At last! IU and UCLA collide

At last! IU and UCLA collide

by Bob Hammel, H-T Sports Editor

November 28, 1975

From the November 28, 1975 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

College basketball’s classic that was never played last year, Indiana vs. UCLA, turned out to be not a casualty of a wild winter’s vagaries but a dynamite attraction with a long, long fuse.

So, the teams – equally stocked with veterans from the nation’s two top teams of a winter ago – at last get together in St. Louis Saturday night in the greatest opening a college basketball season has ever had.

Game time is 11:40 p.m., Bloomington time, dictated by NBC-TV which will carry the game nationwide in its weeknight Johnny Carson slot (Ch. 2, 6).

It’s a weird time for basketball, but it’s not likely to cool any ardor for the long-awaited meeting, either among its participants or the curious who will pack the 19,000-seat St. Louis Arena or watch on television.

“It would be a hell of a basketball game if we played it at 2 o’clock in the morning,” IU coach Bob Knight said. “I’m happy to be a part of what promises to be a major college spectacular,” the new man in charge of the UCLA program, Gene Bartow, said.

Indiana retains four of its “starting six” from the 31-1 team that stormed through opposition with incredible ease until consensus all-America Scott May broke his arm in the season’s 27th game.

May is back, in top form, and so are starters Kent Benson, Bob Wilkerson and Quinn Buckner. Missing are starting forward Steve Green and “Super-Sub” John Laskowski, each now playing professional basketball.

From the November 28, 1975 Bloomington Daily Herald – Telephone

UCLA lost All-America forward Dave Meyers (now a Milwaukee Buck) and guard Pete Trgovich from its starting combination that won 28 and lost 3 – and the school’s 10th national championship in 12 years.

The Bruins kept starters Richard Washington, Marques Johnson and Andre McCarter and their first-line reserve – 7-2 Ralph Drollinger, the tallest Bruin in history and the man who came off the bench to lead UCLA with 13 rebounds and score 10 points as the Bruins won the championship game, 92-85, over the Kentucky team that dealt Indiana its only defeat two games earlier, 92-90.

If a Meyers could be spared, it is in the UCLA frontcourt, because the Bruins still have a combination they’re booming as the best combination of forwards in college basketball.

Johnson, who played on a limited basis the first 18 games last year because of a pre-season bout with hepatitis, scored 22 points in UCLA’s overtime victory over Michigan starting the Bruins’ NCAA title quest … then hit his season high of 35 to lead an 89-75 regional victory over strong Arizona State.

He was named the most valuable player in the regional, and Washington, whose last-second shot beat Louisville in the semifinals, was named the MVP of the Final Four round at San Diego. Washington led the Bruins with 28 points in the Kentucky game.

That crowds the under-basket area with talent, because Indiana’s May and Benson also are on pre-season all-America checklists.

“Our forward situation is pretty well set,” Bartow said with a laugh. The classic physical match-up could be May (6-7, 218) against Johnson (6-7, 215), all-America candidates with similar reputations and skills. Bartow ducks a comparison. “I haven’t seen Scott play that much,” he said. “I see Marques every day. They’re both super basketball players.

Thus, the spotlight seems likely to focus up front, where the new man is IU senior Tom Abernethy, a three-year letterman who has been valuable (and fully acquainted with big-game pressure) in use as the team’s No. 7 man those seasons.

If match-ups do send musclemen May and Johnson against each other, Abernethy would be spotting four inches in height against Washington. His background, however, includes frequent use on defense against opposing centers – an area Washington might take him to draw Benson (and Drollinger) away from the middle. Washington was the center when UCLA used Meyers and Johnson at forward last year.

One sure thing is that the tallest Indiana team in history (the starters average 6-7) opens by giving away an average of two inches per man across the front line.

The Hoosiers get it back at guard where the 6-7 Wilkerson probably will pair off with McCarter (6-3) and Buckner (6-3) with the Bruins’ new starter, junior Jimmy Spillane (5-11). Spillane started UCLA’s first four games last year, and he played in 29 of the teams’s 31 with a high of 19 the night UCLA was belted by Washington, 103-81.

If Bartow, the former Illinois coach who replaced Johnny Wooden at UCLA last April, has an edge in the even-looking battle, it could be on the bench.

UCLA’s is so packed with former high school all-Americans that not all of them will fit in the NCAA’s new 10-man travel limit.

Indiana’s first two reserves Saturday night probably will be 6-3 sophomore Wayne Radford and 6-5 senior Jim Crews – two men just off the unavailable list. Radford has bounced back well in workouts this week from strep throat, which hospitalized him a week ago. Crews was cleared for a return to play just Wednesday after getting a cut on his right eye in Sunday’s intrasquad scrimmage at Assembly Hall.

Among Hoosier newcomers, 6-4 Rich Valavicius, capable of playing in the front or backcourt, appears most likely to see action in the opener.

It’s the seventh meeting between Indiana and UCLA basketball teams, but only one is fresh in mind.

That was three years ago, when Buckner and Crews were IU’s starting guards and Abernethy got in as a reserve as the Hoosiers lostto UCLA in the NCAA semifinals at the same St. Louis Arena, 70-59.

UCLA has no veterans from that game.