Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arkansas Goes to Razor's Edge to Top Memphis

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Arkansas Goes to Razor's Edge to Top Memphis

Article excerpt

When it was over, the latest in a befuddling series of Houdini routines, University of Arkansas forward Scotty Thurman sauntered toward the press seating and let out a mocking lilt.

"Are we still lucky?" he said. "Are we lucky?"

Well, uh, yes. And no.

"God's on their side," Memphis' Mingo Johnson said. "The officials are on their side, too."

The defending national champion Razorbacks advanced to the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional final with a 96-91 overtime victory over Memphis at Kemper Arena on Friday, a victory that was a cinch . . .

After Arkansas overcame a 12-point deficit with less than 8 minutes to play in regulation.

After Arkansas was awarded the tying free throw on a petty foul call with 11.4 seconds left.

After Memphis flubbed its last possession in regulation.

Ho-hum. Six of Arkansas' last seven games have been decided in overtime or by two points or less, and all three of its NCAA Tournament victories have been precarious propositions.

"Hell, we won 30 games we could have lost," Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson said. "I told them in the locker room, `They may call you the Cardiac kids, but you always know what you're doing. I just don't want you to wake up.' "

But it was, of course, more than mere fortune that enabled the Razorbacks (30-6) to put the Tigers (24-10) to sleep for the season.

It was Arkansas' conditioning and poise, forged, Thurman said, by experience and harsh practices. The hardest in America, he said, bringing an alarming grin to Richardson's face.

"You ought to come see us work out," Richardson said. "We get it on. We have war EVERY DAY."

It was reserve guard Alex Dillard, who scored 19 points in 17 minutes. That was particularly significant, considering starter/linchpin Corey Beck was hamstrung with his fourth foul late in the first half, when he and Memphis' Johnson were smacked with a rare double-technical. That sequence began when Beck was cited for a foul.

"I said, `Yeah,' celebrating, and he hit me in the throat," said Johnson, who scored 31 points in the game's first 27 minutes but finished with just 32.

And it was forward Corliss Williamson grappling for 13 rebounds and muscling in 15 of his 27 points in the second half. …

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