In the Norman stormin' track 'N' Peel-Out Playground Classic Indoor Road Race on Saturday night, Oklahoma—on the principle that it's not how fast you run, it's how long you run fast—whipped Loyola Marymount by several laps and a rather mild 352-286 score.
Only kidding, folks; the final math was in fact a trifling 136-103. So much for Division I-A's first 300-pointer, the Game of the '90s and other anticipated milestones. Nobody set any records—unless you count Sooner Mookie Blaylock's tying his own NCAA mark of 13 steals. Nobody dunked the poor, exhausted ball until, with 2:29 left, Oklahoma's Mike (Helicopter) Bell finally whirlybirded one of those all-alone gimmes. And nothing even crashed and burned—unless it was Loyola's reputation for never getting fatigued.
Remember, this was the long-awaited matchup between a pair of teams that major in Aim-'n'-Fire, the only two outfits that averaged in triple figures last season and had already driven mathematicians to eat their slide rules this year. Oklahoma had pounded out a record 87 points in one half against Oral Roberts. Loyola had nicked Azusa Pacific for a record-tying 164 over a full game. "What's Azalea Pacific?" said Oklahoma coach Billy Tubbs last week.
Ay, and there was the rub. "When we go for 100, it's against good teams," said Oklahoma center Stacey King, who piled up 28 points and 23 rebounds Saturday night. "They came in here talking trash, that we couldn't push the ball and run with them. Then in the first half I thought, 'God, they're for real.' But it's like...they play without an offense."
Which made it all the more incomprehensibly fun when Loyola rallied from a nine-point deficit to go ahead 63-62 just before halftime. But Oklahoma's Tyrone Jones hit a basket before the buzzer, and the second half turned into, as Jones (33 points) said, "shooting practice" for the Sooners.
The pointathon proceeded apace, with Loyola's Jeff Fryer and Enoch Simmons (who scored 28 apiece) hurling bombs from outside and the Lions' splendid 6'7" center Hank Gathers (27 and 18 boards) burning the home team down low. But what infinitesimal strategy there was showed itself when the Sooners abandoned their helter-skelter press for a half-court man-to-man and a 6'6", shaved-head newcomer from Hutchinson ( Kans.) C.C. named William Davis helped King out defensively on Gathers. Because of his smile, Davis's teammates call him Cheese. And even Gathers grinned later when he said, " Davis moved more than Stacey. And he moved me more too."
Oklahoma led 80-70 with 15:49 to go when Blaylock (12 assists to go with 31 points—"a career for me," he said) multiplied his burglaries and Davis (who didn't start but scored 21 points anyway) began collecting every loose ball and rebound. The Sooners scored 21 of the next 27 points—in just five minutes, at a 168-point clip, by the way—and the weary visitors finally succumbed.
Each team hit 10 three-pointers, but by the time Loyola reached the promised land of 100 points, with 1:28 left, Oklahoma had already thrown up 100 shots, and the Lions' coach, Paul West-head, had long since surrendered. " Blaylock is tireless, courageous," he said, shaking his vintage 1950s waved pompadour. "If you live by the run and you tire, things fall apart very fast."
Given the stakes—"bragging rights to the scoring hall of fame," King had said—Norman was beset by a puzzling ennui before the game. "We're on page 5; I'm sick of reading about Barry Sanders's trophies," grumbled Tubbs. But this was a genuine brand-name happening because of the rarity of occasions on which Loyola Marymount emerges from its tiny grotto on the outskirts of Los Angeles International Airport, from its ho-hum West Coast Athletic Conference, or from its previously steady diet in past seasons of such Division Nowhere opponents as Bemidji State, Westmont and Southern California College, which even Westhead says, "sounds like USC but it's not."
Following last season, in which the Lions won a glorious 25 straight games and led the nation with a near-record 110.3-points-per-game average ( UNLV scored two tenths of a point higher in '76-77; Oklahoma averaged more than seven points lower last season), television came visiting, the schedule was beefed up, and Loyola Marymount gained a sense of self. Like: Call us by our right name, Jack, or don't call us.