The Cardinals' Rodney McCray had said Houston was probably the best team "but now they have to go out and prove it." Brother Scooter McCray had labeled the Cougars "a mirror image of us. We have exciting practices, so the game should be fun. The difference is we never lose in practice."
Louisville didn't lose the first half either, emerging from 10 ties to take a 41-36 lead. In those first 20 minutes there were many plays of athletic majesty: Olajuwon blocked a Charles Jones power jumper, and Jones blocked an Olajuwon hook dunk. Drexler windmill-jammed once over Rodney McCray and once over Scooter, and Scooter threw one down so fiercely the ball squirted out the side of the net. Oh, it was astonishing stuff all right, even when Lewis whipped his trademark red-and-white towel into Scooter's back after McCray intercepted along the sideline in front of the Houston bench. Lewis said the towel "slipped." But Guy V. got a quick T anyway.
The second half, though, belonged to Houston, which switched to a frenetic man-to-man defense. In exactly 3:30 of truly the most breathtaking basketball ever witnessed in these championships, or on any other college court, this bomb of a Houston team detonated. From 49-57 to 66-58, eight points behind to eight points ahead, a 17-1 run if you're scoring. The Cougars' deep bench simply wore down Louisville in the thin Albuquerque (altitude: 5,200 feet) air. "They overpowered us physically," said Cardinal Coach Denny Crum. "At sea level maybe we get beat by 30."
Houston's Young, a quiet killer, began the plunder with a jam off a pass from Drexler. Then Drexler slammed after a pass by Franklin. Houston got to 55 when Anders went stride for stride on a breakaway against Louisville's Jones, lifted off, took the ball to the rack and stuck it on him. When Anders surfaced, he punched the air and pointed his finger at the enraptured Houston stands. Several Cougars jumped from the bench to watch the replay on a nearby TV monitor.
Then it was time for Drexler, who had 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists on the day, to work his singular legerdemain. After bounding downcourt to within one hop of the rim, Drexler encountered Jones. Drexler: "It's something I work on in practice. I held the ball high to make him think I was going to dunk it. Then I brought it down low so he thought pass. Then I went high to dunk it again. By that time we were both confused."
By that time Drexler had triple-pumped, shifted the ball from right hand to left to right again in midair and then viciously flung it down with a two-handed hatchet job. It was your basic play of the century, but only one of the several miraculous moments on this magical afternoon.
In the final 12:37 Houston made a remarkable 10 dunks, including six in a row, and had 14 slams altogether. "I've never seen anything like it in a real game," said Scooter.
"On behalf of Phi Slamma Jamma, I'd like to say we save our best dunks for the games," said Anders, who also said of Olajuwon, "The big Swahili shocked the entire nation."
But on Monday night it was the Swahili who was shocked. In two games at Albuquerque, Olajuwon had gotten 41 points and 40 rebounds, but at the end he was one carom short. His Most Outstanding Player award was little consolation as he walked, still wearing his uniform, to the Houston bus, his Phi Slamma Jamma warmup left behind along with the NCAA championship trophy.
Valvano, who had slain the dragon, was still salivating, of course. "How did I like Albuquerque?" he replied to a question. "Albuquerque is the greatest city the Lord ever made. My wife is going to be pregnant—she doesn't know this yet—and I'm going to name the kid Al B. Querque."