With less than a minute left, Mount was fouled. UCLA's Lacey made a vehement gesture to the referee and got slapped with a technical. Rick was to take the regular foul shot first. If he made the first he would have a try for a second. He missed, which folk heroes are not supposed to do. Zero points instead of a possible two. But he made the free throw for the technical to tie the game, and it was still Purdue's ball with 29 seconds left. Who should take the last shot? The Rocket, naturally. He dribbled to the right corner, with Bill Sweek guarding him closely, and took a jump shot with 14 seconds left. It missed, and just before the buzzer Sweek, who had been the ball-stealing hero of UCLA's overtime win against USC last season, sank a long shot to win the game 73-71.
At Niagara, Coach Jim Maloney had drilled his players just as carefully, though somewhat differently. For a good part of every practice day they would stand around the key like toy soldiers on parade. They lined up two by two on either side of the lane, and then, click-click, they would crisscross or come together or spread out or set the pick and go to the board. Like wind-up men they would practice the one-four offense in preparation for Murphy's debut, first lining up to wait for Calvin's move, then marking time and, in cadence, moving with him. It was a beautiful idea—sharp, precise drill-team basketball. Calvin was going to lead the country in scoring with drill-team basketball.
Of course, Calvin Murphy will never be a drill-team man. His game is run and run and bombs away, and last Saturday he burst upon college basketball running, bombing, dribbling and jumping all over the Niagara student center. There was just one hitch. Niagara lost 84-79.
The outcome was not that much of a surprise. LIU had won 20 games last season before turning down an NIT bid for a trip to the NCAA College Division Tournament instead. The Blackbirds are a poised, extremely well-coached team, with two outstanding players in Guard Larry Newbold and Center Luther Green, and they may very well be the best team in the New York metropolitan area this season. For his game with Niagara, Coach Roy Rubin figured on Murphy getting his points. He wanted to stop the rest of the Purple Eagles. Unfortunately, except for Murphy, the Eagles played like Purple Dodos.
Though weak on the boards and never really getting its fast break to move, Niagara took a 39-38 lead at the half, with Murphy hitting for 17, mostly from outside. Now, outside for Calvin is not your everyday outside. It is more like outdoors. Most of his baskets were from 25 feet or more, and he had LIU frantically switching defenders and defensive alignments.
But in the second half Rubin settled on a combination two-three matchup zone defense with all the front men helping out on Calvin. It didn't do much good, for Murphy went into his human gyroscope act, spinning and whirling over every foot of the court. He scored from all distances and angles, once firing off balance from the hip to give Niagara a 10 point lead at 59-49. LIU, however, had Newbold slow everything down and, with Green destroying Niagara's 6'8" Manny Leaks underneath, came back to tie. Murphy hit his 36th point with eight minutes left to give Niagara its last lead of the game. But he was able to shoot only five times after that, a curious circumstance that was hardly his own fault and one that may have determined the final result. In the Niagara locker room, after shooting 18 for 35 with six rebounds and seven assists, Calvin Murphy sat down and cried for 10 solid minutes. The emotional vent was undoubtedly opened by a lot more than the score. Circumstances over the past few months had combined to exert pressures on Murphy far beyond those normally associated with superstar beginnings.
Last summer Murphy's freshman coach, Ed Donohue, who had grown closer to him than anyone in the community, was fired for reasons not satisfactory to Calvin or his teammates. The incident caused talk that the university, a Roman Catholic institution founded by the Vincentian Fathers, would now tend toward discriminatory recruiting practices. Student activists began calling for the end of suspected race quotas, to alter an enrollment that now shows six Negroes out of 2,500, and last week a professor's article in the school paper chastised both the students for desiring Negroes only because they wanted a winning team of "black Eagles" and the administration for "evasive responses."
Calvin Murphy does not like to show it, but all of this was beginning to bother him. Added pressure and perhaps fatigue were provided by reporters and photographers, who followed him everywhere for two weeks. Friday night Calvin passed up a campus concert by the Lovin' Spoonful for a steak dinner downtown. His natural effervescence was being curbed by oncoming tension. He was asked, seriously, how many points he would be satisfied with. "I'd like for us to win and for me to get 40," he said. "I just don't think I'd like anything under uuhhh, say, 25. Yes, 25. I don't think I want to be under 25." Forty-three the school paper had said; 45 another diner said. "Sounds decent," Calvin Murphy said.
The next evening, with 4� minutes remaining in his first varsity game, Murphy scored from deep in the right corner to tie the game at 74. He had his 40 points, but with time running out and Niagara in trouble, his teammates mysteriously forgot about him. Murphy got to touch the ball three times from then on, and there is nothing decent about that.
So which sophomore, Murphy or Mount, is better? Murphy is no doubt quicker and probably is better all-round, but he does not have to share the shooting on his team all the time. Critics say that all Mount can do is shoot. Sure, and all Sonny Jurgensen can do is pass. If Rick keeps bombing the baskets despite his handicap, his metal plate might someday be engraved and enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, right next to Calvin's baton.