COLUMBIA, S.C. — A streak 30 seasons in the making is set to hit 1,000 for the University of Arkansas basketball team.
The Razorbacks have hit a three-point basket in 999 consecutive games going into their SEC matchup against South Carolina today at Colonial Life Arena.
“The streak is amazing,” said Arkansas freshman guard Isaiah Joe, who leads the SEC with 79 three-point baskets. “Not a lot of teams have been able to keep a streak this long.
“To able to reach 1,000 our next game, it doesn’t matter who makes the shot, but whenever somebody does, it’s going to be one for the history books.”
Arkansas has the fifth-longest active three-point streak among NCAA Division I teams behind UNLV (1,061 games), Vanderbilt (1,053), Duke (1,043) and Western Kentucky (1,000).
UNLV, Vanderbilt and Princeton (925 games) are the only teams to hit a three-point basket in every game since the shot went into effect for the 1986-87 season.
Kentucky hit a three-pointer in 1,047 consecutive games before the Wildcats went 0 of 6 in a 78-73 victory over Davidson in a first-round NCAA Tournament game last season.
“It’s definitely a neat stat for the Arkansas program,” Vanderbilt coach Bryce Drew said of the Razorbacks’ streak getting ready to hit 1,000 games. “That’s a lot of players, that’s a lot of teams that have been part of that streak.
“It’s such a big part of the game now that it’s really hard to win if you’re not making threes.”
Drew made those comments before the Commodores played at Walton Arena on Tuesday night when the Razorbacks hit 8 of 19 three-pointers in a 69-66 victory over Vanderbilt — capped by freshman guard Keyshawn Embery-Simpson’s shot from beyond the arc with 14.8 seconds left that put Arkansas ahead 67-66.
“A three-point shot excites the crowd and demoralizes your opponent,” said Pat Bradley, an SEC Network analyst and the Razorbacks’ career leader in three-point baskets with 366 from 1996-99. “There’s just something that’s different about that deep shot than somebody hitting a 5-foot floater off the backboard that they really had to work to get. It’s just a different feel.”
Nolan Richardson, Arkansas’ coach from 1986-2002, recruited Bradley out of Everett (Mass.) High School.
“Of all the shooters we’ve had at Arkansas, Pat is the best in my book,” Richardson said. “I don’t know about all the records, but Pat hit a lot of three-point shots that made a big difference in whether we had a chance to win or lose.
“Pat was a dangerous, dangerous person to the opposing teams.”
Scotty Thurman, now an Arkansas assistant coach, was pretty dangerous, too. His 267 three-point baskets from 1993-95 rank third on the Razorbacks’ all-time list behind Bradley and Rotnei Clarke (274), but Thurman hit a three-point basket in the final seconds that lifted Arkansas to a 76-72 victory over Duke to win the 1994 national championship.
“Scotty probably hit more clutch shots than anyone,” Richardson said, recalling other game-winners against Kentucky, LSU and Tennessee. “Of course, his shot against Duke in the national championship will go down in Arkansas history as the shot of all-time.”
Thurman called Arkansas hitting a three-pointer in 999 consecutive games “remarkable,” but downplayed his role in the streak.
“I’ll be honest with you, I really don’t think about it,” Thurman said. “My job right now is to try to help these guys be able to make shots and get game repetitions so they can be ready to perform.
“As far as myself, my days are over, so I’m kind of living through these guys so to speak.”
The last game in which Arkansas didn’t have a three-pointer was on Jan. 7, 1989 when the Razorbacks won 99-92 at Texas. They were 0 of 2 on three-pointers with Lee Mayberry and Cannon Whitby each missing an attempt.
Arkansas’ streak started the next game in a 51-45 loss at TCU on Jan. 11 when the Razorbacks went 1 of 7. Their lone three-point basket was hit by Keith Wilson — who like Joe played at Fort Smith Northside High School.
Joe said he’s met Wilson and they’ve talked a few times.
“You look back like, ‘Wow, that person started the streak,’” Joe said. “I think it’s amazing that it could start way back then and still be going to this day.”
There have been 20 times during the streak when the Razorbacks hit just one three-pointer, including five times by Mayberry.
An All-American point guard for the Razorbacks as a senior in 1992, Mayberry is sixth on their career list with 218 three-point baskets and is now an assistant coach for Oral Roberts University women’s team.
One of the games in which Mayberry hit Arkansas’ only three-pointer represented the final margin in their 88-85 victory over Texas in the 1990 NCAA Midwest Regional final.
Earlier that season Mayberry hit a three-pointer to tie a game at Texas in the final seconds of regulation that the Razorbacks went on to win 103-96 in overtime when Richardson famously returned from the locker room where he had gone in apparent disgust with the officiating.
“Lee was such a good distributor of the ball and more of a facilitator for others than a scorer,” Richardson said. “But when it came to a crucial time in the game, Lee could step up and hit a big shot.”
Mike Anderson has been on the Arkansas coaching staff for 25 seasons during the streak. He’s in his eighth season as the Razorbacks’ head coach and was Richardson’s assistant for 17 seasons.
“We’ve had some guys that can put it in the hole,” Anderson said. “I think we’ve got some more guys that can put it in the hole, so let’s hope we can — knock on wood — keep it going.”
The Razorbacks’ most recent close call during the streak was on Nov. 22, 2016 when they finished 1 of 8 on three-pointers in an 85-71 loss at Minnesota. They were 0 of 6 before Dusty Hannahs hit a three-pointer with four minutes left in the game.
Hannahs played just two seasons at Arkansas after transferring from Texas Tech, but he’s No. 9 on the Razorbacks career three-point baskets list with 155.
“Arkansas has had some great shooters, but I think part of it is some luck, too, because somebody always has been able to hit at least one three through all of these games,” said Bradley, who hit the Razorbacks’ lone three-point basket in their 88-73 loss at Kentucky on Feb. 11, 1996. “Some other programs have had a lot of wonderful shooters, too, but they don’t have a streak like this.”
Bradley said the streak also is a by-product of the Razorbacks’ uptempo style with Richardson and Anderson as their coaches.
“The style that coach Richardson played — and now coach Anderson plays — has helped guys find open spots in transition,” Bradley said. “Speaking specially for myself, yeah, I could have played in a half-court offense where I’d come off a screen, but when you’re in transition and you know where you’re going and your teammates know what openings there are on the floor, then you’ve got a great advantage.
“Arkansas’ style has led to a lot of open threes. I think more coaches are more willing to allow that type of shot, whereas years ago, it was probably just a few coaches that were OK with shooting a quick three.”
Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger — who was UNLV’s coach for 232 games of its three-point streak in seven seasons from 2005-11 — as Florida’s coach faced Richardson’s Razorbacks and with the Sooners has faced Anderson’s Razorbacks, most recently last season when Arkansas hit 9 of 18 three-pointers in beating Oklahoma 92-83.
“Arkansas has always been a threat out there for sure,” Kruger said. “Philosophically, they’re always pushing the ball and creating in transition.
“What they have now with the three-pointers is a fantastic streak. People starting a streak today is probably not that unusual, but going back to the late 1980s when you didn’t see teams shooting as many threes, makes what Arkansas has done very impressive.”
Joe said he won’t be thinking about the three-point streak in warmups today or whether he’ll be the Razorback to extend it. The mindset, he said, is on extending Arkansas’ SEC winning streak to five games.
“It’s not like we’re going to be focused on getting to 1,000,” Joe said. “We’re going to be focused on winning.
“The shots will always come. As long as we play our game, we’re bound to make a shot.”