The defense, which Wooden had never used before, naturally left some loopholes, but Houston shot a miserable 28.2% from the floor. Theodis Lee, who was hampered by fouls early, made only two of 15 shots. UCLA, on the other hand, hit better than 50%. Alcindor, Lynn and Allen each had 19 points and Lucius, especially, was dazzling. He earned 12 assists, had nine rebounds and seemed to dribble in and out of Houston's one-three-one zone whenever he felt like it.
Alcindor was his old intimidating self on defense, and he made half his 14 shots from the floor, five of six free throws and took 18 rebounds. (Leaving the arena later, Lew made a large splash in the world of fashion as well by wearing a loose-fitting, multicolored African garment called a "dignity robe.")
In addition to clamping down on Hayes with the diamond, UCLA tinkered with its full-court zone press. In Houston the Cougars were beating it with quick downcourt passes. This time UCLA effectively cut off those downcourt passes and the Cougar guards often tried to dribble out of trouble, which was just what the Bruins wanted. Still, Houston had only one more turnover than UCLA. Vern Lewis, the coach's son, who wasn't supposed to be anywhere near as good as the ineligible George Reynolds, had no turnovers.
Probably it would not have made any difference if they had been stoked up on super pep pills, but all the Cougars seemed to be flat, uninspired and too loose. Perhaps they were just overconfident.
"In Houston we were worried about playing UCLA," said one player, "but this time it seemed just like another game."
"We just weren't up for it," said Theodis Lee. "I figured before the game that the best we could shoot would be 35%. Our mental attitude wasn't right."
The Bruins, on the other hand, were psyched up like the Spartans at Thermopylae.
"We haven't really said anything publicly, but we're a vindictive team," said Mike Warren afterward. "We've been looking forward to this game a long time. And we're not looking past North Carolina. We'll run them back down South, too."
Which they did in the finals the next night.
North Carolina, champion of the tough East Regional, was in the final four for the second straight year. Last time the Tar Heels lost to unheralded Dayton in the semifinals and they were determined not to get caught looking ahead to the finals again. Conscientiously paying attention to the game at hand, they beat a surprisingly good Ohio State team 80-66 as All-America Larry Miller scored 20 points.