Thursday, January 16, 2014

March 8, 1960 - Utah vs. Southern Cal

As you know, I'm a USC guy. So I'll always have a special place in my heart for the Trojans. But they were a cause for some frustration as a coach. I was 3-8 coaching against Troy.

All three of those wins were memorable. We beat them down at their place in 1969. Two years earlier we blew a big lead at our place and had to hold on for dear life. Merv Jackson had 27 points against Bill Hewitt's 25, and Walt Simon clinched it for us on the free-throw line in the final seconds.

But the most memorable of my games against the Trojans was down at the Smith Fieldhouse in Provo. It was the first round of the 1960 NCAA Tournament.

We were great that season. We ranked #6 in the nation and won the Skyline Conference by averaging 84.6ppg. The Trojans were solid and earned an at-large berth to the tournament over UCLA.

The thing I remember most about that game was USC's John Rudometkin -- a player we tried to recruit. Rudometkin had a phenomenal day, which included 17 rebounds in the first half alone. It seemed we were playing too relaxed at first. And then it happened: Billy the Hill blocked a layup by Rudometkin, but the refs called goal-tending and counted the basket.

Let me explain something: Billy McGill was called with goal-tending a lot that year and I had gone over the films very carefully. I am sure half the calls against Billy had been wrong. So that goal-tending call -- at that crucial point of an important game -- really made me blow my stack. Suffice to say, I earned myself a technical foul. And maybe it was worth a technical foul to let them know they can't burn down your house without a protest.

In any event, I think my technical foul sparked something because we went on a run to end the half with a ten point lead, 44-34.

The second half was a battle. Rudometkin ended up with 31 points and the Trojans' 5'11" guard, Jerry Pimm, added 16 (yes, that Jerry Pimm). But we stuck to our zone defense and never surrendered the lead. 

The other remarkable thing about that game was we only played six guys. We started with our "speed unit": McGill, Sweet Al Holmes, Joe Morton, Bill Cowan and Rich Ruffell. McGill had 27 points and Sweet Al had 17p/17r. But our sixth man that day, Jim Rhead, was huge. He came off the bench to score 11 points and help keep us ahead in the second half. We left Provo with a 80-73 win and advanced to the regional semis in Seattle.

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