Arkansas gets very big to handle husky Hoyas

March 21, 1994|By Skip Myslenski | Skip Myslenski,Chicago Tribune

OKLAHOMA CITY -- There was -- surprise, surprise -- no upset here yesterday. Top-seeded and second-ranked Arkansas breezed by Georgetown, 85-73, in a second-round game of the Midwest Regional.

But this does not mean there was not a surprise dropped here at the Myriad. "I'm like Columbo," explained Razorbacks coach Nolan Richardson, the man who pulled that surprise. "There are many ways to skin a cat."

Throughout this season, his Hogs had skinned their opponents with speed, pressure and a showerful of threes.

But before sending his team out in search of its 27th win, he glanced hard at the Hoyas and decided to change. There would be no full-tilt boogie here. There would, instead, be a battle of the beef.

"Georgetown," Richardson said, "is one of the most physical, good-sized clubs I'd seen. I thought we needed more power around the baskets. Georgetown attacks the glass so well, and that's one of our weaknesses because we're usually so spread out. I felt if we stayed that way and didn't shoot well, they'd totally control the glass. Not to let Georgetown beat us on the glass, that's the reason we used that lineup."

He trotted out that lineup to start the second half after a first half filled with signs that Arkansas too might fall on Upset Sunday. For Georgetown was still blessed with the hot hand that burned Illinois on Thursday and was trailing by just a point after Hogs guard Al Dillard buried a three with 3:38 left until halftime.

Joey Brown, the Hoyas' point guard, brought the ball up, drove toward the lane and offered up a pass that was intercepted by Arkansas guard Clint McDaniel. Immediately he was embraced by Georgetown's Robert Churchwell, and they toppled in a tangled heap.

McDaniel, on the bottom, threw an elbow that clipped Churchwell, and then came a McDaniel kick and a flood of players from the benches. But just that quickly the tussling stopped, and these judgments were handed down: Churchwell was hit with a personal foul. McDaniel was hit with a technical foul. And Hogs guard Scotty Thurman and Hoyas forward Don Reid were tossed from the game for leaving the bench during a fight.

"Emotions," Churchwell said, "were flying high on both sides. We had a little altercation. There's nothing to it, really."

But with the grounding of Thurman, Arkansas had lost its second-leading scorer, and it looked in even more danger of joining already toppled North Carolina and Kentucky. Richardson, in response, simply went to a lineup as unexpected as it was big.

At center was 6 feet 11, 260-round Darnell Robinson (13 points). At power forward was 6-7, 245-pound Corliss Williamson (21 points). And at small forward was 6-8, 260-pound Dwight Stewart (16 points).

"I," said Georgetown coach John Thompson, "didn't see anything to make me think they'd go larger. It was a smart thing for Nolan to do."

It also quickly turned this game against his Hoyas, who did not have enough bodies to counter this beef with the 6-8, 250-pound Reid in the locker room.

Stewart, despite his size, handled the ball, and hit all four of his three-point attempts. Robinson, just a freshman, ended five of six from the field. Williamson, a sophomore, finished eight of 11. And their team, long noted for their running game, proved it could play power ball and run a half-court offense.

The Razorbacks led by four at halftime and took control for good with a 12-2 run in the second half -- six of the points came from Williamson -- that made the score 67-52.

Georgetown got no closer than nine after that.

It was an impressive display, one good enough to stamp Arkansas as the clear favorite for the national title. But ZTC Thompson would not admit that aloud.

"I wouldn't do that to Nolan; he's a friend of mine," Thompson said.

"In a one-game situation, anyone can win. He's going to have to work his butt off to win that thing."

There's no doubt Richardson's Hogs can work, and in many different ways.

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