Some still can't believe the ease with which Loyola Marymount blew through the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament's West Regional in Long Beach Arena.
This was supposed to be a distraught team trying to overcome the death of center Hank Gathers. And those weren't patsies they were playing. It was New Mexico State, a team with 26 victories--including one over Nevada Las Vegas--that fell, 111-92, in a 45-point assault by Bo Kimble.
And that was Michigan, the defending national champion, that lost, 149-115, and looked so befuddled that at one point six Wolverines were on the floor and another was trying to check in.
Meanwhile, Loyola was making 21 three-pointers and Jeff Fryer was scoring 41 points on only 20 shots.
The Lions were so purposeful and focused in returning to the court after teammate Hank Gathers' death two weeks ago that much of press row was openly rooting, something rarely seen in the sportswriting world.
When Kimble, Gathers' friend since grade school, sank a left-handed free throw Friday in Gathers' honor, a veteran wire service writer sitting courtside said he got chills.
Tom Heinsohn, watching on TV, said he was nearly brought to tears.
Team members and opponents were talking about the Lions in mystical terms.
There were remembrances of Gathers all around Long Beach Arena, from the small black "44" patches and hand-written notes on the shoes the Loyola players wore to Hank hankies the students waved to signs reading "Hank's Here" and "The Strongest Team Alive."
The question is whether the Lions can maintain their intensity when they face Alabama on Friday in the Western Regional semifinals in Oakland.
Arizona Coach Lute Olson, whose team also played in Long Beach, said he had never seen a similar performance over two consecutive games.
"The way they're playing right now, I don't know if the Lakers could match up," Olson said.
"It's almost eerie. It's obvious they're on a mission. I don't know if I've ever seen a college team play better than Loyola this weekend."
Said Michigan Coach Steve Fisher: "Loyola is on a crusade."
Lion Coach Paul Westhead, who rode the team bus to the arena in order to gauge the team's emotional state Friday, said, "I've allowed them to let the natural emotion and energy to unravel. Our guys were so relaxed (Sunday) that numbers-wise there is no limit. It (149 points) could've been more."
The Lions, seeded 11th in the West, took Monday off and will return to the court today--one of 16 teams still practicing.
Westhead said: "The only logic I can make out of the seeding was (the NCAA) obviously placed a very high value on Hank Gathers and they must have evaluated we would be a significantly weakened team without him. I wasn't insulted. I took it as a tribute to Hank."
The Lions' tribute continues, in high gear.