Generally speaking, the strategy worked. Only twice did Walton score after getting a lob pass, though he did hit 12 of 14 shots from the floor. Big Bill hurt the Irish, but he did not cripple them. Wilkes made but two of nine shots in the second half, and no field goals in the last eight minutes.
Shumate is the spice of the Notre Dame team. He outscored Walton in their two meetings last year, though Walton did not play the whole way in those easy UCLA wins. On Saturday they both had 24 points. Shumate was palpably ready. At one stage Clay had complained that his phone was ringing incessantly with calls from well-wishers. "Eat it up," the ebullient Shumate told him. "This comes only once in a lifetime."
In two early confrontations against Walton Saturday, Shumate was forced into traveling calls. But he tempered his anxiety thereafter and acquitted himself well, especially in the final minutes, and it was he who grabbed the rebound of UCLA's last miss. "This is the greatest feeling I have ever had," he said.
If Notre Dame is good, it seems likely to get better. There are six freshmen on the team, including Dantley, another of the fine line of players Notre Dame has plucked out of the Washington, D.C. area, a list that includes Carr, Bob Whitmore, Collis Jones and Sid Catlett. Indeed, Carr and Jones drove all night from the East Coast to South Bend last spring to meet Dantley and persuade him to attend their alma mater.
The most noticeable thing about Dantley is his strength. In his first game with the Irish, he bent the rim during warm-ups. Phelps talks with awe when describing how he was called for dunking in the Ohio State game. At the time there were Buckeye players hanging on each of his arms.
Early in the season, Dantley grew homesick. He fell behind in his studies, so much so that Phelps excused him from practice several times so he could catch up. With the aid of tutors he did. "All I've been thinking about is UCLA," he said at one point last week. "I don't believe I've ever been more mentally ready for a team. When I was a little boy, that's all I ever thought about, UCLA."
The specter of UCLA dominates Notre Dame as much as it does the rest of college basketball. The pregame frenzy reached heights of silliness when it was rumored that Notre Dame students, aware that Walton is allergic to bee stings, were going to make buzzing sounds at him Saturday. (They didn't.)
The UCLA players, meanwhile, were reacting like airplane pilots riding a Ferris wheel. On Friday Andre McCarter, a reserve guard, was sitting on the steps outside his motel room playing a flute. "There's no rah-rah stuff about the game," he said. "We look at it like a business, like a job. That's how it is at UCLA. It's like the pros, except you don't have any income."
"We don't talk about the streak," said Wilkes. "We want to win, but we don't sit around talking about it."
In the end, Notre Dame won it the way it should not have won it, with a move born of desperation. The Bruins looked invincible in the first 14 minutes, raging to a 17-point lead and evoking fantasies of the future when two large golden arches would be constructed outside Pauley Pavilion. Between them would hang a sign: 11 BILLION WON.