"I like to play friends for fun, not for real," said Crum.
In the runway before the game, as the UCLA and Louisville players lined up waiting to go on, Walton playfully grabbed Crum and said, "Coach, where's the money you promised me last year under the table?" UCLA's Greg Lee kidded Crum about his "pitiful" sideburns. Then everybody started moving.
If Denny Crum had been told right then that his team would hold Bill Walton to 13 shots, that Louisville's marvelous Jim Price would embarrass Henry Bibby 30 points to two, that the Cards would beat the UCLA zone press, play tough defense themselves and commit only 11 errors to the Bruins' 21, he would have figured—as would anybody—that the game would be close. It wasn't.
Walton dominated everything right away. On defense he harassed Price the first time the Louisville guard drove the lane. Price stayed away thereafter. Walton intercepted Al Vilcheck's first pass and blocked his first shot. He took away Ron (The Horse) Thomas' inside moves to such an extent that Thomas had to go outside where, sorrowfully, he was a horse with no game.
By the time Walton called time out at 9:40 of the first half, he had outscored Louisville 16-14 by himself and UCLA led 20-14. Though the Cards were behind by only eight at the half, the closest any team had come to the Bruins in the first 20 minutes all season, they had to know it was hopeless. Nine times they had beaten the press to earn a two-on-one situation against Walton and an open shot from the corner; nine times they had missed. So it goes.
Louisville, in frustration, became quite physical with Walton and several heated exchanges took place. At one point Mike Lawhon, who was to miss all seven of his floor shots but sneak in some nice fist shots on Walton's body, yelled at the redhead, "You big crybaby. What a candy you are."
Walton rocked and fumed on the free-throw line. "These two are for you," he snarled at Lawhon as he rammed in the free throws. "And I'll see you after the game."
With the aid of Larry Farmer's 15 second-half points, UCLA ran out the string as Walton finished with 33 points and 21 rebounds. Vilcheck and Thomas, both of whom fouled out, were beaten but not cordial. " Walton is strong, but you can't touch him," said Vilcheck. "The officials put him in a cage. He cries a lot, constantly, and he's too good a man to do that."
Both at Los Angeles last week and at Provo, Utah in the regional championships the week before there were accusations by many objective authorities that Walton did protest overmuch and that he was "protected" by the referees. Long Beach ranted against him in the West Regional. So did Louisville in the semifinals. And in the final against Florida State there was evidence that the 6'11" sophomore got the better of the officiating early in the game.
Walton is too domineering a player to complain about rough play as much as he does, but this, hopefully, is a trait of youth and easily corrected. The only cage around him is the one set up by UCLA officials, who have been accused before of creating a paranoiac feeling among the Bruins toward the outside world. Walton would not respond to the "crybaby" charges.