Former Arkansas shooting guard Scotty Thurman hit the game-clinching three-pointer against Duke to win the 1994 NCAA national championship.
That’s an impressive feat in its own right, but it’s even more impressive given that Arkansas didn’t have a shoot-around the day of the game.
“A lot of people don’t know this,” Thurman said on The Damon Amendolara Show, “but we didn’t have a traditional shoot-around because our times had gotten mixed up. At the NCAA Tournament, you get 45 minutes to shoot, and once the time runs out, you’re done. Well, we went out and got out there and started shooting and it was like three minutes on the clock, so we didn’t even have a shoot-around that day prior to playing against Duke.”
You wouldn’t know that from the final score – a 76-72 Arkansas win.
The Razorbacks used Nolan Richardson’s frenetic “40 Minutes of Hell” defense to advance to the national championship game. Still, Arkansas was considered an underdog against Duke, which had won two of the three previous national championships.
When Arkansas took the floor, it had to be licking its chops.
“We licked our chops, but at the same time, we respected our opponent,” Thurman said. “Those guys had accomplished a great deal. But for us, we wanted people to see us in that light. We wanted people to respect us as players, and obviously our coach wanted to be respected going head-to-head against Coach K. And I just think it was one of those deals where they just happened to be the next opponent to be in our way. We felt like whoever we played was in our way. We came into the game acting like there was no way they could beat us.”
They almost did. Arkansas led just 34-33 at halftime, and the game came down to the final minute. Thurman finished with 15 points on 3-of-5 shooting from three-point range, while Corliss Williamson finished with a game-high 23 points and was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
The Blue Devils had five players reach double figures, but they also committed 23 turnovers, including nine by Grant Hill, who finished with 12 points, six assists and three steals.
That game was 20 years ago this past April.
“It does not feel like 20 years,” Thurman said. “Time has flown by definitely, but it’s definitely a moment that I will never forget – and also it’s one our fans constantly ask questions about and inquire about. So I try to make sure that I live it. I still try to reignite those flames a little bit.”
Thurman, 39, is the Director of Student-Athlete Development at Arkansas.
“I get asked about it every day,” he said. “How did it feel to make the shot? Those type of things. It’s kind of one of those things where (when) you’re a young kid, I’m not so sure you embraced it maybe as much as you should have. But now that you’re older and you have kids and you’re working with other young men, it’s something you shed light on. (You) talk about some of the things you were able to accomplish as a player and the way the team was able to respond in adverse times when not many people thought we were as good as we were. Having a chance to be a part of that and rekindling the Arkansas tradition has been great from that standpoint, and I look forward to us hopefully getting back to that point.”