Rotnei Clarke scored 19 points and Michael Washington had 17 points and 13 rebounds as Arkansas went on a blistering 22-2 run in the opening half and ended up whipping Georgia 89-67 Sunday afternoon before a season-high 19,724 fans at Bud Walton Arena.
"We had to perform in a way that would bring honor and glory to those guys," Arkansas heaed coach John Pelphrey said. "I am just very happy and thrilled how everything went. I said earlier that this weekend was probably bigger than our game. That may sound odd to some, but what those young men (on the 1994 team) achieved and how proud our state is of them and for us to win on top of that - it was a special feeling. I am very happy we could deliver."
Jason Henry, Courtney Fortson (8 assists) and Stefan Welsh added 14 points each as the Razorbacks (14-13, 2-12) put five players in double figures while ending an eight-game losing streak with the win over Georgia (11-18, 2-12).
"It was fun to win," Clarke said. "It's good to win on Celebration weekend. We didn't want to to let those guys down."
The Hogs also ended a three-game losing streak in the series with the Bulldogs, which Arkansas now leads 15-10.
"We got out there and got some production across the board and when we do that, we are capable of winning when we overachieve at that level," Pelphrey said. "There were some good performances and Georgia certainly had been playing better (with wins over Florida and Vanderbilt) and (Georgia head) Coach (Pete) Herrmann is an unbelievable man and a great coach. We have had a tough time with Georgia here recently. We didn't anticipate the score being what it is, but we'll take it."
It was a rematch of last year's SEC Tournament finalists, both of which have struggled this season with Arkansas - which went 40 days without a loss earlier in the season - winning its first game in 31 days.
"It's tough," Pelphrey said. "... We all know how hard it is and it's a game where you have got to have the ball go your way once in a while. We have been put to it a little bit. The one thing I do appreciate out of our team is that there is something about them down deep inside - there is a resiliency, a toughness there. Is it where it needs to be? No, but it is something we can hang our hat on as we move forward with the rest of these games we have in this season and as we head into the future."
It capped a weekend of festivities that honored former Razorback head coach Nolan Richardson and his 1993-94 national championship squad that beat Duke in the final game.
The appearance was the first for the team and Richardson's first at a game at Bud Walton Arena since his tenure ended.
"To have those guys back and see Coach Richardson on the sideline, it was very, very humbling to be a part of all that," Pelphrey said.
Fortson concurred with that sentiment.
"It was a privilege to be around that team," Fortson said. "They mean so much to this program."
The Razorbacks trailed 18-15 before going on their run, a staple of what the national title squad used to bludgeon its opponents.
It started with a driving lay-up from Stefan Welsh and was capped by his 12-foot jumper that pushed the lead to 37-20 with 5:57 left.
Arkansas scored 11 straight to end that spree – one that included points from six different Razorbacks while Georgia was coughing up several of its 21 turnovers.
"I thought we were really focused there early and not only did we rebound, but we had a lot of steals," Pelphrey said. "I don't know that our press has been as good as it was today in the first half. Maybe that was because Corey Beck and Scotty Thurman were in the crowd. They (the Bulldogs) made some careless plays and we forced them into some. We were able to get those balls and capitalize."
The half ended with Welsh – 0 of 18 from 3-point range over the previous 4 ½ games and coming off the bench Sunday – burying a triple for a 47-30 advantage with five seconds left.
"I would say it was a coach's decision and I am very proud of him the way he handled adversity," Pelphrey said. "I think Stef has improved a tremendous amount with his attitude and I appreciate that. ... I made a decision to take him out of the starting line-up today and I could not be more proud of the way he responded."
After the 1994 team was introduced to the crowd at intermission, the current Razorbacks kept their momentum going in the second half.
Washington's rebound basket pushed the margin to 61-38 and, when Welsh buried another 3-pointer, Arkansas had stormed ahead 71-48 with 9:13 left in the game.
"I thought that we didn't have any of those crazy droughts offensively where we couldn't buy a basket or there was an open shot from the perimeter or missing free throws or that we weren't able to convert some plays near the basket," Pelphrey said.
"Even though Rotnei will say he struggled tonight (6-of-15 overall, 4-of-11 from 3-point range, he made two huge shots to start the second half and it kind of loosened everything up," Pelphrey added. "That got Courtney back in the lane and Mike opportunities."
Georgia finished with 21 turnovers, negating the Bulldogs' 50.9 percent field goal shooting, including 9-of-21 (42.9 percent) from 3-point range.
"I thought we didn't manage the middle minutes of the first half in terms of who shot it and shooting it quickly," Herrmann said. "I thought we didn't manage getting the ball inside and getting easy shots. We didn't take our time and get them in and out."
Arkansas shot 48.7 percent from the field while taking 21 more shots, hit 8-of-24 3-pointers, 7-of-9 free throws, had just 11 turnovers and won the board battle 39-27.
"Obviously with Nolan's team coming back we knew it was going to be a special day for the Razorback faithful," Herrmann said. "I thought they outplayed us. They played well together."
The Razorbacks will close out the regular season this week with a home game against Ole Miss on Wednesday and a road trip Sunday to Vanderbilt.
The SEC Tournament is March 12-15 with Arkansas already slated to play in the opening round's nightcap at 8:45 on Thursday night.
Also see John Pelphrey talk about the cowboy boots he wore in honor of former Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson.