SI Vault
Joe Jares
March 24, 1969
North Carolina, Purdue and Drake survived stirring quarterfinal rounds for the dubious privilege of trying to prevent an aroused Lew Alcindor and UCLA from winning their third straight NCAA title
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
March 24, 1969

Voodoo Might Help

North Carolina, Purdue and Drake survived stirring quarterfinal rounds for the dubious privilege of trying to prevent an aroused Lew Alcindor and UCLA from winning their third straight NCAA title

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

There were almost eight minutes left in the game last Saturday when Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, having just made his final basket in UCLA's Pauley Pavilion, saw he was being replaced and ambled off the court. Fellow seniors Lynn Shackelford and Ken Heitz had preceded him to the bench amid so much admiring noise that each had to stand and wave before the crowd would quiet down. Now Alcindor's turn came, and the roar sounded as if the Indianapolis 500 race had moved indoors. It got louder still when he sat down and stuffed his long arms into his warmup jacket. Perhaps fearing the building would cave in, Coach John Wooden finally motioned to Alcindor to stand. UCLA's greatest player ever stood and pulled Heitz up with him. The two waved their index fingers at the delirious people, but the gesture was not so much a brag as a stated fact. UCLA was the No. 1 college basketball team. Then everybody relaxed as the subs finished up the job of demoralizing and demolishing Santa Clara by 38 points, 90-52.

So it is on to Louisville this week for the final rounds of the NCAA tournament in the distinguished company of Drake, Purdue and North Carolina, the first team ever to win three straight East Regionals. No matter what is tried—stalling, triple-teaming Alcindor, voodoo curses—none of the other three schools in this showdown has a chance if UCLA plays as it did against Santa Clara.

Two weeks ago, after mediocre USC had upset the Bruins with a well-run delay game, there was a strong feeling of hope among other teams. But that defeat, rather than revealing serious weaknesses, seems only to have aroused a very crotchety bear. Santa Clara, a good team that had lost only once all season and had beaten tough Weber State in overtime Thursday, was so quickly overwhelmed that it was behind 7-0 before anybody even got the ball across the midcourt line. In no time it was 11-2 and then 18-2, and any Santa Clara notions of trying to imitate USC's stall were ludicrously out of the question. The Broncos did not get one shot for the first 3� minutes and continually lost the ball in the sticky web of the Bruins' zone press. The usually taciturn Alcindor was so loose he even smiled.

It was UCLA's most impressive victory since the massacre of Houston in the tourney last season, and it gave the Bruins' Louisville opponents, Drake on Thursday night and probably North Carolina in the finals Saturday afternoon, good reason to get their white flags ready.

"We finally played our game," said Wooden. "It was the first time we have since we clinched the tie for the conference title at Stanford [Feb. 28]. The press did it. We worked extensively on it all year—the 2-2-1 zone—but we hadn't used it in a game."

"The press tore us apart," agreed Santa Clara Coach Dick Garibaldi. "And then their shooting blasted us completely out. We never got to play the game we prepared for. They took us out, hung us on a line. We had to play UCLA's game and, men, that's murder."

There was nothing as one-sided in the East and Mideast Regionals, where North Carolina and Purdue won on last-second jump shots by juniors Charlie Scott and Rick Mount, respectively.

The East final, in College Park, Md. between Carolina and intrastate rival Davidson, was particularly heated, not only because of the proximity of the two schools but because a) Scott once signed a letter of intent with Davidson and then reneged, b) the Tar Heels edged the Wildcats in the regional last year and c) the two coaches, Dean Smith of Carolina and Lefty Driesell of Davidson, like each other about as well as two fighting cocks.

Davidson is the little school struggling against the big state power, and even before its semifinal victory over dangerous St. John's, Davidson had "Beat Carolina" scrawled on its locker-room blackboard. Each team has a black star among all the white faces, Scott for the Tar Heels and Mike Maloy for the Wildcats, and many thought it would boil down to a contest between the two. The Tar Heels also were missing their best guard, Dick Grubar, whose senior year was ended prematurely by torn cartilage in his left knee. He was in College Park on crutches. Last year it was Davidson that had to play in the regionals without one of its best players, Doug Cook.

In a classic, close game that was only slightly marred by some strange official calls, Scott outplayed Maloy and everybody else, totaling 14 of 21 shots from the floor, four of five free throws, six rebounds, four assists and 32 points. He scored 12 of North Carolina's last 17 points and flipped in the game-winning shot on a jumper with two seconds left. The final score was 87-85.

Continue Story
1 2 3