SI Vault
John Underwood
April 01, 1963
Conservative Cincinnati had its third straight national championship all but won. Then brash Loyola broke through the Bearcat stall for an almost unbelievable last-second victory
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April 01, 1963

The Ramblers Wreck Cincy

Conservative Cincinnati had its third straight national championship all but won. Then brash Loyola broke through the Bearcat stall for an almost unbelievable last-second victory

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Jucker makes it easy to plot his stratagems because he wrote a book on the subject, Cincinnati Power Basketball, and, being prim about it, is not wont to deviate from the text. He depends on execution, and no one will deny that Jucker's teams have been the best executioners in the business for three years. "He gives us three weeks of defense before we're allowed a shot in scrimmage," says Bonham. "Even a lousy defensive player like me learned something."

The sell-out-and-then-some crowd in Freedom Hall that night fretted as Duke squashed Oregon State in the consolation game 85-63, and then settled down to savor the sight of offense with a big "O" against defense with a big "D." The game had hardly begun, however, when it looked as if the fastest guns in basketball weren't going to maim anybody but themselves. They missed 13 of their first 14 shots, and Cincinnati, reacting beautifully in its custom, was refusing to let the Ramblers run. Steadfast in their own careful offense, with Tony Yates and Larry Shingleton and Tom Thacker watching coldly for the break or pick that would spring Bonham or Center George Wilson loose for an easy shot, the Bearcats moved out quickly to 19-9. By half time it was 29-21. The Loyola shooting had been dreadful, eight baskets in 34 attempts. All-America Harkness had been held to zero points by almost All-America Yates.

"I'm not going to bawl you out," Ireland told his team, father-to-son-like, at half time. "The ball's just not dropping for you. But it will. You're getting the shots and it will. You're a better team than they are."

Cincinnati came out to make it a rout in the second half. The Bearcats sank five out of six shots in one stretch. Then Bonham hit three in a row as Wilson screened out Rouse, and, with 12 minutes to play, Cincy led by a devastating 45-30. But, subtly, a change was taking place. Pressured perhaps more than they have ever been—though Jucker denied this later—the usually errorless Bearcats began turning over the ball on mistakes, and even worse, got into foul trouble.

Now the Loyola drivers were scoring instead of missing. At 10:21, with the score 45-33, Wilson acquired his fourth foul, and Jucker hurried in Dale Heidotting, his "bench." Heidotting was the only substitute of the game, and he was in for only four minutes. Cincy now stopped shooting. In fact, its top scorer, Bonham, went the last 17 minutes of the game, including the overtime, without getting off a shot. Supercautious because there were now four fouls each on Thacker, Wilson and Yates, the Bearcats stalled—which is their custom, too. They generally make the free throws they're afforded when the stall becomes so maddening that the opposition fouls trying to get the ball. But this time Cincy was missing one foul shot out of every two. The once huge lead dwindled unbelievably: 48-39, 48-43, 50-48.

Time was still in Cincinnati's favor when Harkness intentionally fouled Shingleton with 12 seconds to play and the Bearcats leading by 53-52. Shingleton made the first free throw and grinned back at Yates. One more would clinch it. But the shot dribbled off the rim to Hunter and, quicker than you can say it, the ball was down-court to Harkness, he had it in the basket, and the score was tied 54 all. There were five seconds left in regulation time, but Cincy didn't call time out to set up one last shot. Jucker said later he yelled but couldn't be heard above the crowd, which by this time was wild.

In the overtime, baskets were traded until it was 5858. Loyola was then in possession with 2:15 to play and, except for one brief moment when Shingleton tied up Egan and forced a jump, the Ramblers whiled away the seconds playing for one shot. By design it would be set up for Harkness, their best. Bonham was on Harkness now as he dribbled to the left corner, circled under and came up to shoot. Bonham was still there, slapping at the ball—and Harkness passed off to Hunter in the middle. Hunter shot and missed—right into the hands of Rouse on the right side. "I didn't tip it in," Rouse said later. "I grabbed it, tight, jumped up and laid it in. I'd missed a couple like that and I wanted to be so sure. Oh, my, it felt good."

Bedlam followed, as if on cue. A Cincinnati fan hit a Loyola fan with a chair, but the Loyola fan didn't seem to mind. Egan, the tough little fatty, screamed something about "winning this for Chicago" into a radio mike. There were huge clusters of fans and bands around the dressing rooms, and, indiscriminately, both sides were claiming "No. 1, No. 1, No. 1" with raised fists.

Jucker said he forced 93-points-a-game Loyola to play Cincy's game and considered 60 points and 61 Loyola misses out of 84 shots a job well done—"except for the fouls and the finish." He could have noted that his deliberate team would have won easily if it had not done what no deliberate team can afford to do: lose the ball 16 times on errors. (Loyola, playing at a pace where errors are expected, lost the ball only three times.)

Ireland, meanwhile, said it was his team that forced the action, forced the fouls, harassed the Bearcats into their mistakes and, ultimately, beat them with a stall right out of the Jucker book.

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