With Oregon State's tradition of dealing nasty surprises to visiting big shots, it was only right that the Beavers made the finals against Carolina. Paul Valenti's deliberate style, learned at Slats Gill's knee, drew some boos from the crowd Wednesday night at the start of the first round, but Oregon State stuck to its game and beat a poor Texas team by 12 points. OSU did not look good but as the Texas coach said, the Longhorns could make the Boston Celtics look bad. The second hurdle was Washington State, which had beaten Princeton. Several members of the championship UCLA team last season said Washington State was the best team they played—and most of those WSC players are back. But OSU has had a hex on its northern neighbor for years. It worked again this night. In a game that was close all the way, OSU won 62-61.
"We've never found we could get an easy basket on Oregon State," Washington State Coach Marv Harshman had said before the game.
The Beavers had some scoring punch, too. In fact, people in Portland, used to OSU's habit of winning the Classic, fully expected Junior Vince Fritz—who had made 26 points against Washington State—to score well enough and the defense to be stubborn enough for the Beavers to beat North Carolina Saturday night, and almost 13,000 optimists showed up so they could tell their grandchildren. Fritz did not disappoint them. He scored 23 points (10 for 13 from the floor, usually way, way out on the floor) and Senior Loy Petersen did a good job on All-America Miller in the first half. But North Carolina, with far superior personnel, won 68-61. It was close, even after Fritz fouled out with six minutes left, until Miller, who was magnificent in the second half, stole a pass, made two free throws and stole the ball again from an OSU sub right under the OSU basket. By then, four Beavers had fouled out.
The coaches had already elected Charlie Scott as the Far West Classic's most valuable player, but Miller's 27 points in the second half forced a hurried re-balloting. Miller got the MVP trophy and another for being on the All-Tournament Team with Scott and Fritz. As captain of the Tar Heels, he also had the honor of accepting the trophy for winning the Classic.
While the handsome, husky All-America from the beautiful school in Chapel Hill, N.C; was being loaded down with all that loot, Coach Valenti kept his head up. "You gotta be tough," he had told his players, and now he was taking his own advice.