OPINION — Like It Is

OPINION | WALLY HALL: Duke and UA have short but heated history


Tonight at Bud Walton Arena, the Duke Blue Devils will experience a true hostile environment.

Hog calling will never have been louder, unless maybe it was April 4, 1994, when the Arkansas Razorbacks beat Duke in Charlotte, N.C., just 145 miles from the Blue Devils' campus.

Most of America watched on TV and the President of the United States, Bill Clinton, watched in person as the Razorbacks had their greatest sports moment in the school's history.

Yes, the football team won the national championship 30 years earlier, but it was in a poll not a tournament that gives immediacy to champions.

Grant Hill tied the game at 70-70 on a three-pointer with 1:30 to play, but Scotty Thurman ignored a charging defender and put the Hogs on top to stay 73-70 with 50.7 seconds to play.

Down the stretch, the Razorbacks would make 3 of 6 free throws and win 76-72.

Corliss Williamson led the way with 23 points. Thurman and Corey Beck had 15 each.

Arkansas forced 18 turnovers that included 11 steals.

Duke was and is a blue blood of college basketball.

Mike Krzyzewski, now retired, is the all-time winningest coach in college basketball history on the Division I level with 1,202 victories.

He led Duke to 13 Final Fours, the most in tournament history, and five national championships, second only to the Wizard of Westwood John Wooden, who won 10.

Nolan Richardson and the Razorbacks scratched and clawed their way to elite status for a while, making three Final Fours from 1990 to 1995.

They were relentless on defense and unselfish in their disciplined offense, and their campaign that season ended with a 31-3 record and two of the losses were by a total of three points and none of them at Bud Walton Arena, which had opened in November of that season.

The floor was named Nolan Richardson Court for what he did for Arkansas basketball, which trailed way off after he left and has just begun to make a real comeback under Eric Musselman.

For tonight's game at 8:15 on ESPN, tickets were once being sold for $1,000, furthering illustrating that Bud Walton may need renovating but not a reduction in total seats.

Duke is 5-1 and ranked No. 7 in the nation. The only loss was to No. 2 Arizona.

Arkansas just fell out of the polls after losing three of their past four games, and ironically two of those were to North Carolina and North Carolina-Greensboro, who share a state with Duke.

There are no alarms going off about Hog ball.

Everyone knew this team would have to learn a lot more about defense, spacing and protecting the ball before the Muss Bus would start rolling.

In the three losses, the Hogs have suffered 43 turnovers, including 21 steals, that were converted into 60 points.

That's not protecting the most important thing on the floor.

The opinion here is Musselman is not panicking, that he's still searching for his eight- or nine-man rotation and for the defense to come together.

Arkansas and Duke have met four times previously and this is the first regular-season meeting. Three of their games were in the NCAA Tournament and one the Preseason NIT.

The first time they met was the 1990 Final Four in Denver, and Duke prevailed 97-83. In November of the same year, they met in the NIT and Arkansas won 98-88.

Their last meeting was March 2022 in the Elite Eight, won by Duke.

It was that third meeting, with everything on the line, that makes tonight's game a must-watch. It was Arkansas' first and only national championship in basketball and it was a night to be remembered forever.