(The irony of their meeting was that the school on probation in the finals was not Florida State but UCLA, whose punishment—because of football hanky-panky—carries a "without restrictions" clause that is a joke to independent schools everywhere.)
Down the court Walton, in blue jeans and button-down shirt, watched the Seminoles warm up. Lawrence McCray, FSU's 6'11" center, spotted him and nervously missed his next six layups. Almost imperceptibly, Walton lifted his fist in a wave. McCray smiled and fist-saluted back, but then he walked away from the basket and did not shoot inside again until Walton had left.
Saturday afternoon, with unproved allegations and the Walls of the world crashing down on them, the Seminoles made a gallant and thrilling stand against UCLA. They made two runs at the Bruins, early and late, but first Walton and then Keith (Silk) Wilkes spoiled the Seminoles' dreams.
After missing twice to open the game, Florida State hit its next seven shots and took a 21-14 lead. It was the only time this season UCLA had trailed by more than four points. And it was a shock. But the Seminoles—and especially McCray—were getting in foul trouble. Quickly, Bibby and Walton brought the Bruins back to a tie. Then—wouldn't you know it?—the Tallahassee Sassy, Curtis, ignited UCLA to a 50-39 halftime lead.
Florida State was so busy swarming around Walton that Wilkes went roaming, and he got free enough to wind up with 23 points and make the plays that stopped the Seminoles' final surge.
With Walton on the bench for a while—he had four fouls, meaning there must have been some holes in that cage—and with King hitting for the challengers, FSU cut a 16-point deficit to 79-72 toward the end. But the Seminoles then turned the ball over three times, once when Wilkes knocked a pass away. Wilkes also controlled a crucial jump ball with 1:05 left and scored UCLA's final layup that clinched the championship—quite a day's work for an 18-year-old.
Walton's reaction to the victory was puzzling. With a disturbing, almost disdainful attitude, he told the press he was "not elated." He felt as though he had lost the game. He gave a few "no comments." He snapped off tart replies. He was sarcastic, defensive, and he stormed off muttering, "I've answered enough questions." Later a woman, bedecked with a UCLA badge and ribbons, took his picture, and the center stunned her with, "I thought they told you in Provo not to do that." Bill Walton was honest in Los Angeles, but it was a childish show off the court.
"We don't like to back into things," he said. "We didn't dominate the way I know we can." But a perfect 30-0 season and 45 victories in a row were enough for Wooden, who was more gracious to his opponents.
Next season UCLA will find various new motivations. Early, the Bruins need three consecutive victories for a school record. Midway, they need 16 wins to break the alltime mark of 60 straight set by Bill Russell's teams from San Francisco. And later there will be another NCAA tournament.
"I hope I never get to the position of thinking just in terms of records," Wooden said. "I don't want to think about 60. I want to win the next one—what is it? No. 46. I want to win 46 in a row."