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UCLA dynasty 1968-1975

April 12, 2013


Lew Alcindor and Elvin Hayes going up for a rebound *photo courtesy of The Hot Read

I know UCLA’s dynasty was from 1964-1975 (so the title is deceiving) but the first few were covered in my first college basketball post.

In the 1967 National Semifinal, the two best big men in the college game squared off as sophomore Lew Alcindor and UCLA played junior Elvin Hayes and Houston.  Hayes put up 25 points on 12-for-31 shooting but got no help as the Cougars 2nd best scorer that day was Melvin Bell with 10 points.  Meanwhile for UCLA, Alcindor didn’t even lead them in scoring in this game despite 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting.  Shooting forward Lynn Shackelford had 22 points on 11-for-19 and guards Lucius Allen and Mike Warren also finished in double figures.  UCLA won 73-58 and went on to win the National Championship (their 3rd in 4 years).  Alcindor’s dominance forced college basketball to implement an anti-dunking rule.  This was in effect from 1967-1976 and is nicknamed the ‘Lew Alcindor rule.’

Houston coach Guy Lewis wanted to prove his program’s worth, so he decided to schedule UCLA for the regular season in 1968.  UCLA Athletic Director J.D. Morgan convinced John Wooden to go along with it because it would be good for college basketball.  It was officially scheduled and Houston’s AD Ted Nance touted it in the University of Houston football programs as the ‘Game of the Century.’

UCLA had its core of future NBA stars Alcindor and Allen back along with Shackelford and Warren.  Houston, to go along with Hayes, had future Boston Celtics defensive ace Don Chaney.  Chaney and Hayes were seniors.  Melvin Bell was Houston’s other big man but he would red-shirt for the 1968 Season.

Both teams came into the game undefeated.  UCLA was riding a 47-game winning streak which was 13 behind the record set by the University of San Francisco during the Bill Russell era.  Both were also, naturally, ranked 1 and 2 in the nation with the Bruins holding the top spot.

The game was broadcast on the TVS Television Network on a prime-time Saturday night nationwide.  Up to that point, only NCAA post-season games had been broadcast nationally.  The court for the game was also interesting.  The game was played at the 8th wonder of the world, the Astrodome, in Houston before 52,693 fans plus another 3,000 standing.  This was obviously the largest basketball crowd to that point, but the setup was interesting.  The first row of stands were about 100 feet from the floor.  And the floor itself was the floor from the Los Angeles Sports Arena.  Just take a look at the picture below of the whole setup.


*photo courtesy of The Roosevelts

January 20, 1968 – (#1) UCLA Bruins 69 @(#2) Houston Cougars 71

UCLA got off to a quick start in this game.  The start was matched by Hayes as he gave the Cougars a 13-12 lead.  A big factor for UCLA was that Alcindor wasn’t himself.  Alcindor had gotten a scratched cornea 3 games earlier against Cal.  Lew had missed the previous 2 games but wanted to play in this one.  Alcindor finished the game 4-for-18 from the field.  Meanwhile, Hayes may not have been himself either.  He was better!  Houston went on an 8-0 run and went up 25-16 on Hayes’ 15th point.  Hayes got a variety of easy baskets and hit a few long jumpers.  Big E was also playing some defense as he blocked 3 Alcindor shots.  Houston took as big as an 11-point lead but Lucius Allen helped the Bruins cut the lead with 13 first half points.  Alcindor finally made a sky hook to cut the lead to 44-39.  He had 9 points at halftime while Elvin had 29.  The Cougars were up 46-43.

The scoring slowed down in the 2nd half (or the defense picked up) as Hayes was saddled with 4 fouls.  Elvin made two free throws for a 63-57 Cougars lead.  Those free throws were his 3rd and 4th second-half points.  Alcindor came back with his 14th point on a sky hook and Allen got a steal and layup.  After Hayes made a layup, UCLA substitute Jim Nielsen made a jumper in the middle of the lane.  UCLA tied it as Warren and Alcindor each made 1 free throw.  Hayes then hit a turnaround from the post for a 67-65 lead.  Warren missed a jumper at the other end and the Cougars’ Don Chaney came back with a jumper for a 4-point lead.  Allen then made a layup and got fouled.  Lucius missed the free throw but with under a minute left, Allen made two clutch free throws to tie the game.  Houston went to Hayes down low guarded by Nielsen.  Hayes went up for a shot and Nielsen went up with him.  Nielsen got ball and body contact and got called for the foul.  The UCLA bench jumped as they thought the play was clean.  Hayes made 2 free throws with 31 seconds left for a 71-69 Cougars lead.  UCLA pushed it back without a time out, but an Allen pass inside was deflected and stolen by Houston’s Ken Spain. Spain had run quickly to retrieve the ball but he could not stop his momentum when he got it and was called for traveling.  So Allen had another chance, and he penetrated to the left elbow area against the zone.  Allen spotted Shackelford open in the corner.  Lynn was a great shooter but if there was a spot on the floor where you could put two in the book for him, it was the corner.  Allen threw a pass toward Shackelford but just as he was doing that, Mike Warren was cutting through the lane and deflected the ball out-of-bounds thinking the pass was for him.  Houston killed the remaining 12 seconds and many, many, many fans stormed the court and carried Hayes on their shoulders.

UCLA starters (points scored)

Lynn Shackelford (10) – Small Forward

Edgar Lacey (0) – Power Forward

Lew Alcindor (15) – Center

Lucius Allen (25) – Point Guard

Mike Warren (13) – Shooting Guard

UCLA bench (points scored)

Mike Lynn (4)

Jim Nielsen (2)

UCLA Coach: John Wooden

Houston starters (points scored)

Theodis Lee (4) – Small Forward

Elvin Hayes (39) – Power Forward

Ken Spain (2) – Center

Don Chaney (11) – Point Guard

George Reynolds (13) – Shooting Guard

Houston bench (points scored)

Tom Gribben (2)

Vern Lewis (0)

Houston Coach: Guy Lewis

Neither team would lose for the rest of the season.  They would meet in the National Semifinals for the 2nd straight season.  Houston had beaten Loyola (Chicago), Wes Unseld‘s Louisville Cardinals and TCU to get to the Final Four.  UCLA had beaten New Mexico State and Santa Clara.  The Bruins used a box-and-one against Hayes, with Shackelford being the man on the spot.  Hayes was held to 10 points while UCLA had five starters in double figures.  UCLA killed Houston 101-69 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena for sweet revenge (so they played both games on the same floor in different cities).  UCLA went on the beat Larry Miller, Charlie Scott and Dean Smith‘s North Carolina Tar Heels 78-55 to win the Championship.


UCLA celebrates its 1968 Championship *photo courtesy of UCLA Athletics

UCLA returned two starters for 1969, Alcindor and Shackelford.  UCLA came in with 1 loss.  UCLA lost Alcindor’s final game at home in a slow down to cross-town rival USC 46-44.  But the Bruins were still heavily favored in 1969.  Seniors Alcindor and Shackelford was joined by fellow senior Kenny Heitz as well as junior college transfer John Vallely and sophomore Curtis Rowe in the starting lineup.  Rowe would team with Sidney Wicks and Steve Patterson (both coming off the bench in 1969) in the frontcourt to keep UCLA’s run going in the future.  UCLA made the final four beating New Mexico State and Santa Clara for the 2nd straight year in the West Regional.  They were joined by Drake, Purdue, and North Carolina.  Dean Smith’s Tarheels were making their 3rd straight Final Four appearance but were no match for Purdue in the first Semifinal as Rick Mount (one of the greatest players in Big Ten history) and Billy Keller combined for 56 points in a 92-65 embarrassment.  Mount and Keller would later star for the ABA’s Indiana Pacers.  Meanwhile, Drake’s team balance (5 players in double figures led by Willie McCarter‘s 24) made it a close match with UCLA.  But the Bruins survived a late rally 85-82 as Alcindor had 25 and Vallely had 29.  UCLA took a big first half lead against Purdue in the Championship Game as Rick Mount had a monumental cold spell, missing 14 consecutive shots and going 3-for-18 in the first half.  UCLA led 42-31 at halftime and coasted 92-72 as Alcindor finished his college career with 37 points, three national championships and three most outstanding player awards.

For 1970, Wicks and Patterson moved up to the starting lineup to join Rowe and Vallely.  They were joined by sophomore point guard Henry Bibby.  UCLA lost two games that season (as many as the last 3 seasons) but were back in the Final Four in College Park, Maryland.  UCLA was joined by a star-studded Final Four.  4 of the top 6 teams in the nation were there.  Kentucky and South Carolina were 2 and 3 and weren’t in College Park.  #1 UCLA joined #4 St. Bonaventure, #5 New Mexico State, and #6 Jacksonville.  Each team had big men who would star in the NBA (and for awhile in the ABA in one particular case).  St. Bonaventure had 1970 #1 pick Bob Lanier, New Mexico State had Sam Lacey and Jacksonville had Artis Gilmore.  East representatives St. Bonaventure and Jacksonville played each other in one semi while New Mexico State and coach Lou Henson would match up with UCLA for the 3rd straight year.  Lanier had a knee injury and was out for the Bonnies and this gave Jacksonville a huge advantage.  And led by Gilmore’s 29, the Dolphins won 91-83 over a game undermanned St. Bonaventure team.  Meanwhile, Lacey injured his ankle against UCLA and was ineffective with only 8 points but Jimmy Collins had 28 and made the all-tournament team.  But UCLA’s balance (22 for Wicks, 15 for Rowe, 12 for Patterson, 19 for Bibby and 23 for Vallely) fended off the Aggies 93-77.  Jacksonville got off to a quick start versus UCLA as Gilmore and fellow 7-footer Pembrook Burrows scored inside early.  But the 6’8″ Wicks would surprise the 7’2″ Artis Gilmore by blocking three of his shots.  Wicks, Rowe, and Vallely helped UCLA regain momentum and gain a 41-36 halftime lead.  The lead increased in the 2nd half and the final was 80-69.  UCLA had done it with five guys taking over for Alcindor.

Wicks, Rowe and Petterson were seniors and Bibby was a junior in 1971.  UCLA only lost only a game at Notre Dame that season.  It was their last loss until Notre Dame again beat them in South Bend in 1974.  UCLA though survived a scare in the West Regional Final against Long Beach State.  UCLA trailed by 11 in the 2nd half and Wicks had 4 fouls.  But the Bruins came back and Wicks hit two free throws for a 57-55 win.  UCLA played Kansas in the National Semifinal who came in with an identical 27-1 record.  Villanova and Western Kentucky played a double-overtime classic in the other Semifinal, which was won by Villanova 92-89.  Western Kentucky and Villanova later had to vacate their 1971 tournament appearance after Hilltoppers star Jim McDaniels and Wildcats star Howard Porter had received money before the end of the season.  Both would go on to play for several years in the ABA and NBA.  For UCLA though, they had a bit of a struggle with Dave Robisch and the Jayhawks.  The game was tied at 39 in the 2nd half, but UCLA’s defense stepped up and the Bruins grabbed a 68-53 lead and held on to win 68-60.  Villanova used their zone to hang close with UCLA in the Championship Game.  Wicks and Rowe were ineffective but Patterson, the man who has the distinction of being UCLA’s big man between Alcindor and Walton, was open and scored 20 points in the first half.  Villanova hung close to UCLA but couldn’t overtake the Bruins as Patterson led them with 29.  Bibby was right behind him with 17.  The Bruins won 68-62 and weren’t expected to be challenged any time soon as Bill Walton was going to be on varsity along with Keith Wilkes (later Jamaal Wilkes when he was in the NBA), Swen Nater, Greg Lee, Tommy Curtis, and Larry Hollyfield.

These sophomores joined senior Bibby and junior Larry Farmer for 1972.  UCLA skated through the season at 26-0 and beat Weber State and Long Beach State in the West Regional.  They would play Louisville, who had former UCLA assistant Denny Crum in first year as head coach, in the National Semifinals.  While North Carolina and Florida State squared off in the other.  UNC was filled with future NBA talent led by Bobby Jones and Bob McAdoo.  But Florida State would gain the upper hand and lead at halftime 45-32.  The Seminoles (who weren’t in the ACC quite yet) didn’t have size but they had speed and lots of it.  Hugh Durham‘s team was just coming off three years of probation and had beaten Kentucky in the Mideast Regional Final in Adolph Rupp’s last game.  North Carolina made a late, futile run and lost 79-75.  The Bruins easily beat Louisville 96-77 as Walton had 33 points.  Florida State gained an early 21-14 lead on UCLA as they held Walton scoreless during that stretch.  But Wilkes, Bibby, and eventually Walton would break free as the Bruins took a 50-39 lead at halftime and held on to win 81-76.

1973 would bring one of the greatest performances in a championship game ever (in my opinion, it’s the greatest) and my first full college basketball game.  The National Championship Game between UCLA and Memphis State (now just Memphis).

Memphis had beaten Ernie DiGregorio and Providence in the National Semifinal 98-85.  Providence had had the early lead but then their center Marvin Barnes injured a knee.  The Tiger’s big men of Larry Kenon and Ronnie Robinson, as well as guard Larry Finch took advantage and won going away.  UCLA took on Indiana in Bobby Knight’s first final four appearance in his 2nd year in Bloomington.  The Hoosiers had an early 20-17 lead as their big man Steve Downing was out-playing Walton.  But then UCLA went on an 18-0 run and led 40-22 at halftime.  Trailing by as many as 24 in the 2nd half, Indiana managed to get Walton into foul trouble and went on a 17-0 run to cut the Bruins lead to 54-51.  But then Downing fouled out after scoring 26 points.  Indiana still cut it to 57-55 but the Bruins clinched the game with a 13-0 run and won 70-59.

March 26, 1973 – National Championship Game: UCLA Bruins 87, Memphis State Tigers 66

The Bruins had come in on a 74-game winning streak and in fact Bill Walton had gone 128 straight games in high school and college without a loss.  Walton sure wasn’t going to let that first loss happen in the Championship Game in St. Louis.  Senior guard Larry Hollyfield hit the first jumper then Walton hit a turn-around banker from the post.  Walton would be guarded by 6’9″ Larry Kenon, who would star for the Spurs for 7 seasons starting in 1974.  Kenon matched Walton early, scoring 8 of Memphis’ first 10 points for a 10-8 lead.  Bill Walton and Larry Hollyfield would score again as they combined for a 6-for-6 start to that point.  Then Walton hit a cutting Greg Lee for a layup and a 14-12 lead.  After Ronnie Robinson hit a turn-around to tie it.  Walton moved to the middle of the lane against Kenon, hit a right-handed hook shot, and drew Kenon’s 3rd foul plus a technical on Larry.  Walton a minute later hit another turn-around banker for his 6th field goal in 6 attempts.

But Memphis senior Larry Finch would keep the Tigers in the game.  He matched Walton point for point for a few minutes and the score was 23-22.  But after Hollyfield’s third jumper, Walton would get a layup on a Hollyfield lob pass for his 8th field goal in 8 attempts.  UCLA led 29-22 after Keith Wilkes hit a fadeaway.  Kenon came back into the game and got a basket on a Walton goaltending.  Walton had already been called for 3 goaltendings on the offensive end so far (including just a simple basket that was taken away because the referee felt Walton touched the rim – remember the anti-dunking rule).  But Walton would get his first and only miss after taking a lob pass in front of the rim and trying to make it over his head.  Reserve sophomore Dave Meyers tipped in that miss for a 31-24 Bruin lead.  Walton then hit another layup for UCLA’s biggest lead.  Memphis State would go on a 6-0 run capped by a Finch double-pump bank shot on the break.  But then Walton came back with a tip in and another layup on a lob pass from Greg Lee.

But then Finch penetrated and passed to Billy Buford who had his shot blocked by Walton but the referee ruled body contact and Bill picked up his 3rd foul.  This and a Hollyfield technical turned around the momentum.  Two Larry Finch free throws made the score 39-35 and made him the top scorer in Memphis history to that point.  He was eventually passed by Keith Lee but is still second.  Finch made another double-pump banker and Kenon hit from the post to tie the game at 39 with 2:00 left in the half.  Nobody would score the rest of the half.  Walton had 22 points while Finch had 18 and Kenon 13.

Two Finch free throws gave Memphis State a brief lead but Walton got going again as he got layups off lob passes from Greg Lee.  A critical play midway through the 2nd half with UCLA up 51-47 was when Lee threw another lob to Walton for a layup.  Walton was undercut while making the shot and instead of getting one free throw for a normal three-point play, Walton was given two free throws on the flagrant foul.  Walton made both for his only 2 free throw makes of the game (in 5 attempts).  Walton would finish the game with 44 points on 21-for-22 shooting.  Like I said, the greatest performance in championship game history in my view.  The only thing that stopped Walton was the type of thing that would stop him for most of his NBA career, he sprained his ankle late in the game.  But UCLA had a comfortable lead at that point and would coast, 87-66.  I’m pretty sure we won’t see 7 National Championships in a row ever.

UCLA starters (points scored)

Keith Wilkes (16) – Small Forward

Larry Farmer (2) – Power Forward

Bill Walton (44) – Center

Greg Lee (5) – Point Guard

Larry Hollyfield (8) – Shooting Guard

UCLA bench (points scored)

Tommy Curtis (4)

Dave Meyers (4)

Swen Nater (2)

Gary Franklin (2)

Vince Carson (0)

Bob Webb (0)

UCLA Coach: John Wooden

Memphis State starters (points scored)

Bill Buford (7) – Small Forward

Larry Kenon (20) – Power Forward

Ronnie Robinson (6) – Center

Bill Laurie (0) – Point Guard

Larry Finch (29) – Shooting Guard

Memphis State bench (points scored)

Bill Cook (4)

Wes Westfall (0)

Clarence Jones (0)

Jerry Tetzlaff (0)

Jim Liss (0)

Ken Andrews (0)

Doug McKinney (0)

Memphis State Coach: Gene Bartow


Bill Walton calling for the ball against Memphis State.  He would finish 21-for-22 from the field for 44 points *photo courtesy of Spokeo

January 19, 1974 – (#1) UCLA Bruins 70 @(#2) Notre Dame Fighting Irish 71

It was set up almost perfectly.  Keith Wilkes hit two free throws for a 68-59 UCLA lead and then with under 4 minutes left, Tommy Curtis hit a jumper to put the Bruins up by 11.  Notre Dame called a timeout and Dick Enberg and Hot Rod Hundley, calling the game on TVS, were talking about how Bill Walton had won his final 49 games in high school, 80 games in college (including with the freshman team), and it would be 14 for this season if they held on against Notre Dame for 143 games in a row for Walton without a loss.  Hundley went on to say that if Walton and UCLA got finish undefeated and win another national championship he would consider Walton better than Chamberlain, Russell, and Abdul-Jabbar (or Alcindor, if you prefer).

UCLA far and away had the record for the most consecutive victories in collegiate athletics with 88 straight wins.  Their last loss had come at Notre Dame in 1971.  It was their only loss of the 1971 season.

The Notre Dame crowd was quiet as the also undefeated Irish inbounded the ball down 70-59.  They worked the ball inside to their big man John Shumate who went to the middle and made a hook shot over Walton.  Shumate then stole the inbounds pass and went in for a layup as the crowd got more alive.  UCLA worked the clock down as they could in the pre-shot clock era.  But a pass back towards half court was intercepted by future NBA All-Star Adrian Dantley who went in for a layup.  Notre Dame pressed and UCLA threw a pass over the top to Curtis.  Curtis broke free from his defender, caught the ball, dribbled once, then took what looked like only two steps before his layup.  He was called for traveling.  The Irish’s star senior Gary Brokaw then came back with a jumper over Wilkes.  UCLA again worked the clock and Dave Meyers was open inside.  Why not attempt the shot?  Except he missed it and Shumate rebounded.  With just over a minute left, Brokaw hit a jumper from the free throw line.  UCLA tried to work more time off but there was a sense of urgency.  Wilkes was guarded closely on the baseline.  He made a move but hooked his defender for an offensive foul.  At the Irish end, Brokaw drove to the lane and kicked to his back court partner Dwight Clay in the corner.  Clay made the jumper and Notre Dame had the lead 71-70.  It was the Irish’s first lead of the game.  UCLA decided not to call a timeout and after almost losing the ball, Curtis put up a long jumper that was short.  Brokaw rebounded it but lost it out of bounds with 6 seconds left.

If you’re a college basketball fan, you’ve seen the last 6 seconds.  Or you’ve probably heard Enberg’s call – “In to Walton! He can’t score! Trgovich! Meyers! Shumate! It’s all over!”  To clear that up, Walton got the inbounds pass over Shumate and missed a turnaround bank shot.  UCLA guard Pete Trgovich and forward Dave Meyers had tips at it but couldn’t score.  Shumate finally grabbed the rebound and threw the ball in the air as the crowd stormed the court.  The perfect team had finally lost.  Not only did they lose but showed a lack of poise down the stretch that they rarely (if ever) showed.

The victory vaulted Notre Dame to number 1 in the polls.  But UCLA would grab it back by beating Notre Dame 94-75 at Pauley Pavilion in Westwood the next week.  UCLA would lose two more regular season games (at Oregon State and at Oregon) but would still win the conference and make it to the Final Four.  Notre Dame would lose to Michigan in the Mideast Regional.

UCLA starters (points scored)

Keith Wilkes (18) – Small Forward

Dave Meyers (10) – Power Forward

Bill Walton (24) – Center

Tommy Curtis (9) – Point Guard

Pete Trgovich (7) – Shooting Guard

UCLA bench (points scored)

Greg Lee (2)

Marques Johnson (0)

UCLA Coach: John Wooden

Notre Dame starters (points scored)

Adrian Dantley (9) – Small Forward

Gary Novak (0) – Power Forward

John Shumate (24) – Center

Dwight Clay (7) – Point Guard

Gary Brokaw (25) – Shooting Guard

Notre Dame bench (points scored)

Bill Paterno (4)

Ray Martin (2)

Notre Dame Coach: Digger Phelps

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At top, Dwight Clay hits the winning shot over Tommy Curtis.  At middle, John Shumate grabs the final rebound.  At bottom, the Irish fans rish the court and celebrate the victory *photos courtesy of NY Times, CNN Sports Illustrated, and Notre Dame

March 9, 1974 – ACC Championship Game: (#4) Maryland Terrapins 100 vs(#1) North Carolina State Wolfpack 103 (OT)

I know this isn’t a UCLA game, but this was one of the greatest games in college basketball history.  This was when the ACC Tournament really meant something.  Up until that point, only one team from a conference was allowed in the NCAA Tournament (so it may have been better benefit to be an independent – although most good ACC teams that won the tournament easily made the Final Four).  This meant that either the number 1 team in the nation or the number 4 team in the nation was not going to the 1974 tournament (#6 North Carolina lost to Maryland 105-85 in the Semifinals).  The tournament expanded the next year and accepted at-large bids as a result of this game.

These two teams had a bit of a rivalry the last two seasons.  The first game of it was captured on Superbowl Sunday 1973 by C.D. Chesley, who put together syndicated ACC broadcasts and got them on national TV.  The game at Cole Field House is more described in this article but David Thompson tipped in the winning basket for an 87-85 NC State win (the syndicated broadcast would be back for the ’74 Final as called by Jim Thacker and former Wake Forest guard Billy Packer, who would become the voice of the NCAA tournament for many years).  NC State had gone undefeated in 1973 but were not allowed to participate in the NCAA tournament because they were on probation.  Maryland, despite losing the ACC Championship Game to NC State 76-74, represented the ACC in the NCAA tournament and lost to Providence in the East Regional Finals.

NC State in fact had won 31 consecutive ACC games going into the 1974 tournament final.  Their only loss in 1974 was on December 15 to UCLA 84-66.  The Wolfpack were led by high-flying David Thompson, 7’4″ Tom Burleson, and 5’7″ sharpshooter Monte Towe.  Meanwhile, Maryland was led by future NBA star guard John Lucas, forward Tom McMillen, and center Len Elmore.  This game was played in front of a partisan crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Maryland got off to a 10-5 lead as each of their five starters got a field goal.  The big mismatch early wasn’t Thompson going against Maryland’s Owen Brown but Monte Towe matching up against 6’3″ Mo Howard.  Howard got 8 of Maryland’s first 20 points with shots over the much shorter Towe.  A Len Elmore three-point play put the Terrapins up 23-12.  State tried a set play that they went to often, a lob to Thompson.  But Brown deflected the pass away and Lucas took it coast-to-coast hitting a jumper after avoiding a defender with a behind-the-back dribble.  That would be Maryland’s biggest lead.  The Wolfpack All-Americans Thompson and Burleson started to get it going and State stayed within striking distance.  But Maryland despite its margin of victory over UNC the night before had had a tough game and the fatigue started to catch up to them a bit.  NC State made its run down 41-35 when guard Morris Rivers hit a jumper and Thompson got a putback.  Then Thompson drew the third foul on Owen Brown, who was doing a reasonable job on Thompson despite David’s 14 points.  Thompson hit the first free throw to cut the Maryland lead to one.  He missed the second but future major league baseball pitcher Tim Stoddard got the offensive rebound and hit a reverse layup.  It was State’s first lead.  But Lucas responded with a jumper, a steal, and a layup.  Maryland held their lead and had a 55-50 advantage at the half despite Thompson’s 21 points.  McMillen led Maryland with 16 while Elmore had 11.

The 2nd half started off well for NC State as Burleson got a layup off the opening jump (nope the 7’4″ Burleson didn’t do the opening tip-off, it was David ‘Skywalker’ Thompson).  Towe then hit a long jumper and Stoddard got another reverse after a McMillen basket.  Then the Wolfpack got two steals, one resulted in a Towe tip-in after a Rivers missed layup and the other Rivers finished.  Maryland called timeout after State grabbed the 60-57 lead.  The teams went back and forth and Maryland grabbed the lead at 67-66 on a Howard breakaway layup.  Then there was a critical moment as Burleson tried to make a power move at the other end.  Elmore knocked the ball away to Brown who was immediately double-teamed by Burleson and Thompson.  Brown swung the elbow and Burleson flopped and got the fourth foul on Brown.  This meant that Tom Roy had to come in and guard Thompson, which was mentioned by Billy Packer as a mis-match.  But Roy did an effective job and Thompson wouldn’t score for awhile.  The Wolfpack were carried by Burleson who had 24 points in the 2nd half.  Maryland would grab a 77-72 as Lucas found Howard three consecutive times ahead of the defense for layups.  Maryland would maintain that advantage until Thompson finally hit back-to-back jumpers that pulled NC State even.  With the game tied at 89, Rivers got ahead of the defense for what looked to be an easy layup but Howard ran him down and blocked the shot.  Howard was called for goaltending though (bad call in view as I think Howard got it at top flight – Lefty Driesell agreed with me based on his strong reaction).  The two teams battled into a 97-97 tie and overtime.

After an Elmore free throw, Burleson got his 38th point on a hook that bounced across the rim and went in.  This gave NC State the lead for good.  The final nail was put in when Towe penetrated and found substitute Phil Spence for a layup.  NC State went on to the tournament where they would make the Final Four which was again at Greensboro Coliseum.

Maryland starters (points scored)

Owen Brown (14) – Small Forward

Tom McMillen (22) – Power Forward

Len Elmore (18) – Center

John Lucas (18) – Point Guard

Maurice Howard (22) – Shooting Guard

Maryland bench (points scored)

Tom Roy (6)

Billy Hahn (0)

Maryland Coach: Lefty Driesell

NC State starters (points scored)

David Thompson (29) – Small Forward

Tim Stoddard (4) – Power Forward

Tom Burleson (38) – Center

Monte Towe (17) – Point Guard

Morris Rivers (8) – Shooting Guard

NC State bench (points scored)

Phil Spence (7)

Mark Moeller (0)

NC State Coach: Norm Sloan

McMillen-Elmore 001MDvNCSTATE1974

At top: Maryland’s Len Elmore and Tom McMillen battle for a rebound as Tom Burleson (#24 in white) and Phil Spence (#30) stand in the foreground.  At bottom: David Thompson shooting his lean-in jumper over Tom Roy *photos courtesy of CNN Sports Illustrated and Sports Then and Now

NC State would play UCLA in the National Semifinals in another one of the greatest games in NCAA history.  UCLA grabbed an 11 point lead in the second half but State would come back and force overtime and eventually double overtime.  The Bruins scored the first 7 points to grab a 74-67 lead at the 3:00 mark.  But then Thompson led the Wolfpack pack as UCLA (similar to the Notre Dame game) uncharacteristically blew the game.  NC State won 80-77 to end the 7-year UCLA reign.  The Wolfpack would go on to beat Maurice Lucas and Marquette in the Finals, 76-64.


Thompson skying over Walton as Burleson, Keith Wilkes (#52) and Dave Meyers (#34) look on *photo courtesy of Bleacher Report

March 22, 1975 – Mideast Regional Finals: Kentucky Wildcats 92, Indiana Hoosiers 90

The result of this game may have set up John Wooden’s last championship.  Indiana was 31-0 coming into this game and would be 32-0 in 1976.  So who knows if young Bobby Knight and the Hoosiers would have prevented Wooden’s 11th championship had they met, especially considering that All-American Scott May was hampered with a broken arm.  But this Indiana team would have been the biggest challenger.

As it turned out Kentucky would be a challenge to UCLA after shocking Indiana (but not as big a challenge as Louisville turned out to be) but we’ll get there.

Indiana had a few players left from the 1973 Final Four team.  Junior point guard Quinn Buckner, who quarterbacked the team, returned with seniors Steve Green and super-sub John Laskowski.  They were joined by juniors May and Bobby Wilkerson and sophomore big man Kent Benson.  All of these players would play in the NBA for at least two years.  They had formed a solid nucleus for Indiana.

Meanwhile, Kentucky started four seniors, including All-American Kevin Grevey.  The Wildcats were in their third year under Joe B. Hall, who had replaced Adolph Rupp as coach.  The main players playing along with senior forwards Grevey and Bob Guyette and senior guards Jimmy Dan Connor and Mike Flynn were freshmen.  Starting in the middle was Rick Robey with Mike Phillips backing him up.  Another freshman though would end up making the biggest impact at Kentucky by being the hero of the 1978 Final Four.  Jack Givens was a super-sub in 1975.

Despite his broken arm, Scott May was still playing.  But in this game he would only play the first 7 minutes.  He made the first Indiana field goal on a jumper after Mike Flynn got a layup for Kentucky.  The first half was close and highly contested.  Indiana was led by their senior starter Steve Green who would have 16 points at the half.  Kentucky’s senior back court led the way as Grevey struggled a bit with his shooting.  The Wildcats would also be helped by Givens who made his first 4 shots off the bench.  The first half also featured a rare Bobby Knight technical as he got in an official’s face during a timeout.  Grevey made the technical and led the Wildcats with 9 at the half.  The 44-all halftime score was the 11th tie of the game.

After Flynn was fouled on a made turn-around jumper to start the second half, John Laskowski made his first jumper of the game.  Laskowski played the final 33 minutes after May couldn’t go after the first 7.  But Flynn and Connor would each score two baskets to give Kentucky a 53-48 lead.  Indiana would stay with the Wildcats as Kent Benson started to get going and take over for the cooled off Green.  Both teams were playing hard but were noted the UK Basketball network announcers as looking tired mid-way through the second half.  This would be a factor as Kentucky’s bench helped them at that point.  Mike Phillips banker put the Wildcats up 69-68.  They would never lose that lead.  Following a Connor jumper and Benson hook, Grevey hit a jumper and Robey hit a turnaround for a 75-70 Kentucky lead.  Then Grevey followed with another jumper and Robey hit two more free throws to complete the 8-0 run.  Indiana’s only answer to Kentucky’s rally was two Benson baskets.  A Mike Phillips hook gave Kentucky their biggest lead at 85-75.  But then Kentucky committed three quick turnovers, one of which would lead to a Wilkerson jumper.  With 3:00 left, Benson hit from the post and it was 85-79.  Then Phillips broke the Kentucky ice with a turn-around shot from the lane and then Hit two free throws after a Laskowski layup.  After Benson hit a layup and two free throws, Flynn split a pair of free throws with under a minute left.  Then Laskowski went to the line for two.  He made the first but missed the second, but Benson rebounded the miss and put it back in.  It was 90-88 Wildcats at this point.  Grevey hit two free throws and then Laskowski hit a jumper with 5 seconds left.  After a Kentucky timeout, they inbounded to Connor.  Connor was guarded by substitute freshman Wayne Radford who tried to tie up Jimmy Dan and ended up throwing him to the floor.  There was small brouhaha on the baseline as a result but after things were cleared, Connor went to the line with 1 second left.  He missed the free throw but Indiana was without any timeouts so Benson could only throw a prayer to the other end after his 23rd rebound.

Kentucky players and fans celebrated the upset on the University of Dayton Arena floor.  It would be Indiana’s only loss from the start of the 1975 season until the end of the 1976 season and Bobby Knight celebrated by not shaking Joe B. Hall’s hand after the game.

Indiana starters (points scored)

Scott May (2) – Small Forward

Steve Green (21) – Power Forward

Kent Benson (33) – Center

Quinn Buckner (8) – Point Guard

Bobby Wilkerson (14) – Shooting Guard

Indiana bench (points scored)

John Laskowski (12)

Wayne Radford (0)

Tom Abernethy (0)

Steven Ahlfeld (0)

Indiana Coach: Bobby Knight

Kentucky starters (points scored)

Kevin Grevey (17) – Small Forward

Bob Guyette (2) – Power Forward

Rick Robey (10) – Center

Jimmy Dan Connor (17) – Point Guard

Mike Flynn (22) – Shooting Guard

Kentucky bench (points scored)

Jack Givens (8)

Mike Phillips (10)

Larry Johnson (6)

Dan Hall (0)

Merionc Haskins (0)

Kentucky Coach: Joe B. Hall

kentucky-indiana '75

This SI cover features Mike Flynn shooting over Kent Benson as Steve Green (#34) and Bob Guyette (#45) battle in the foreground *photo courtesy of Storming the Floor

Kentucky beat Cinderella Syracuse in the first National Semifinal 95-79 as Givens led them with 24 off the bench.  In the second Semifinal between Louisville and UCLA, The Cardinals had been ranked no lower than 6th in the nation after being a pre-season #8.  They had outstanding senior swingmen Junior Bridgeman and Allen Murphy going along with sophomore big man Wesley Cox.  UCLA had perhaps its least talented team in the dynasty era.  Senior Dave Meyers was an All-American.  He teamed in the frontcourt with talented sophomores Marques Johnson and Richard Washington.  Johnson would be slowed in the Final Four as he was still recovering from hepatitis.  The backcourt of Andre McCarter and Pete Trgovich was unheralded.  UCLA also didn’t play much of a bench.

Louisville, helped by 33 points from Murphy, took a 65-61 lead with under a minute left.  But Washington hit two free throws after getting fouled on UCLA’s third attempt to score on the same possession.  The Bruins then stole the inbounds pass and Johnson tipped in a miss.  The game went into overtime.  Murphy scored Louisville’s first 7 points of the overtime and the Cardinals took a 3-point lead at 74-71 on a Cox tip-in.  Meyers hit two free throws and then Louisville was trying to run out the clock and get the ball to senior Terry Howard, who was 28-for-28 from the line during the season.  What do you think happened? Howard missed the front end of a 1-and-1.  After a Bruins timeout, they worked the ball around to Washington who hit a short baseline jumper with 3 seconds left for his 26th point to lead the Bruins and 75-74 lead.  Louisville mis-handled an inbounds pass and Wooden, who announced that the championship game would be his last, had a chance to go out on top versus Kentucky.

March 31, 1975 – National Championship Game: UCLA Bruins 92, Kentucky Wildcats 85

It was a story-book type of ending and a great moment in sports.  Wooden went out on top as his team gutted it out against a talented Kentucky Wildcats team.  Kentucky got off to a quick start as Grevey scored 10 quick points and the Wildcats took a 20-14 lead on a Givens three-point play.  UCLA then got 6 straight points as Meyers got a layup on a Trgovich assist and then Washington hit two free throws and got a fast break layup on a McCarter assist.  Washington was battling Grevey almost even in the first half.  A Dave Meyers three-point play tied the game at 27.  Grevey had 14 points at that point and Washington had 12.  Kentucky then went on a little run but it was Trgovich who kept UCLA with them by scoring 8 consecutive Bruin points.  Washington’s corner jumper put UCLA up 37-34.  Kentucky was stalled when the Bruins only sub Ralph Drollinger came in and was a presence defensively as the big man shut down the middle and grabbed a bevy of defensive boards.  Trgovich ended up with 14 first half points after averaging around 10 for the season.  McCarter had 10 first half assists as UCLA led 43-40 at the half.

The teams played even for the first part of the second half.  But the Bruins were getting unsung help from Drollinger this time at the offensive end.  Ralph got 8 of his 10 points in the second half on several offensive rebounds.  Kentucky though got help from rugged Bob Guyette who had 14 of his 16 points in the second half.  A Mike Flynn runner cut UCLA’s lead to 58-56.  But it was then that Kentucky went cold as their big men tandem of Robey and Phillips were in foul trouble.  A Richard Washington jumper gave him 20 points and gave UCLA a four-point lead.  Then Meyers hit two jumpers and Washington got an offensive rebound for a 66-56 UCLA lead.  After Flynn broke the ice with 2 free throws, Washington committed an offensive foul for his 4th.  He stayed in the game but wasn’t a factor offensively or defensively for awhile.  Kevin Grevey, who had been getting a rest, got fouled on a made jumper after coming back into the game.  Meyers and Marques Johnson, the only UCLA starter who didn’t play 40 minutes, scored UCLA’s next 8 points but Kentucky stayed around with three-point plays by Grevey and Flynn.  Then with UCLA up 74-69, Grevey made a jumper and Guyette got a layup against the foul-ridden Washington.  Meyers made two free throws for his 20th point and then Grevey came back his 28th point on a jumper and it was 76-75 Bruins.

On the next possession, Meyers went up for a jumper and leaned into his defender. Meyers got called for an offensive foul and in frustration slapped the floor with both hands.  Billy Packer, calling his first of 34 Championship Games along with Curt Gowdy, thought Meyers was frustrated with himself.  But either way he got a technical and Kentucky had a chance for their first lead of the 2nd half with 6:23 left.  However, Grevey missed both free throws.  Those misses seemed to kill Kentucky’s momentum and re-awaken UCLA.  Washington finally got a basket on a tip-in to give them an 80-77 lead.  Then Robey fouled out when he fouled Trgovich.  Trgovich hit two free throws for his only 2nd half points.  After Guyette and Johnson got layups, Grevey hit a jumper and it was 84-81 UCLA.  UCLA was patient and Dave Meyers drove the lane for a layup.  After two Grevey free throws, Washington hit a bank shot after his defender almost got a steal on the post-entry pass.  Grevey then hit a turn-around jumper from the elbow for his 34th point.  But UCLA killed more clock and McCarter put the capper on the game with a driving layup.

UCLA had looked tired throughout the second half but had managed to pull it out.  In a postgame interview with Wooden, John mentioned that part of his job psychology was getting his players to believe that they were in better condition than the other team.  Whether they actually were or not didn’t matter as long as they believed that they were.  It was stuff like this that made Wooden get the best out of his players no matter how much talent they possessed.  It’s stuff like that that makes champions.

UCLA starters (points scored)

Marques Johnson (6) – Small Forward

Dave Meyers (24) – Power Forward

Richard Washington (28) – Center

Andre McCarter (8) – Point Guard

Pete Trgovich (16) – Shooting Guard

UCLA bench (points scored)

Ralph Drollinger (10)

UCLA Coach: John Wooden

Kentucky starters (points scored)

Kevin Grevey (34) – Small Forward

Bob Guyette (16) – Power Forward

Rick Robey (2) – Center

Jimmy Dan Connor (9) – Point Guard

Mike Flynn (10) – Shooting Guard

Kentucky bench (points scored)

Jack Givens (8)

Larry Johnson (0)

Mike Phillips (4)

James Lee (0)

Dan Hall (2)

Kentucky Coach: Joe B. Hall


John Wooden went out on top with his 10th championship in 12 years in 1975 *photo courtesy of Bruins Nation

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  1. 1984 College Basketball Season | The NBA History

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