CHARLOTTE, N.C., APRIL 5 -- For Arkansas' starting point guard Corey Beck, the relatively easy part Monday night was scoring 15 points, pulling down a career-best 10 rebounds and helping to pester Duke all-American Grant Hill into nine turnovers.

The hard part came after the Razorbacks had defeated the Blue Devils, 76-72, in the National Collegiate Athletic Association men's basketball tournament final at Charlotte Coliseum. It came after Beck left the court and waded into a crowd of Arkansas fans while wearing a white national championship baseball cap on his head and a red plastic razorback hog helmet over the cap.

After a night of getting his hands on everything -- the ball, Hill, the waving hands of delirious fans -- Beck couldn't get his hands on the national championship trophy.

Teammate Clint McDaniel wouldn't let go of it.

"On the bus {back to the team's hotel}, he was hugging the damn trophy," Beck said today. "I was like, 'Clint, can I carry it?' He let me hold it, but then he took it right back."

And McDaniel kept it. All night. In his room.

He didn't sleep with it, but "I put it on a table and slept right beside it," said McDaniel, who didn't surrender it until this morning, when "they came and got it from me."

Ah, the joys of winning the first men's basketball national championship in your school's history.

Arkansas Coach Nolan Richardson luxuriated in the feeling as only he knows how. He said he stayed up until about 4 o'clock this morning, talking with family and friends "who didn't care whether I won or lost." There were some long-time friends from his hometown of El Paso, Tex., and Richardson reminisced with them.

About 3 1/2 hours later, Richardson met the media and offered one of his vintage combinations of fire, humility and near-boastful pride.

Before Monday night's game, some in the media had talked about how intelligently Duke plays -- a comment that Richardson and several of his players said they found insulting. So today he said: "What I'm proud of is the fact that we're not considered very smart. ... You stereotype people when you start talking about who's the most intelligent basketball player and who's the most intelligent basketball coach. And I resent that.

"Hopefully that will be washed away because those youngsters playing out there are making decisions and if the coach has prepared them and worked with them, and they start making the right decisions, then that's the best team. Not because they're smarter -- they just make better decisions."

The Razorbacks (31-3) had defeated Duke in a building 150 miles from its campus in Durham, N.C. -- a building in which it has played the past five Atlantic Coast Conference tournaments. So, Richardson said: "Any time you come in the back yard of somebody and beat them, that's sweeter than any juice you'll ever drink. ... If you can go in their back yard and play the smartest team in America and win, that's sweet. Super sweet."

And because nine of Arkansas' top 10 players -- including Beck, Final Four most outstanding player forward Corliss Williamson, star guard Scotty Thurman and 6-foot-11, 260-pound center Darnell Robinson -- are scheduled to return next season, there already were questions about that and the possibility of Williamson or Thurman making themselves available in the upcoming National Basketball Association draft.

Said Richardson: "I'm a today person. After I lost my daughter {Yvonne} seven years ago {to leukemia}, I don't worry about what's going to happen tomorrow. I know that I'm not promised tomorrow. So, I have to enjoy everything that I can now. Right now."

He and the Razorbacks will have more opportunities to enjoy their achievement. A celebration has been planned for Wednesday evening at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville, Ark. And there likely will be a trip to the White House for a ceremony with President Clinton, the former Arkansas governor who attended the Razorbacks' final three NCAA tournament games.

Today, they were content just to savor the details from Monday night, especially Thurman's tie-breaking three-point shot with 50 seconds on the game clock and the shot clock about to expire. Thurman barely had time to collect a pass from Dwight Stewart and let fly over Duke's Antonio Lang.

"It was the best shot I ever saw in my life," Richardson said.

Monday night, Thurman mostly talked about being fortunate just to beat the shot clock. After seeing his handiwork on television replays overnight, Thurman realized there had been more to it than that.

"The fact that I was able to get it over" Lang, he said today. "I didn't realize it was that close."

Of course, all that matters now is that the shot went in and the Razorbacks won.

"It's sunk in," Beck said. "To be the national championship team is great. It's all we've basically been working for for a long time. Now that's it happened, you can say hoorah and all that."

He then stopped to laugh at how blase he was sounding.

"But now that we've got this one," he continued, "it's like we want another one. It's like the team is never satisfied, basically. ... I'd like to start the season over again tomorrow."

First, though, what he'd really like is to get a firm grip on that trophy -- even if only for a little while.

"I'm looking forward to holding it for at least five minutes," he said.