A crowd of howling leprechauns and bellowing Irish madmen brought down UCLA yesterday, 75-73.
Before this basketball game even began, Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps pranced onto the court and begged the crowd for maximum volume.
And with four seconds left to play, with Notre Dame's "sixth man in the stands," all 11,345 of them, doing their best to please Phelps, UCLA sophemore forward James Wilkes stepped to the free-throw line on a one-and-one situation, the Irish clinging to a 74-73 lead.
Notre Dame called time and gave its maniaca 60 more seconds to do their worst.
Wilkes, went through all the tension breaking britnals of the sport - flicking his prist, on imaginary practice [WORD ILLEGIBLE] bending his knees, taking deep breaths, thinking positive thoughts about his 73 per cent average from the line.
But when the referee finally handed him the ball, the crowd greeted Wilkes with a wall of sound that seemed to slap his foul shot back at him. had Wilkes' feeble toss been an inch shorter it would have missed everything instead of barley nicking the front rim.
Notre Dame's Bruce Flowers grabbed the rebound, was fouled, made a final free throw and that was that. Wilkes threw the ball the lenght of the court in one final, desparate shot. It came almost as close as his free throw; that is to say, not close at all."
"Any time we play UCLA here, the crowd is the MVP," Kelly Tripuka said with a grin. "The crowd made him miss. I don't know how he even got it to the rim."
Tripuka could laugh, but pust barely. He too had missed the first of a one-and-one with the score 74-73 and just 13 seconds left.
UCLA rebounded, raced down court and fed game high-scorer David Greenwood (23 points) for a hurried corner jumper. He missed, but Wilkes was beneath the basket for an easy rebound and followup shot.
Notre Dame senior guard Jeff Carpenter, caught in a mismatch with Wilkes, had no choice but to foul, then turn matters over to the crowd.
This battle between intersectional powers had as neatly graphed a plot line as could be wished.
UCLA held slim leads until Phelps put senior Duck Williams, his injured, slumping high scorer, in the game midway through the first half.
Williams, suffering from a swollen ankle and a misplaced jump shot, followed orders perfectly.
"Coach Phelps told me to watch the game, then come in and explode," said Williams.
Well, bang, bang, bang, Mr. Duck. The 6-foot-3 guard scored 13 points in the last eight minutes of the half, then hit again to open the second half as the Irish came from 23-22 down to a 46-34 lead.
Williams, whose mother, brother and aunt from Washington were in the crowd made only two of his stop-and-pop jumpers. The rest of his points came on driving scoops, fast breaks, and one brilliant end-to-end steal and layup.
But the Bruins, who had vowed revenge after losing, 69-66, to the Irish in Pauley Pavilion in December, went on a 16-1 burst for a 50-47 lead aided by sloppy Notre Dame shots and passes.
For the last 11 minutes the game became a war as the lead changed hands nine times.
Notre Dame led by Williams, Tripuka and Bill Laimbeer, made the decisive breakthrough with an 11-2 spurt for a 7-64 lead with 2:39 left.
UCLA twice had another shot at going heath but each time missed.
Ten of Notre Dame's last 12 points came from the free-throw line as UCLA had to foul against the Irish four-corners. Williams' flying layup, for his 18th and 19th points, was the only bucket by Irish in the final five minutes but they had a 17-3 buldge over UCLA in points from the foul line.
Both teams left this spirited game with some sense of relief. UCLA, 13-2 and third-nationally-ranked coming to Notre Dame, was reinforced in its opinion that the Bruins are improving each week.
"We played very well" said UCLA rookie goach Gary Cunningham.
Notre Dame was thankful that Laimbeer, who scored 14 points, did not have a broken leg. The 6-11 center, the key to the Irish inside game was taken off on a stretcher with three minutes remaining after a mid-air collision with Greenwood, Pilot error, the referees ruled.
Instead of the eared season-ending [WORD ILLEGIBLE] had only a minor break of his left wrist and a sprained ankle.
"I'll only be out a week," he said. "I've broken both wrists before."