When UCLA and Montana meet in the first round of the NIT Thursday, it will be their first meeting since the Grizzlies almost spoiled John Wooden's farewell season 10 years ago in the 1974-75 NCAA regionals at Portland.
The Bruins, featuring a front line of Marques Johnson, Richard Washington and Dave Meyers, with 7-1 Ralph Drollinger in reserve, were odds-on favorites to beat the Big Sky champions whose biggest name was their coach, Jud Heathcote.
Heathcote, now at Michigan State where he won it all with Magic Johnson in 1978-79, said of the Grizzlies: "We're small but we make up for it by being slow."
Not inaccurate, however. Eric Hays, 6-3 forward, hit 13 of 16 shots and scored 32 points as the Grizzlies hung tough all the way before finally succumbing, 67-64. Pete Trgovich, UCLA's Mr. Clutch that season, sealed it with two free throws in the final seconds.
Said The Times headline: "The Big Sky Almost Falls In on UCLA."
Note: Scoring two points for Montana was a freshman guard from Denver named Mike R. Richardson. You know him today as Micheal Ray Richardson of the New Jersey Nets.
Add 1974-75: "We're a good team, not a great team," said Wooden after the regionals in which the Bruins also were forced to go overtime to beat Michigan.
Still, the Bruins managed to win it all, beating a Kentucky team led by Rick Robey and Kevin Grevey in the final, 92-85.
The Bruins survived their greatest scare in the semifinals against Louisville. With only seconds left in overtime and Louisville leading by a point, Terry Howard went to the line for the Cardinals to attempt a one-and-one. Howard, who had hit 28 of 28 free throws that season, missed the 29th. UCLA got the rebound, and Washington hit a jumper to give the Bruins a 75-74 win.
Not long ago, a reporter in Louisville asked Howard if he still remembered his missed free throw.
"Every day of the year," he said.
While Walt Hazzard prepares the Bruins for their first-ever appearance in the NIT, former UCLA coaches Larry Brown (Kansas) and Gene Bartow (Alabama Birmingham) are getting ready for the NCAA.
Ex-Trojans Gerry Wright (Iowa), Ken Johnson (Michigan State), Jon Korfas (Pepperdine) and Jimmy Brown (North Carolina A&T) all made the NCAA playoffs, but they aren't likely to face their former mates.
A&T figures to get blown out in the first round by Oklahoma, which in turn should eliminate USC in the second round. That's assuming the Trojans get by Illinois State in the first round.
Although the Trojans appear to be overmatched against the Sooners, at least they won't be overawed. Last season, in the Great Alaska Shootout at Anchorage, they took the Sooners to the wire before losing, 92-91.
From Bruce Lowitt of the Associated Press: "The Engineers of Lehigh University, by dint of good timing if not necessarily good basketball, will get an opportunity Thursday . . . to visit the insurance capital of the United States.
"While in Hartford, Conn., they might consider taking out some short-term insurance. They're likely to get themselves killed."
Translation: Lehigh faces Georgetown.
Lehigh Coach Tom Schneider, asked what films of Georgetown games he would watch: "I've watched enough of them maybe not to watch any more."