The sad invasion
When Oregon's Steve Belko came into Moscow for the two games against Johnson and Idaho last weekend he looked much like a marine who has been told he is to land with the first wave. "We've played them twice now," he said, sadly shaking his head, "and now we play them twice more. That Johnson jumps like he's sold his soul to the devil." "I go up with him," an Oregon player protested. "But when I come down he just stays up."
When asked if there wasn't something freakish about the way he gets off the ground, Johnson abandoned his usually articulate form of speech and said, "Hecks, no. I just say, 'Legs, jump,' and they says, 'How high, boss?' "
And so it went in the opening game Friday night. Oregon played sharply and intelligently, but with Johnson throwing the ball through the basket from several feet above the rim and Rich Porter and Chuck White shooting over the Oregon defense when it sagged on Johnson, it became quite clear that Oregon wasn't going to have a chance. Both backboards belonged to Johnson, who got 25 rebounds, and his passing was devilish, too, as Idaho won the opener 79-61.
On Saturday night Johnson jumped even better, setting a school record of 31 rebounds, and Idaho beat Oregon's Ducks again, 88-78. When the timer fired the final gun Coach Belko just shrugged and looked up at the ceiling, perhaps expecting another dead duck to fall. "They call this place the 'Safest Town in the West,' " he said, referring to a chamber of commerce pitch prompted by 15 years without a fatal automobile accident. "Ha!"