PROVIDENCE, R.I. - In his previous NCAA tournament appearance, Nolan Richardson dressed in teal green, a gaudy outfit befitting the glitz of his second straight trip to the national championship game.
Arkansas is now a lowly No. 12 seed in the East Region, and Richardson wore his funeral director's suit, basic black, for last night's first-round game against Penn State. He may have been prepared for a quiet exit, but instead the Razorbacks are in the second round for the ninth straight year after an 86-80 victory over the Nittany Lions.
In bringing the best season in Happy Valley in 31 years to a crashing thud, Arkansas (19-12) didn't look like one of the last at-large selections to the field, a team down to 10 scholarship players, including five freshmen. The Razorbacks saw much of an 18-point lead with six minutes to go evaporate, but held on and will play Marquette tomorrow.
"I've been telling people all year that they haven't seen the real Razorbacks," said Richardson, who struggled to install his trademark pressure defense after losing Corliss Williamson, Scotty Thurman and other veterans who had taken him to a Sweet 16, a national title and another championship game.
"We've been trying all year to get back to '40 Minutes of Hell,' and today was the first game I can remember it happened this season. That was the only way we could have beat them."
Arkansas forced the pace, made 65.2 percent of its shots in the second half and limited the Nittany Lions, No. 2 in the nation in three-point shooting, to their third worst performance of the season beyond the arc.
Penn State (21-7) was the runner-up in the Big Ten, where the Nittany Lions were able to get their shooters open.
"The Big Ten usually shoots jump shots, because it's my offense against your defense," Richardson said. "Sometimes, when you have to hurry up and shoot, it's not the same as standing still. Our kids were making them put the ball on the floor or making them make decisions."
"I'm not sure you can make that adjustment [to Arkansas' pressure] in three or four days," said Jerry Dunn, Penn State's first-year coach. "They make your big men handle the basketball, and they're not used to it."
The pace started with Kareem Reid, a freshman guard, who had five steals and made Dan Earl run the Nittany Lions offense quicker than he wanted to. All Reid did at the offensive end was collect a game-high 21 points and five assists.
UMass 92, Central Fla. 70
Central Florida knocked Marcus Camby down. It stepped on his midsection and scratched his face, but top-ranked Massachusetts overcame the woes of the leading candidate for Player of the Year and a first-half lapse, and pulled away to victory.
Camby had 17 rebounds and 14 points, but he missed 15 shots and needed four stitches on his forehead midway through the second half, courtesy of a misplaced swipe at the ball by Knights forward Reid Ketteler. Camby missed five minutes for the cut job and to change his bloody jersey, and his start wasn't so hot either, as he collapsed in the lane with just 2: 30 elapsed and writhed in pain for a minute.
His legs looked fine. Did he get the wind knocked out of him?
"Somebody stepped on me, you know, on my groin area," said Camby, who did not attempt a free throw. "I got into a funk a little bit."
So did most of the Minutemen (32-1), who had a 29-16 lead after 10 minutes, then let up. Central Florida (11-19), a 31-point underdog, which began the season 3-12, was within 43-39 at the half.
The Knights protected the ball in the first half, when they had just six turnovers, but Edgar Padilla quashed their dream of becoming the first No. 16 seed to win in the NCAA tournament. The junior point guard got UMass going with five steals in the first two minutes of the second half.
The ninth-seeded Cardinal (20-8) has two great guards and the eighth-seeded Braves (22-8) one, so Stanford advanced.
Bradley junior Anthony Parker has been touted as a first-round NBA pick if he comes out early, and he looked more like a lottery selection. The Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year had a career-high 34 points. He had five of his eight three-pointers in the second half, but the Braves could get no closer than five after trailing by as many as 14.
Stanford point guard Brevin Knight had 26 points, and shooting guard Dion Cross had 16, including two three-pointers in the last seven minutes.
Marquette 68, Monmouth 44
Fourth-seeded Marquette (23-8) got its customary strong game from sophomore point guard Aaron Hutchins, who had 17 points. Monmouth (20-10), the No. 13 seed, was within nine early in the second half before Hutchins fueled a 9-1 run with a three-pointer and two assists.
Pub Date: 3/15/96