A look back: It took double overtime to oust the 1986 UALR Trojans from the NCAA Tournament

Chapter XXI: Overtime

   UALR might have snuck up on Notre Dame. There was no chance of that against North Carolina State.
   In the locker room before the game, Morgan asked Ken Worthy “How are you going to beat these guys?”
   Worthy smiled and responded, “With heart.”
   If only it was that simple.
   A smaller crowd was also on hand with the fans from some eliminated teams going home. That left only 25,543 in attendance. The “UALR Dunks Digger” buttons disappeared and were replaced by “Crack The Pack” buttons.
   UALR came out pressing and got off to a good start. In the first minute, Clarke hit 1 of 2 free throws and Jackson nailed a 15-footer from the right side for a quick 3-0 lead. But with 17:19 to play, Washburn tipped in a rebound as Clarke fouled him. The free throw tied the game 3-3.
  Then with the score 5-5, Clarke picked up his second foul when officials called charging. Newell thought about protecting Clarke, but knew he had to have him to rebound. He left him in the game.
   The Trojans pulled out to a 12-6 advantage after back-to-back 15 footers from Jackson, the second coming with 14:03 to play in the half.
   After a Pete Myers jump shot made it 16-12, N.C. State rallied to take its first lead. Walker Lambiotte drove baseline to score, Washburn hit a soft jump shot, and Shackelford scored in the lane for an 18-16 Wolf Pack lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Michael Clarke
   Clarke then picked up his third foul, reaching in against Washburn, and Newell was forced to insert Worthy into the game.
   The impact was immediate. Washburn made 1 of 2 free throws, but Chucky Brown grabbed the miss and scored on a putback. Washburn tipped another shot in as he was fouled by Jackson and converted the three-point play for a 26-19 lead. But the Trojans didn’t fold. Worthy drove the lane to score, then hit from the left side. McCurdy scored on a putback and a shot in the lane and Jackson nailed a jump shot in the right corner to cut the lead to 34-33 with 1:06 to play.
   North Carolina State would hold a 37-33 lead at halftime. UALR had survived foul trouble by Clarke and 2 of 7 field-goal shooting by Myers. But the Trojans were getting outrebounded 26-19 and needed to pick it up inside.
   In a similar situation against Centenary in the TAAC Championship, Newell sat Clarke to start the second half. But UALR held a big lead in that game. Newell didn’t have the luxury of protecting him here and threw him right back out there. Clarke posted up the bigger Washburn to score, cutting the lead to 39-37 with 16:30 to play.
   And Myers was heating up as he nailed a 15-footer to tie the game. Campbell hit a high-arching shot for a 41-39 UALR lead.
   But with N.C. State leading 44-43 with 12:32 to play, Clarke picked up his fourth foul and Newell had little choice but to sit him on the bench. At the same time, Valvano made a defensive adjustment, switching to a box-and-one with Del Negro shadowing Jackson. He also switched the 6-foot, 11-inch Washburn into the left side of the zone where he could disrupt attempts from what Valvano perceived as Jackson’s better side.
   It worked. Jackson missed nine-consecutive from the left wing and was completely ice cold.
Pete Myers hits the floor after a loose
ball with Nate McMillan.

   But the Trojans continued to fight. Myers scored on a layup in traffic, then McCurdy who had also just picked up his fourth foul, scored after a pass from Myers for a 47-44 UALR lead.
   N.C. State scored when Shackelford rebounded his own miss and Newell knew he could wait no longer, putting Clarke in the game with four fouls. Clarke seemed tentative and the Wolf Pack took the lead and extended it. Bolton swished a jump shot, McMillan hit one from the free throw line and Shackelford scored on another putback for a 54-47 lead with 6:54 to play.
   He remained effective, scoring underneath from Jackson, then again on a putback for a 54-51 deficit with 5:50 to play. But on the next possession, Clarke tried to go inside again. This time he was called for a charging foul vs. Shackelford.
   The CBS broadcast of the game, which was being shown courtside, showed no contact. Only Shackelford falling as Clarke went up for the shot. Even worse, game officials didn’t count the basket, which was good and appeared to leave Clarke’s hands before the foul was called.
   An 18-footer from the right side by Bolton made it 56-53 N.C. State, but the Wolf Pack still couldn’t put UALR away. McMillan fouled Myers, who hit two free throws with 1:56 remaining for a 56-55 score. Myers fouled McMillan, who missed his free-throw attempt with 55 seconds remaining.
   Trying to limit possessions, UALR held the ball as long as it could, running down the shot clock. Worthy made a baseline move to the basket and a desperate McMillan was forced to foul. The shot bounced off the rim twice before falling out with 14 seconds remaining.
   Worthy, a 51 percent free-throw shooter, stepped to the line and calmly hit the first attempt to tie the game 60-60. But his second shot went in and out.
   “If their kid makes the free throw, we lose,” Valvano said.
   Bolton took the final shot for the Wolf Pack, but missed an 18-footer along the right baseline to send the game to overtime.
   UALR won the overtime tip and Jackson went straight to the basket where he scored as he was fouled. His free throw gave the Trojans a 59-56 lead. Then after going 0-for-12 in the second half, Jackson let an 18-footer go from the left baseline and nailed it for a 61-56 lead with 4:27 to play.
UALR would have probably started to stall at that point if it wasn’t for the 45-second shot clock, a new NCAA Tournament rule.
   “We would have gotten into what we called our five game. We could have shot free throws,” Newell said.
   For N.C. State, it was a familiar position for a team known for its comebacks since winning the 1983 NCAA Championship.
   “We got down by five and I said, ‘Yea, we got ‘em right where we want ‘em’ because we’re so used to being behind,” Valvano said.
   Bolton became the Wolf Pack’s unlikely hero. He was the only N.C. State player who had scored in the final minutes of regulation and kept them in it, tying the game 62-62 with 2:45 remaining on two free throws.
   Myers answered with a 20-footer from the top of the key for a 64-62 lead. But Bolton was now virtually unstoppable. His 25-foot prayer swished with 26 seconds remaining to tie the game.
   UALR had the last shot and held the ball to set up a play. But a pass intended for Worthy in the lane deflected into Washburn’s hands with seven seconds remaining. Del Negro tried to push the ball up court, but was called for traveling with one second left on the clock. A half-court bomb by Campbell fell short, sending the game to a second overtime tied 64-64.
   Newell wasn’t sure how much more his tired team could take. Clarke hadn’t played in what seemed like forever. And nearly everybody else was in foul trouble for fatigued to the point of near exhaustion.
He pushed them even harder, keeping the full-court press on to disrupt the N.C. State offense. Then with 3:56 remaining in the second overtime, McCurdy picked up his fifth foul, hacking Washburn. Two free throws gave the Wolf Pack a brief lead before Jackson countered with a 15-footer to tie the game 66-66.
   Things deteriorated from there. Ernie Myers hit from the left side and Shackelford scored on a bank shot as the bottom fell out on UALR’s season. Bolton hit four free throws and Meyers two more for a 10-0 run. That also fouled out Jackson.
   The crowd gave Jackson a standing ovation as he left the court.
   With UALR dog-tired but continuing to press, the Wolf Pack broke it and Meyers dunked on a breakaway for a 78-66 lead. Another press break led to a monster dunk by Washburn for an 80-66 lead with 21 seconds to play.
   That was the final margin as UALR finished overtime getting outscored 14-0 over the final 3:26.
   “We were fortunate,” Valvano said. “That is one terrific basketball team with everything it takes except size. Right now, you guys are better than four teams in the ACC.
   “If the kid, Worthy, makes the free throw with 14 seconds left in regulation, they win. And they would have deserved it. It wouldn’t have been a upset in my opinion. There were two good teams out there today. I’m just glad we’re the one going to Kansas City.”
   Jackson led UALR with 23 points, but made only 10 of 29 field-goal attempts. Myers had 16 points, making 5 of 20. Clarke had 10 points and 6 rebounds but played only 23 minutes.
   “We didn’t come here looking for moral victories,” Myers said. “That gets you nowhere. People in Arkansas may be proud of what we did in the NCAA Tournament, but the only thing we’re looking at now is to work even harder and get back in.”
   Bolton’s 24 points led N.C. State. He saved the Wolf Pack both in regulation and in the first overtime. Washburn had 22 points and Shackelford 15.
“A lot of people didn’t know us two days ago, but they do now,” Newell said. “Nobody expected us to beat Notre Dame and take N.C. State to two overtimes.”
UALR could hold its heads high.
“We’re not ashamed of what happened,” Myers said. “Me and Michael and Myron and Ken have done a good job, I think, representing our university. We accomplished a lot of goals. We’re not ashamed.”
   Myers spoke to his teammates in the locker room. There wasn’t a dry eye in the place as he talked about what he, Myron Jackson, Michael Clarke and Ken Worthy had started and how bad it would hurt if they didn’t continue it.”
   Outside the media interview room, Morgan grabbed Valvano for a quick interview. Despite going against protocol, Valvano did it when he found out Morgan was from Little Rock.
   “He wasn’t going to talk to me. I said, ‘Coach Valvano, I’m Max Morgan from Channel 11 in Little Rock.’ When I said Little Rock, he turned around and did the interview,” Morgan said. “He said, ‘First of all, you should all be so lucky that you have a coach like Mike Newell.’ That’s huge. He was very impressed. I don’t know if that ever even got on the air. But it’s the truth.”
Ken Worthy

   When UALR players departed for Minneapolis, only about 100 fans sent them off. When they arrived on Republic Airlines at 4:45 p.m. on Monday, they were greeted by a crowd of nearly 1,000. Players high-fived fans as they walked through the concourse.
   Later that summer, Newell ran into Valvano on a recruiting trip.
“Valvano told me, ‘Mike, you don’t even know how close you got to the Final Four’,” Newell recalled. “I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘If your kid hits it, we lose. You now go against Iowa State. If you guys play 10 times, you’re going to win five. It’s going to come down to a bad pass, a made shot, whatever. Let’s say they favor you that day. Then you’re one game away. That’s how close this stuff is. It can go either way.’”