"It was a shame to go all the way to the national finals and then shoot as bad as we did," said Stockton. Lindsey saw it a little differently. "Our aim is to defend well enough to hold our opponents' shooting to around 30%," he said, explaining that, while Grand Canyon's victory was divine, it was definitely by his design.
As soon as the NCAA Division II championship game was over, Old Dominion University students appeared with ladders to use in cutting down the nets at the University of Evansville (Ind.) gym. The fans from Norfolk, Va. had arrived last week so confident of winning the tournament that they not only had their ladders ready, but their victory beer party also was scheduled before the first ball was bounced.
By oozing self-assurance, the Old Dominion crowd left the other spectators wondering if this was a basketball tournament or a Broadway production to which Monarchs' fans had had a sneak preview. Before the final game, the Old Dominionites were saying they would whip the University of New Orleans by at least 20. How could the Privateers stop the fast break that had blitzed highly regarded North Dakota 78-62 and Tennessee State 77-60 in the first two rounds? And how could anybody this side of Superman keep wondrous Wilson Washington from leaping through the roof and one-handing the moon?
"Nothing's going to stop us now," said the 6'9" Washington after intimidating Tennessee State. "We're only 40 minutes away, babe, and we're gonna get it." The trouble was that none of this talk took into account the talents of New Orleans and Ron Greene, its rotund 35-year-old coach.
A notorious snacker, the 6'3" Greene says he cannot stay out of the refrigerator during the season, when nervous tension gets the best of his self-discipline. This year he ballooned to more than 240 pounds. Last week he went on a diet in a desperate attempt to get into tournament form. "Cookies and milk are my downfall," Greene said. "I eat so many Oreos that my wife wrote to Nabisco to see if I could do a commercial. I haven't heard anything yet. Maybe they'll call if we win the national championship."
Greene would have been back home with his cookies if the left-handed bombs of Guard Wilbur Holland, a strong bench and a lot of luck had not carried New Orleans through two one-point wins in the South-Central region. At Evansville, the Privateers scored an easy 73-59 win over California Riverside, but had to struggle from behind to defeat Assumption 84-73 in overtime in the semifinals. Holland scored 22 points in that game, but the players who saved New Orleans came off the bench. Six-foot-eleven Ardith Wearren, 5'6" Jordan Crump and Ernest Stackhouse contributed 34 points against Assumption.
But even Holland had not outshone Washington. In Old Dominion's wins in the first two rounds, the sophomore was omnipresent—reaching far above the rim to snatch rebounds, booming crisp outlet passes to start Dominion's break and dropping in feathery left-handed jumpers. When he wasn't busy with those chores, Washington was bouncing around on his toes, smiling at everyone in sight, clapping his hands and slapping the rears of his teammates, his opponents and even the referees.
The son of a Baptist minister in Norfolk, Washington at first snubbed Old Dominion and went to Maryland, mainly because his hero, Len Elmore, was there. Last season he scrimmaged against Elmore all fall and suited up for the Terps' first two games. Then he dropped out of Maryland and enrolled at Old Dominion. "I was just homesick," he says.
When Washington became eligible in midseason, he turned a good team into a championship one. In the regional at Norfolk, Washington even outperformed Morgan State's Marvin Webster, who is likely to be one of the first two players taken in next month's pro draft.
On championship night, Greene's game plan was to have Guards Holland and Nate Mills bomb at will over Dominion's 2-3 zone. Midway through the second half, the strategy was working beautifully. New Orleans had a 68-65 lead and the ball with 8:04 to go. Then as Wearren shot what appeared to be a sure layup, Washington blocked the ball. On the bench, Greene erupted and got a technical foul. For a few fatal moments, New Orleans lost its poise, and Old Dominion scored nine straight points.