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William F. Reed
March 30, 1970
Showtime with Pete Maravich came to Madison Square Garden and New Yorkers loved it, but Marquette brought in a star performer of its own—a local boy at that—and easily won the NIT tournament
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March 30, 1970

The Upstaging Of Pistol Pete

Showtime with Pete Maravich came to Madison Square Garden and New Yorkers loved it, but Marquette brought in a star performer of its own—a local boy at that—and easily won the NIT tournament

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Had Maravich been well, LSU's game with Marquette might have been the best of the tournament. After working hard to get past Massachusetts 62-55 in the first round, the Warriors had put their game together and whipped a good Utah team 83-63 in the quarterfinals. In addition to Meminger, a smiling, gum-chewing guard who was to become the tournament's Most Valuable Player, they had three excellent rebounders in Cobb, Joe Thomas and Gary Brell. They made up in jumping ability and aggressiveness what they lacked in size. And, of course, they had McGuire, who kept his team sequestered in a small hotel while LSU was gadding about town.

Early on, the game was close. The Warriors came out pressing LSU all over, a revolving double-team concentration on the ball handler, but Maravich was able to dribble or pass his team up the floor for a while. Late in the first half, however, Thomas and Cobb established their rebounding superiority over LSU's Hester and Al Sanders, and the Tigers began to get into foul trouble. Normally, LSU would have started working exclusively to Maravich, but Pete was bottled up by the efficient trapping tactics of Meminger and Guard Jeff Sewell, and he was limping noticeably.

In the second half the game was no contest. Maravich struggled almost 19 minutes without a field goal, and when he finally hit a jumper with 1:12 remaining to make the score 96-73 the Marquette fans gave him a derisive cheer.

"I didn't want to beat Maravich and lose to LSU," said McGuire. "I think that in college ball today, any one man can be stopped. Put a triangle and two on him and where's he going to go?"

Said Maravich, "I know I'm going to have some bad games, and I'm not worried about it. You have to take the good with the bad, and right now I'm taking the bad. But there will be good—I guarantee you that." Later Maravich and Sanders went to look for some of the good at Bachelors III.

With Pete gone, the final game would have been an anticlimax to New Yorkers except for the presence of so many locals on both sides. His last St. John's team had been good to Carnesecca, winning close ones in their bracket against Georgia Tech (56-55) and Army (60-59), but Marquette was too quick and its press too upsetting. Double-teaming the ball and recovering quickly when St. John's found the open man, the Warriors forced errors and bad shots. Against a man-for-man defense in the first half Meminger drove almost at will, and Jeff Sewell was remarkably accurate from outside. As McGuire put it later, "Dean puts the other team into a zone, and Jeff pulls them out of it." The margin of superiority remained at a level throughout: Marquette led by 10 at the half and by 12 at the finish.

Naturally, McGuire was asked how he thought his team would have done in the NCAA. "I haven't seen UCLA, but we're quicker than Jacksonville," he said. "Aw, let's drop it. I'm not looking for comparisons. I have enough trouble without taking on the world."

As for Pete Maravich, he also took time for some reflection before saying goodby to New York. Before he drove a hansom cab around Central Park he sat in the dark, quiet bar at the Plaza Hotel, sipping a bourbon and Coke. Now that his college career is over, Pete is fair game for the warring pro leagues. Would he sign with the Carolina Cougars of the ABA? Or, unlike some of his All-America contemporaries, would he wait for the NBA draft?

"Aw, man, the pressure is just beginning," he said. "I tell you, everybody think's I've got it made but, you know, it's not worth it. There is so much pressure, and people—every day, every day. You know when I've had the most fun? When I went to Daytona all by myself last year and just took it easy. Nobody knew me. Sometimes I wish I could be an accountant or something, man, so I could live right for a change.

"I haven't even started thinking about the pros yet but I don't think what happened in the NIT makes any difference. I don't care if I only made one point or one assist. You don't base an entire lifetime of basketball on one game or tournament. Nothing has gone right for me here, but it's all over now."

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