Before the Feb. 7 rematch at Purdue, Malaska visited Boudreau, his favorite opponent, in the locker room. Boudreau was in tears. Having learned of his oral agreement to play for the Cleveland Indians, the Big Ten had revoked his eligibility. That night, without their captain, the Illini were severely handicapped.
Purdue held a 20-11 lead early in the second half. Reasoning that his team could not match the Boilermakers' speed without Boudreau, Illinois coach Doug Mills signaled his defense to plug the lane, daring Malaska and Young to shoot from long range. Satisfied with a nine-point lead, Lambert told his players to hold the ball.
Center Gene Anderson did just that for a minute or so before passing to Malaska, who cradled the ball under his arm for another minute. Two minutes passed. Five minutes. Some fans started throwing coins at the Illini, but most of them, realizing that they were witnessing history, applauded. It was "something like [watching] Bob Feller pitch lefthanded or Jack Dempsey play badminton," said the Lafayette Journal and Courier the next day.
"Malaska put the ball on the floor and sat on it," recalls Young. "Oh, you should have heard the people laugh."
From his special seat, Malaska, who ran the ice-cream concession in his spare time, spotted a young employee on the sideline. He recalls telling the boy to run to the stand and get him an ice cream. Moments later, Malaska was licking his lips as the crowd roared.
With less than three minutes left on the clock, and after finishing the ice cream, he passed the ball to a teammate, who passed it to another, who then fumbled it. Illinois finally gained possession. Purdue had held the ball for 14:30, with Malaska in possession for 12 minutes. Boudreau says the Illini never moved in on Malaska because they were happy just to keep the score close. The Boilermakers won 23-13 and eventually took the Big Ten title.
Malaska and Young went on to play pro ball together in the old National Basketball League. Young made $75 per game, Malaska $50, "which was fine with me," says Malaska. "Fifty dollars was good money in those days."
After 4� years in the NBL, Malaska coached high school hoops for 12 years. He then worked as a public relations man for a baking company and a beverage distributor before going into semiretirement in 1981. He lives in Peru, Ind., with Willie, his wife of 49 years. Their apartment features plaques commemorating the 25th and 50th anniversaries of the Boilermakers' Big Ten championship and a music box that plays Hail, Hail to Old Purdue. Malaska plays pinochle at the local Elks Club, watches college basketball on the tube—"Not the NBA so much; that's just a shoving match," he says—and rehashes the old days with Young on the phone.
A few years ago Malaska ran into another old friend, Decker, the man who saved him from the fire of '36, at a restaurant in West Lafayette. "Many a time I had thanked Lowell for saving my life, and that night I thanked him again," says Malaska. " Lowell's gone now. I'm the only one living, of all the boys in that fire. And here I am planning to celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary next year—knock on wood."
Malaska was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame this past year, the golden anniversary of his Eskimo Freeze.