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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Clinton Cheers Razorbacks to Title

CHARLOTTE, North Carolina -- He came.

He saw.

They conquered.

With their First Fan, Bill Clinton, looking on from a skybox at the Charlotte Coliseum, the Arkansas Razorbacks beat Duke on Monday night at its own game -- the NCAA final -- to win this year's national championship.

After overcoming a 10-point deficit early in the second half, and nearly letting a five-point lead slip away, the Razorbacks broke a tie on a three-pointer by Scotty Thurman with 50.7 seconds left and went on to beat the Blue Devils, 76-72.

An uncharacteristically bad shot by Duke (28-6) and a rushed three-pointer by sophomore guard Chris Collins on his team's next possession opened the door for Arkansas (31-3). But the Razorbacks did not close it completely until Clint McDaniel hit the second of two free throws with nine seconds left to give Arkansas its championship.

Sophomore forward Corliss Williamson, named the Most Outstanding Player in the tournament, scored 23 points in leading Arkansas to the first national championship by a Southeastern Conference team since Kentucky beat Duke in 1978. Thurman added 15.

"I saw the shot clock winding down," Thurman said of his game-winning shot. "I really had no choice but to put the shot up. Somebody had to step up and do it."

Grant Hill, whose three-pointer tied the game at 70, was held to 12 points on four-of-11 shooting. Hill also had 14 rebounds.

The victory gave Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson his first NCAA championship, and maybe some of the respect he so covets. He did it with the Razorbacks playing Duke's half-court game, and doing a little better than the Blue Devils. He did it by beating Mike Krzyzewski, whom many consider the John Wooden of his generation.

"I think of all the mothers and fathers I talked to through the years and what this means to them. It's one of the greatest basketball games, one of the greatest feelings I've ever had from the standpoint of athletics," said Richardson. "I'm so proud of the young men who came up here tonight and how they handled themselves when we were 10 points down.

"It's just a great feeling."

After a 16-4 run by the Razorbacks had erased a 10-point Duke lead early in the second half, when Arkansas built its lead to 61-56 with 6:42 to go, the Blue Devils looked like they were fading. But appearances can be deceiving, especially when it comes to a team that has spent so much time in the NCAA final.

Trailing 62-57 with a little under six minutes left, Collins nailed back-to-back threes to put Duke ahead, 63-62, with five minutes to go. The Razorbacks went back ahead on two free throws by Corey Beck (15 points, 10 rebounds), and extended it to 67-65 on a free throw by Williamson. But freshman guard Jeff Capel hit a jumper after Hill missed to tie. Williamson scored again with 4:06 left for a 67-65 lead.

Capel then fired a crosscourt pass over the head of Collins and into the second press row.

Dwight Stewart was a foot short on a three, but Williamson pulled down the air ball, went up for the basket and was fouled. He completed the three-point play for a 70-65 lead. Antonio Lang then cut Duke's deficit to three by hitting both ends of a one-and-one with a little over three minutes left.

Duke didn't give Arkansas many open looks Monday night. Problem was, Arkansas wasn't giving Hill any, either.

"Grant is the best player I've coached," Krzyzewski said. "Christian (Laettner) told me that when he was a senior and college player of the year. He said, 'Coach, Grant is the best player on our team.' Bobby (Hurley) said the same thing, so I don't think we're hurting any feelings. I always knew he was going to be the best. He had a fluidity that I had just never seen in a player. I knew it when he was a (high school) junior. There was no kid I wanted to recruit more than Grant Hill."

Hill and the two other Duke seniors, Lang and Marty Clark, did not become the first players to win three NCAA titles since the NCAA dynasty won seven straight from 1967-73. With Williamson at the core of a young roster, the Razorbacks next year will be favored to repeat, and thus duplicate Duke's titles in 1991 and '92.

The Most Outstanding Player in the tournament, Williamson scored in double figures for the 16th straight game, but he made only 10 of 24 field goal attempts. He came in as the tournament's all-time leader in field-goal percentage, but his mark in that department dropped from 73.6 to 66.7, behind Bill Walton and two others.