thread.
(Note: Some of the above info was provided by the Razorback media guide and the New York Times archive.)
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