Both coaches were subdued about their feelings, but under the surface there was tension. Their players knew. "The feeling is there in practice," said Chones. "We know how much this means to them. I think all of us are out to get this one for a McGuire. But which one?"
Neither McGuire has ever lost any sleep over the X's and O's of the coaching business, so it was no surprise that Frank, for instance, was less concerned about the inside power and finesse of Marquette's Chones and Lackey than he was with his own team's attitude and their reaction to a long layoff.
The Gamecocks had suffered their only defeat of the season in what they called a "sizzler," 77-76 to Villanova in the Quaker City tournament finals. It was their best game so far and they seemed to be rounding into form when a layoff of 10 days set in.
"The vacation and the mental thing are the hard parts," said Frank. "Nobody ever plays an easy game against Al McGuire. What an unpredictable fellow. He might run out there and start dribbling it himself."
As it happened, Al did not know what to expect either. "I'm not just blowing smoke rings at Frank," he said, "but he's got too much class to be a coach. Look at the clothes, those handmade shirts. I prefer not to get surly with him on Sunday, but I'm obnoxious and rotten on the road. I do it to get the crowd off my players and on me. But this man—I have to show respect. I don't know if I can wash out what this man means to me for the time it takes to win a game."
Strategically, the Warriors wanted to out-quick South Carolina underneath and press the Gamecocks into errors. "I think it will be sloppy in the beginning," said Al, "but I hope the refs let us play. McGuires like physical stuff.
"The baseline looks like a push," he went on. "We've got to get on Joyce. He's their head; you cut the head off, and the body dies."
In a phrase, that is what happened. South Carolina's massive Traylor played a wonderful first half, scoring 14 points to offset the Warriors underneath. But the Gamecocks were burned by Marquette's neat sophomore, Marcus Washington. He finished with 16 points and, with Sugar Frazier, hounded Joyce right down to the final shot.
Then Al McGuire walked to the center circle and raised his hands in victory. Frank met him in an embrace. "No hard feelings," said Frank. "It's like losing to a brother."
And again all was quiet in the emerald corner.