My love for college basketball goes beyond a perfectly executed game or a defensive stop.
It’s the story of the game that attracts me, and the fact that many times you do not appreciate what you see until much later.
The best example I can think of happened in the ninth game of Iowa’s 1965-66 season. The Hawkeyes, 8-0 and ranked number four in the country, were beaten by the Texas Western in the final of the Sun Bowl tournament in El Paso, Texas, 86-68.
Iowa went without a field goal for more than 10 minutes in the opening half and was behind by 21 points at the break.
“We came down here and thought our high national ranking would lead us through, and it did not,” Iowa coach Ralph Miller said. “And it was clear to me that we have built up to this defeat.”
The headline in the El Paso Times the next morning read: “Texas Western Shocks Iowa in Sun Meet Finals.”
“Texas Western basketball miners swarmed on the Memorial Gymnasium floor, the Hawkeyes of Iowa University swept up off their feet with an impenetrable defense and razor-sharp shooting as they took an 86-68 victory and rushed to the championships at the Southwestern Sun Carnival Basketball Tournament on Thursday. evening “, was the story.
Miller did not know that his team became a footnote to the story. Three months later, coach Don Haskins’ team beat Kentucky for the NCAA title in College Park, Maryland. It was the first time a team with a completely black starting five had won the title.
Over the years, many of these Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) players said the victory over Iowa gave them a huge boost of confidence going forward.
I was thinking about that match from 1965 when I saw North Carolina face Duke in an epic national semifinal Saturday night, 81-77.
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I thought back to a game played in the Carver-Hawkeye Arena on December 8, 2020. No. 3 Iowa defeated No. 16 North Carolina, 93-80, in the ACC / Big Ten Challenge.
I was at that game in Iowa City that night. I had never dreamed that Tar Heels would play for a national championship a season later in New Orleans. And I never thought Hawkeye freshman Keegan Murray, who had his first big moment as a college player in that game, would be in New Orleans as one of five finalists for the Naismith Award going to player of the year in college basketball.
Tar Heels had Garrison Brooks, this year’s preseason ACC player, in line. And coach Roy Williams had big size in 6-10 Armando Bacot, 6-10 Day’Ron Sharpe and 7-1 Walker Kessler. RJ Davis, Caleb Love and Leaky Black were the keys to the roster.
Jordan Bohannon led Iowa to victory that night, scoring 24 points and making seven 3-pointers in 16 attempts. Frederick made five out of seven triples and added 21 points. Garza had 16 points and eight rebounds.
Keegan Murray scored three points and played just over 6 minutes. But those were three important points. Iowa led, 72-68, with 7:52 left as Murray rebounded a Garza miss, scoring and being fouled by Brooks. It was his fourth mistake of the match. Murray made the penalty throw for a conventional three-point game. Tar Heels never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Brooks finished with 17 points and eight rebounds. Bacot had four points and 11 rebounds. Sharpe added 13 points, Davis 12 and Love 11.
That game reflects the nomadic nature of the sport today. Williams retired after the season and was replaced by his assistant, Hubert Davis. Brooks transferred to Mississippi State. Kessler moved to Auburn. Sharpe entered the NBA Draft and was the 29th player selected by the Brooklyn Nets. Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp skipped his final season and was drafted by San Antonio in the second round. CJ Fredrick switched to Kentucky. Jack Nunge transferred to Xavier.
Murray’s Iowa career is also over after reaching consensus across America by averaging 23.5 points and 8.7 rebounds for a team with 26 wins in 2021-22. He also won the Karl Malone Award, which goes to the country’s top power forward. He is also a finalist for the Wooden Award.
Saturday, Love was brilliant and finished with 28 points against Duke. Davis added 18 and Bacot had 11 points and 21 rebounds. Tar Heels, a disappointing 18-11 last season, enters Monday’s title game against Kansas with a record of 29-9.
And Murray’s three-point game in 2020 was just a foretaste of what was to come.