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THE AGONY OF LEFTY DRIESELL
Joe Jares
March 08, 1965
Unbeaten in its league, Lefty's Davidson team lost its chance at an NCAA basketball title, as Southern Conference officials continued to choose a tournament representative in their own peculiar fashion
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March 08, 1965

The Agony Of Lefty Driesell

Unbeaten in its league, Lefty's Davidson team lost its chance at an NCAA basketball title, as Southern Conference officials continued to choose a tournament representative in their own peculiar fashion

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At the start West Virginia threw up a zone defense that the CIA might have had trouble penetrating, and Don Davidson got into foul trouble, forcing Driesell to take him out. The backcourt was unable to get the ball in to Hetzel and Snyder often enough to take advantage of numerous Mountaineer ball-handling errors, and the Wildcats left at half time trailing by four points, 32-36. But Davidson rooters passed the word to remember the comeback in Madison Square Garden against NYU. The pessimists had other arguments, one of them being John Lesher, a junior guard from Delaware who does not take a shot unless his West Virginia teammates put the long rifle to his head. After shooting only five times in the first game and making three he was under orders to be less timid. He had scored 14 in the first half.

Davidson kept its poise, as it has all year, even though West Virginia came out firing in the second half and quickly increased its margin to 13 points. Led by Teague, the Wildcats went to a pressing defense and slowly, as the scoreboard clock blinked the seconds away, sliced small pieces off West Virginia's lead until they made it 68 all. With eight seconds remaining Davidson won a tip-off at midcourt, but Teague missed a desperation jump shot at the buzzer. A team that Davidson had beaten twice during the regular season was in overtime against the conference leader.

In the five-minute extra period West Virginia worked its way to a 74-70 lead. Hetzel scored on a jump shot with seven seconds to go, but it was the last basket of his college career. When Davidson got a time-out, only two seconds were left and West Virginia used them up. The next night, for the ninth time since 1954, West Virginia won the tournament, beating William and Mary 70-67 in two more overtimes.

Mountaineer Coach King could sympathize with Lefty Driesell. The same thing had happened to him in his first year as head coach in 1961. "They're a fine ball club," he said of Davidson, "but anything can happen in a three-day tournament. They tell us the tournament is necessary, but I'd like to see some changes. I think it's a shame that you have to play all season just for a first seeding."

Staring at the pressroom floor after his defeat, Driesell insisted, "I still think we're the champions." The athletic directors of the Southern Conference, about $100,000 richer from their tournament, didn't shed a tear.

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