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However, when Mitchell worked the lane, there was little space for his teammates to breathe, much less for the gifted Darnell Valentine to penetrate. But Mitchell was sitting on the bench when Valentine's day came to a dismal end. The Kansas star had 21 points and his team had a 65-62 lead with 56 seconds left, but Valentine missed on a one-and-one, so Wichita State's Mike Jones—normally a 43.5% rock shooter—calmly threw in a 28-foot rainbow to bring the Shockers to within one point.
At :33 Valentine missed again, this time on a breakaway wide-open layup—well, Randy Smithson, son of Coach Gene Smithson, who had 16 points and seven assists, did own up to "nudging" Valentine from behind—so at :05 Jones calmly threw in another rainbow, from 24 feet to win the game, 66-65.
Or did Referee Tom Fraim's whistle-swallowing act win it? With two seconds remaining, Kansas' inbounds passer, Booty Neal, faked WSU's Jay Jackson into a blind pick set by Valentine. But after Jackson bowled over Valentine in an obvious foul, there was no call by Fraim. "Sure I fouled him," Jackson said later. "I thought, oh my God, we came back to win and now I've given it away."
"That thing," Coach Smithson called the play. "I should have nailed Jackson's shoes to the floor."
To be precise, an NCAA tournament-record crowd of 34,036 attended Friday's festivities, the second game of which was a barbecue. Or pig-sticking. Or however LSU's 72-56 annihilation of the Arkansas Razorbacks might best be described. These were the same Hogs who had beaten the Tigers early in the season in Alaska, 86-76. "I don't believe in revenge," said LSU's Martin, who led his team with 16 points and eight assists. "Just say we returned a favor."
At the outset, with noise and emotion and adrenaline flooding the premises, neither team could have scored on a quintet of The Old Absinthe House bartenders. After 5:07 the score was 2-2; together LSU and Arkansas had missed 16 of 18 shots, and U.S. Reed hadn't made a thing from midcourt. But soon Macklin and Mitchell began playing volleyball on the boards and Cook began glowering...and talking.
Policeman Cook was off duty when Hog Center Scott Hastings produced 25 points and 14 rebounds in Alaska. This time the Cookie-man made Hastings wish he were in Hawaii. "I was telling the dude he ain't that good; he ain't bringing his stuff in here this time," said Cook, who scored 10 first-half points, ruled the key by intimidating leapers Reed and Darrell Walker and frustrated Hastings into three fouls and a hasty exit within the first eight minutes. LSU racked up runs of 12-4 and 12-3, and a swarming, vicious defense did the rest as the Tigers held Arkansas to 18 points (34-18) and 32% shooting before halftime, when the game virtually ended.
"It's hard to play catch-up against LSU," Arkansas Coach Eddie Sutton said. Not to mention wake-up, especially after the Hogs had gone into a collective coma from some of the elbows Cook unleashed. One of the Cookie-man's macaroon specials nearly caved in Hastings' chest; another sent Walker reeling into the nearest bayou, where he was delighted to find his jaw intact. Cook fouled out on the Hastings elbow shot, but not before earning a technical when he angrily threw a bullet pass to a man in striped vestments.
"Cookie doesn't throw elbows," Brown said. "He just pivots funny." At the time, the coach was stroking the head of Cook's infant daughter, wondrously named Yesysrael Nonakimone, now wonderfully incongruous there, all tiny and tender in the meat-grinder arms of her enormous, powerful father.