LITTLE ROCK — New head coach Eric Musselman understands that waking a sleeping giant will take more than a few gentle nudges, but the decision to turn the lights back on at venerable Barnhill Arena next month for the annual Red-White game promises to offer a nostalgic Arkansas Razorbacks fanbase a chance to remember some giant moments in Hog history.
Mussleman announced via Twitter on Wednesday that the Hogs would play their annual Red-White game at Barnhill Arena on Saturday, Oct. 5. And during a Thursday press conference on the floor of Barnhill, Musselman talked more about his first Arkansas team playing what will be the first men’s basketball game there in nearly 26 years.
“We couldn’t be more excited about having a throwback game and honoring our past and playing a game here in Barnhill,” Musselman said. “We think that it will be awesome for the fans. And again there is just so much tradition and history here that we kind of wanted to have a fun night and hopefully everybody will enjoy it.”
The 2019-20 Hoop Hogs will be divided into “Team Eddie” and “Team Nolan” squads, and special-guest coaches will lead each team. Following the game, there will an autograph session with the Razorbacks. The event will be free and the doors to Barnhill Arena are set to open at 1:30 p.m. with tip-off set for 3 p.m. Fans are encouraged to wear 1980’s-themed clothes or their favorite Razorback gear from that era.
“Arkansas has so much history and tradition,” Musselman said. “We wanted to pay homage to all those who help build this program. We thought this would be a great way to kick off the season. For me personally, and possibly other Razorback fans, this will be a chance to see basketball played in Barnhill Arena.”
For a storied Arkansas Razorbacks men’s basketball program — 1 national championship, 1 national runner-up, 6 Final Fours, 10 Elite Eights, 11 Sweet 16s, 32 NCAA tournament appearances, and 24 regular-season conference championships mostly coming during a 25-year span (1977-2001) touching four decades — its emergence can be traced back to the late 1970s when head coach Eddie Sutton and the “Triplets” consisting of Sidney Moncrief, Ron Brewer, Sr., and Marvin Delph turned Barnhill Arena into one of the toughest venues in the country for opponents to play in.
Originally opened in 1957 under the name of Arkansas Fieldhouse, the facility was renamed Barnhill Arena in 1973 in honor of former football coach and athletic director John Barnhill. A year later, Sutton came to Arkansas from Creighton and by the late 1970s he had lifted the program to new heights, which led to renovations and an expansion at Barnhill that increased capacity to 9,000 seats.
Arkansas was 301-95 all-time at Barnhill Arena, with Sutton having a jaw-dropping 120-8 record there in his 11 seasons — that’s a 93.8% winning percentage.
Naismith Hall of Fame coach Nolan Richardson, who replaced Sutton at Arkansas in 1985, was 78-15 in seven seasons at Barnhill before 19,200-seat Bud Walton Arena was built and opened for the 1993-94 season, which turned out to be the only national championship campaign in the basketball program’s history. But Barnhill even played a part in that success as it was the site for the ’93-94 Red-White game due to BWA still being a few weeks away from completion with the regular-season-opener against Murray State being the maiden voyage.
With Barnhill Arena as home base, Sutton managed five Southwest Conference regular-season championships while Richardson won 3 SWC titles, 1 SEC title, and 1 SEC West divisional title.
A long list of Razorbacks star players — a mix of high school and college All Americans, Olympians, future NCAA and NBA champions, and future Hall of Famers — also called Barnhill Arena home: Moncrief, Brewer, Sr., Delph, U.S. Reed, Scott Hastings, Darrell Walker, Joe Kleine, Alvin Robertson, Andrew Lang, Williams Mills, Ron Huery, Todd Day, Lee Mayberry, Oliver Miller, Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman, and Corey Beck were the headliners.
And oh, the memorable games. Here are a few …
* Feb. 1, 1978 … the Sidney-Moncrief-soaring-above-Longhorns-to-assault-the-rim-Sports-Illustrated-cover game when No. 2 Arkansas defeated No. 12 Texas, 75-71, in Barnhill Arena to move to 20-1 on the season. A few days later, Arkansas would climb to No. 1 in the Associated Press college basketball rankings for the first time in program history. It was a season that also saw the Hogs author the school’s first 30-win season as they finished 32-4 after reaching the 1978 Final Four.
* Jan. 23, 1982 … Arkansas forward Scott Hastings sinks a 22-footer over Houston center and future Hall of Famer Akeem (he later became Hakeem the Dream) Olajuwon with :05 remaining as the No. 15 Razorbacks come from behind for a 67-66 win over No. 19 Houston at Barnhill Arena … Hastings and guard Darrell Walker combined for 40 points in the win.
* Feb. 6, 1982 … Scott Hastings (22 points and 8 rebounds) and Darrell Walker (15 points and 7 rebounds) lead No. 14 Arkansas over No. 12 Texas, 62-55, in overtime at Barnhill Arena.
* Feb. 25, 1984 … Arkansas senior center Joe Kleine (22 points and 5 rebounds) outplayed Houston All American center Akeem Olajuwon (10 points, 6 rebounds, 5 blocks) as the No. 12 Razorbacks upset the No. 2 Cougars, 73-68, at Barnhill Arena to snap Houston’s 39-game SWC winning streak … Arkansas senior guard Alvin Robertson had 13 points and 9 assists in the win … just a few days earlier, Arkansas upset No. 1 and undefeated North Carolina (featuring Michael Jordan, Sam Perkins, Brad Daugherty) in Pine Bluff on Charles Balentine’s go-ahead baseline shot with :04 left … the Hogs finished the season 25-7 overall and 14-2 for 2nd place in the SWC before losing in the first round of the NCAAT to Virginia … later that summer Arkansas’s Kleine and Robertson would join North Carolina’s Jordan and Perkins on the 1984 U.S. Olympic gold medal team coached by Bobby Knight.
* Feb. 6, 1985 … Arkansas’s trio of future NBA players — Joe Kleine, Andrew Lang, and Byron Irvin — combined for 32 points and 13 rebounds as Arkansas upset No. 4 SMU, 69-66, at Barnhill Arena in what would be the final home win over a ranked opponent for head coach Eddie Sutton before he left after the season to accept the Kentucky job … the Hogs finished the season 22-13 overall and advanced to the NCAAT second round before losing to Chris Mullins-led St. John’s.
* Dec. 6, 1986 … early in Nolan Richardson’s second season as head coach, his unranked Hogs upset defending national champion and No. 6 Kansas, 103-88, at Barnhill Arena … All American and Final Four MVP Danny Manning had 26 points and 17 rebounds, but Little Rock Hall product Tim Scott pumped in 34 points to lead the Hogs, and freshman Ron Huery chipped in 19 points in the win.
* March 13, 1987 … After an 18-13 overall finish (8-8 SWC), Arkansas was rewarded with a postseason NIT berth and the program’s first game against Arkansas State since 1948 as the Hogs hosted the Indians at Barnhill Arena … freshmen Marion Credit (15 points), Ron Huery (14 points), and Cannon Whitby (8 points) led a furious second-half comeback as the Razorbacks overcame a 17-point second-half deficit for a 67-64 win in overtime.
* Dec. 9, 1989 … Arkansas set a school record for points scored in a game with a 166-101 win over U.S. International at Barnhill Arena … Lee Mayberry scored 31 points to lead eight Hogs in double figures … including Mayberry, four Razorbacks scored 20 or more points … forward Lenzie Howell recorded a double-double (16 points and 11 rebounds) … Arkansas scored 88 points in the second half.
* Jan. 25, 1990 … Sophomores Todd Day (34 points), Lee Mayberry (20 points), and Oliver Miller (19 points) led No. 6 Arkansas over Texas, 109-100, at Barnhill Arena in what turned out to be the first of an epic trio of games against the Longhorns (led by guards Lance Blanks, Travis Mays, and Joey Wright) … Arkansas came back to defeat Texas in Austin, 103-96 in overtime, in what became known as the Strollin’ with Nolan game when Richardson walked off the court near the end of regulation in protest of an intentional foul call on Mayberry, who ironically redeemed himself with a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer to send the game into overtime, at which time Richardson returned from the locker room to the Arkansas bench to see his team pull away for the win … in postseason in March, the two teams met for a third time in Dallas — no, not in the SWC tournament (Arkansas beat Houston to win that event), but rather in the Elite Eight of the NCAAT — with the Razorbacks clawing out an 88-85 win for the trifecta over the ‘Horns that gave Richardson his first of three Final Fours … the Hogs finished the season 30-5 after losing to Duke in the national semifinals in Denver.
* Nov. 16, 1990 … Juniors Todd Day, Lee Mayberry, and Oliver Miller combined for 66 points and 23 rebounds as No. 2 Arkansas thumped No. 15 Oklahoma, 110-88, at Barnhill Arena.
* Feb. 10, 1991 … billed as the game of the decade, or the Ali-Frazier of hoops, preseason No. 1 UNLV and No. 2 Arkansas came into this late-season game at Barnhill Arena with those exact rankings … the defending national champions had defeated the Hogs a year earlier in Las Vegas in what was a competitive game, and the Runnin’ Rebels came to Fayetteville with a perfect 24-0 record while the Hogs had only one blemish (against then-No. 3 Arizona back in the finals of the preseason NIT) and sported a 23-1 record … Arkansas led UNLV at halftime, 50-46, the only time the Runnin’ Rebels trailed at halftime all season long … but what turned out to be a “you better go get you some men” statement in the second half, Stacey Augmon (31 points, 8 rebounds), Anderson Hunt (26 points), Larry Johnson (25 points, 14 rebounds), and George Ackles (17 points, 9 rebounds) slashed, gashed, and pounded the Razorbacks for a 112-105 win that was worse than the final score would indicate … Todd Day (26 points and 10 rebounds) and Oliver Miller (22 points and 14 rebounds) each had double-doubles, Lee Mayberry was one assist shy of a double-double (11 points, 9 assists, and 4 rebounds), and Ron Huery had 12 points and 4 rebounds … it remains the only No. 1-vs.-No. 2 game in school history … Arkansas finished the season 34-4, 15-1 to win the SWC, and after winning the SWC postseason tournament the Hogs advanced to the Elite Eight where they lost to Kansas … in the Final Four, UNLV lost its first game of the season as the Runnin’ Rebels were upset by the same Duke team that Arkansas beat in early November … the Blue Devils would defeat Kansas for the first of two consecutive NCAA titles.
* Dec. 21, 1991 … playing without senior All American Todd Day, the 19th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks upset No. 2 Arizona, 65-59, at Barnhill Arena … senior point guard Lee Mayberry led the way with 15 points and 7 assists in a game that head coach Nolan Richardson flipped the script and had his team play at a much slower pace than it was accustomed to.
* Jan. 4, 1992 … playing in their first ever SEC game, Arkansas defeated Auburn, 110-92, at Barnhill Arena behind senior Todd Day’s 35 points.
* Feb. 22, 1992 … senior guard Warren Linn scored a career-high 22 points (including 6-of-9 shooting from 3), and Lee Mayberry had a double-double (11 points and 10 assists) as No. 10 Arkansas squeaked by No. 14 Alabama, 90-87, at Barnhill Arena … the Tide were led by their talented trio of Latrell Sprewell, Robert Horry, and James “Hollywood” Robinson who combined for 68 points.
* March 3, 1992 … Seniors Lee Mayberry (35 points, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 2 rebounds), Todd Day (27 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals), and Oliver Miller (10 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals, 2 assists) were too much to handle as No. 7 Arkansas outlasted Shaquille O’Neal and No. 23 LSU, 106-92, in overtime at Barnhill Arena … Shaq finished with 21 points, 14 rebounds, 2 blocks … the Hogs finished 26-8 overall and 13-3 to win the SEC in their first season in the league (included a 105-88 pounding of No. 8 Kentucky at Rupp Arena), but the Hogs lost to Memphis in Milwaukee in the second round of the NCAAT to close out a disappointing finish to the season.
* Dec. 2, 1992 … in the season opener against Penny Hardaway and No. 8 Memphis, senior wing Darrell Hawkins had 20 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists to lead unranked Arkansas to an 81-76 upset win in Barnhill Arena … freshman forward Corliss Williamson had 13 points, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists before injuring his foot which would keep him out for several games … Hardaway, who led the Tigers to two wins over the Hogs in the previous season, finished with 27 points and 7 rebounds in the loss.
* Feb. 10, 1993 … freshman Corliss Williamson had 22 points and 8 rebounds to lead No. 14 Arkansas over No. 2 Kentucky, 101-94, in the only game the Wildcats ever played in Barnhill Arena … senior guard Robert Shepherd finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists in the win .. Kentucky forward Jamal Mashburn and guard Travis Ford each scored 20 points for the Wildcats in defeat.
* March 3, 1993 … in the final game ever played in Barnhill Arena, Arkansas defeated LSU, 88-75, as freshman Corliss Williamson led the way with 19 points and 5 rebounds … the Hogs finished the season 22-9 overall and 10-6 in the SEC before advancing to the Sweet 16 of the NCAAT.