IT WAS TOUTED as the game of the year in college basketball, and it would tip at 11:20 in the morning local time on a Sunday in February. Fayetteville, Arkansas-area churches moved up their services to accommodate the 1 vs. 2 showdown. Former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton had by this time become a vocal fan of the No. 1 UNLV Runnin' Rebels during this 1990-91 season, and he was afforded a special seat for the contest.
Students at Arkansas -- ranked No. 2 in the nation and standing at 22-1 behind stars Oliver Miller and Todd Day -- had been camping out in front of Fayetteville's Barnhill Arena for a full week in advance of the game, and Rebels coach Jerry Tarkanian sought to put the tent city to good use for his own team. Instead of using the traditional players' entrance to the arena, Tarkanian had the UNLV bus pull up to Barnhill's main gate on game day.
"We heard some of the worst comments," Tarkanian would recall in 2009. "They were brutal," he said, and that was just what he expected and wanted. "In the locker room, my guys were talking about how they were gonna kill these [bleeps]."