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Curry Kirkpatrick
December 24, 1973
Bill Walton sat out 21 minutes of last week's game of the year, then returned to skin the Wolfpack alive
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December 24, 1973

Half Of Big Red Is Too Much

Bill Walton sat out 21 minutes of last week's game of the year, then returned to skin the Wolfpack alive

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If college basketball's first Dynamite Bowl began at sundown and ended in letdown, it was only because for 4� minutes one team remembered who it was and the other completely forgot. It was not Big Bad Red versus Little David and the Four Wolves after all. It was instead a high-class playground contest that only turned when one side—yes, energy fans—just ran out of gas.

What UCLA's 84-66 destruction of North Carolina State turned out to be for more than 30 minutes was a vicious, classic struggle blessed by defense and picturesque jumping, plagued only by fouls and climaxed by a final quarter in which the Wolfpack suddenly revealed sheep's clothing and UCLA moved away with indomitable ease to its 79th straight victory.

"We wanted to play them straight up vanilla," said a disappointed State coach, Norm Sloan, "but they just did more things good."

What the Wolfpack did not do good Saturday in this long-awaited matchup at the St. Louis Arena was compressed into a tight interval that came shortly after UCLA's Bill Walton reentered the battle in the second half. With the score tied at 54 and 9� minutes remaining in the game, State lost all cohesion, missed passes, cast off weird shots, failed to get back on defense and seemed oblivious to whom they were in against. By the time the Bruins had scored nine straight points, and then 10 straight, the Wolfpack knew, all right, but the score was 73-56 and it was too late. Walton's presence alone was enough to account for the Wolfpack panic. He got two baskets as well as most of the rebounds in the splurge. Tommy Curtis hurt little Monte Towe with seven points during the stretch and Keith Wilkes scored eight.

It is a matter of record that the smooth 6'6" senior, Wilkes, is always overlooked until the big game. Then he shines. As a sophomore he destroyed Florida State in the NCAA finals and last week he shadowed the fabulous State leaper, David Thompson, into missing 13 of 20 shots and held him to 17 points.

Wilkes also was responsible—along with substitute Ralph Drollinger who picked up eight points—for holding the Pack at bay while Walton was sojourning on the bench for 21 minutes in the middle of the game with four fouls. The Bruins lost only two points to N.C. State during the hiatus. "Coach said keep it close until Bill got back in," Wilkes said. Scoring 15 of his points during that time, Wilkes kept it close.

Probably State lost the game right then, failing to take advantage after its own tall pivot, Tom Burleson, had courageously fought Walton to a standstill and, aided by Thompson, drove him to the bench in foul trouble at 11:00 of the first half. Early on, the board play was ferocious and Walton opened up a nice cut on Burleson's nose before he exited. But Burleson picked up a third foul a few minutes later and had to sit down himself. Which left it up to Thompson.

One thing the 6'4" Thompson did in the first half was miss 10 of 13 shots, but everything else he did was memorable. Thompson plays the game somewhere high up in a place that exists only in the minds of other men. On two defensive plays under the basket he was beaten by, first, the 6'11" Walton, then Wilkes—only to come from behind them and, remarkably, to stuff the ball back on both.

On offense the Pack had the audacity to challenge Walton's authority by lobbing passes that Thompson would cradle in the rafters and attempt to finesse into the basket. The sad fact was that nothing would drop for him consistently: not when State came from six points behind in the first half to lead 33-32 at intermission; not when the Pack rallied from eight down in the second half to reach the tie at 54; and not at all when UCLA pulled away and his teammates ignored Thompson down the stretch.

"They stayed close for so long we expected them to keep coming at us," said UCLA's Dave Meyers, who played splendidly with 15 points and 11 rebounds, "but they never did come on."

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