Big Weekend on The Hill
The shot was halfway down, maybe more, and somehow it popped out. The Hogs beat Michigan 66-64 on Saturday, after Trey Burke was fractions of inches away from sending Big Blue home a winner on a fadeaway three at the buzzer.
The first 10 minutes of the game, it looked like Arkansas was the only team on the floor. Backed by more than 19,000 screaming fans, they started shooting 11-11 and it looked like the hoop was the size of the Atlantic Ocean. Michael Sanchez had a rare moment of excellence when he shut down point guard Trey Burke man-to-man for the better part of the first half. Up by 20 at one point, you had the feeling the Hogs had it locked up. That’s why they play the second half though. The Wolverines started burying threes and almost immediately erased the lead. They forced Arkansas into a half court offense, where they looked completely incompetent. The tide completely changed towards Michigan. After battling back, it was a two point game with just a few minutes left. Freshman BJ Young connected with Freshman Hunter Mickelson on a beautiful pick-and-roll to put the Razorbacks up four in the final minute, but of course Michigan came back to cut it to two. Young had a chance to ice the game, but missed the front end of the 1-and-1. Arkansas’ freshman Rashad “Ky” Madden came up with an offensive board and got it to Julysses Nobles who got fouled again, but HE missed the front end of another 1-and-1. It all came down to Trey Burke, who in my opinion is the best point guard in the Big Ten. The shot was travelling straight towards me and it looked like it was going to be nothing but net. It was one of those real-life-slow-motion moments where it seemed like everything froze but the ball in the air. Somehow it didn’t go in (see picture) and the Hogs escaped with a win, continuing their undefeated record in Fayetteville (14-0).
As predicted in my last column, the crowd was as much of a factor as anticipated. The adrenaline pumping through the arena undoubtedly had a positive effect on the home team. Athletic Director Jeff Long even found time to squeeze in a seat in the students’ section. In the second half, even when Michigan was making their push, the crowd was still raucous. Nick Novak may have become Public Enemy #1 in the state of Arkansas when he clothes-lined BJ Young who was trying to make a new poster to hang on his wall by tomahawking on Novak. The crowd seemed like a riled up prison yard with how much anger was being thrown at Novak, who played a stellar game other than his flagrant foul. The third loudest the arena was (other than the end of the game and the Novak foul) was when Hunter Mickelson had a Lebron-esque chase down and swat off the backboard. The team spent every timeout interacting with the crowd, pumping them up, and feeding off it. The fourth loudest moment was during Bubba Hog’s (Google him) extended performance in the second half. Not only is it always hilarious, it legitimately got the crowd extremely fired up. It was one of the most fun atmospheres I’ve been a part of in a basketball game, hands down.
It was more than just a basketball game at Bud Walton, though. There were 20 of Bobby Petrino’s top football recruits in the house, including the number one player in the country Dorial Green-Beckham. When the recruits walked out of the tunnel before the game, the entire crowd stood up and called the Hogs. There was also an audible “D-G-B” chant coming from the students section. Also in the students section were dozens of signs with all 20 recruits’ names; it was a great production by the knowledgeable fan base. I would imagine it was a really special moment for those young guys and I’m sure it left a good impression they’ll remember when choosing their college. At halftime, the football team was presented with their Cotton Bowl trophy. The jumbotron played an awesome highlight reel of the Razorbacks’ season, while the PA announcer reeled off all the superlatives and ridiculous offensive statistics they had accumulated. Basically saying, “If you come here, you’re going to ball.” Some of the recruits who already committed to Arkansas even participated in Calling the Hogs and other student chants. Rumor has it, DGB was one of the guys Calling the Hogs when the football team was introduced at halftime. After the game I saw several of them out on the town with some current Razorbacks, who were showing them how they do things on The Hill. It looked like everyone was having a great time and they were getting a positive look at Fayetteville.
I’d say it was a pretty spectacular weekend in Fayetteville. The roundballers got the win, the recruits were impressed, and the fans left happy. I even saw Bobby Petrino crack a smile at midcourt during halftime. If Petrino is smiling, things are going right.