Fifty Years Ago Today: UH 71-UCLA 69

Elvin “The Big E” Hayes and UH Alum Bill McCurdy
At a social function in 2008.
Both were in the Astrodome 50 years ago tonight as participants in the UH 71-69 basketball win over UCLA. The Big E was there as the star of the game. Bill was there as only one of the 52,693 fans that helped put College Basketball on the big league sports map.

 

Big E, Cougars Whip UCLA

52,693 See UH Prevail, 71-69

By Bob Green

Associated Press Sports Writer

(As reported in the Brownwood (TX) Bulletin, Page 8a, Sunday, Jan. 21,1968)

Houston (AP) – Houston’s inspired Cougars, led by All-American Elvin Hayes, stunned UCLA Saturday night 71-69 and ended forever the Bruins’ myth of invincibility in college basketball.

A howling happy crowd of 52,693 in the Astrodome – an all-time record – saw Hayes, Houston’s Big E, toss in 39 points and help put the defensive clamp on UCLA’s Lew Alcindor.

Appropriately enough, it was Hayes’ two free throws with 28 seconds left that broke a 69-69 tie and snapped UCLA’s 47-game winning streak, second longest of all time.

The Cougars, ranked No. 2 in the nation going into their climactic showdown with the top-ranked Bruins, turned UCLA’s own weapons on them – a super performance by a super-star and a tenacious defense.

Houston, sparked by Hayes’ 29 first half points, established a 46-43 margin at intermission and spent the second half fighting off challenge after challenge by the cold-shooting Bruins.

When it was over, the delirious Houston fans and cheerleaders stormed onto the court, hoisted their heroes to their shoulders and began a rhythmic chant,”We’re No. 1. We’re No.1.”

If they are, they can thank their poise, which never broke in the face of the famous UCLA press defense.

Houston established a 13-12 lead with 13:45 to in the first half on a basket by George Reynolds. The Cougars didn’t trail again, although (they were) tied three times.

The last came when Lucious Allen, high scorer for the Bruins with 25 points, dropped in two free throws with 44 seconds to go. The Cougars brough the ball down court and when Hayes was fouled by Jim Nielson they went ahead for good.

UCLA had one more chance, but blew it on an uncharacteristic mix up in signals in which the Bruins Mike Warren tipped the ball out of bounds. Houston took over with 12 seconds left and ran out the clock.

“Isn’t that Hayes great?” exulted Houston Coach Guy Lewis. “Almost every game he plays is great.”

“Houston played a tremendous game,” said John Wooden, coach of UCLA. “Well just have to start over again.”

 

********************

Thank you, Bob Green, for that beautiful job of sports writing coverage of an Astrodome event that was destined to grow in importance to the histories of both Houston Sports and College Basketball in general. Fifty years after the fact, your work speaks as eloquently today to younger people as it did in 1968 to those of us who were there then – younger people.

We are Houston. And we are strong for our history too. And to those writers, like you, who have reported our history honestly and well, we are both indebted and grateful.

 

********************

Bill McCurdy

Principal Writer, Editor, Publisher

The Pecan Park Eagle

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7 Responses to “Fifty Years Ago Today: UH 71-UCLA 69”

  1. Tom Hunter Says:

    All of us who attended this game ended up in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest crowd to witness a basketball game. My seat was in the top level of the Astrodome, which made the players resemble tiny stick figures. Hail Cougars!

    And speaking of which, I’m pulling for UH-alumnus Case Keenum today in the NFL Championship Game between the Vikings and Eagles.

  2. Anthony Cavender Says:

    looks like Bill is posting up the Big E.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Thanks for the confidence, Tony. – In the arena of athletic fantasy, as the old Willie “The Actor” Sutton saying about stealing used to frame it, we should never conjure up anything small of challenge. 🙂

  3. Wayne A Chandler Says:

    I was placing messages on the Astrodome scoreboard that night, and heard from half a dozen friends around the country who knew I was there.
    More importantly, this showed to those two executives in Chicago –Reinsdorf and partner — that basketball on TV could be sold regionally. They made a ton, selling basketball on TV to athletic conferences.

  4. Wayne Roberts Says:

    Mr. Hunter, I may have been sitting next to you. I, too, was in the upper deck…still have my ticket and program. Ticket is now signed by Hayes and Jabbar (not as Alcindor). Program by them, Wooden and Lewis. Two of my most prized collectibles.

  5. Mark W Says:

    I was a sophomore at Texas Tech at the time. I still have a vivid memory of sitting in the packed T.V. room in my dorm, watching that game. While I thoroughly enjoyed the game and the U.H. win, the thing that stands out most for me from that experience is rather bizarre. In front of me there was a fellow watching that game who seemed more emotionally invested in the outcome than an explosives expert defusing an atomic bomb. When the final seconds ticked off and the game ended, he stood up and screamed in anger, picked up his chair and threw it across the room. I was startled by the intensity of his tantrum. In retrospect, apart from him being a rather passionate Angelino or Bruins fan, my best guess is that he had bet, and lost, a bundle on that game. I still don’t get why his contorted face was retained so prominently in my memory.

    • Bill McCurdy Says:

      Thanks, Mark. Now that I know about it, I shall continue to enjoy the contorted picture it enjoins in my own mind of that sorry loser’s face – and – anytime I need a burst of merriment – I shall summon it into my own recollections – at any joyful healing moment – anywhere from here until the crack of doom – that I need this version of a spiritual Coca-Cola. 🙂

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