In the Penn dressing room, the columns of prominent doubters were hung prominently, with heavily penciled reminders: "They Still Don't Believe" and "We Must Convince Them." Perhaps too inspired, or perhaps quaking, the Quakers proceeded out into the NCAA semifinals today and tripped over their glass slippers.
Fred Waring's gang could have made the layups these Pennsylvanians missed in the first few minutes. Hardly anyone expected them to beat Michigan Magic, but hardly anyone expected them to fall so quickly when they had exactly the right plays to score.
"Tragic For Magic" was taped to the Penn mascot's coat-and for the first five minutes the Quakers passed Earvin (Magic) Johnson and State dizzy. But they were down nine points, 15-6, because they were shooting about as well as their founder, Ben Franklin.
"Stage fright," said the center, Matt White. "Then we kind of put our heads down a bit when we missed a few. You can say we were intimidated; you can say we were nervous. The shots just didn't drop, for whatever reasons."
These are numbers they do not teach at Wharton School: 83 percent nonaccuracy from the field the first half; nearly twice as many turnovers as field goals; Magic's 15 points were just two shy of Penn's entire team; Greg Kelser had as many baskets (six) as all 12 Quakers.
"All I could think of was 90-47," said freshman center Tom Leifson. "That was the score Villanova beat Penn by in the 1971 NCAA playoffs, after Penn had gone 28-0. I didn't want a repeat of that. I'm just a freshman, been on campus just a few months-and that's all I've heard. They talk about it constantly."
Well, 101-67 is technically better than 90-47. But it surely will inspire jokes. Even before the game today it was suggested Penn's only chance was if it switched the game to international finance. Or in-your-face calculus.
"Actually," said Leifsen, "I think everyone will be sympathetic, 'cause nobody expected us to get this far."
They certainly did not expect Magic to turn shooter on them. But in addition to the multitude of sins at its end of the court, Penn watched in amazement as Magic made the ball disappear into the net at the other end.
He had 10 assists, but he does that nearly every game. This day he also was nine for 10 from the field, some of them kisses off the glass from 17 feet and one or two acrobatic layups after slicing through the sideline, Magic embraced Kelser-and after severa to make him give the ball to one of his mortal teammates shortly after half court and have Tim Smith try and keep him from getting it back. Once Penn slit its wrist on offense, poor Smith could only watch helplessly as Magic controlled the stage.
With the exception of Bill Walton against Memphis State and perhaps one or two other games (including the Larry Bird show in the day's second game), nobody in the history of the tournament offered the numbers Magic hung on Penn: nine of 10 from the floor, 11 of 12 from the free-throw line, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, three steals.
And one good line.
That came just after State Coach Jud Heathcote performed athletic euthanasia with 5:33 left in the game and Penn down by 35.He pulled Kelser and, when he made two free throws, Magic.As he reached the sideline, Magic ombraced Kelser - and after several seconds Kelser began to laugh.
"I told him if he keeps playing like that (28 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots)," Magic said, "the pros will have to offer him a couple million. He laughed."
Kelser also offered Penn a dimension it had not anticipated-a perimeter jumper. The book on him is: great leaper, little touch. And Penn's Tony Price had said the day before: "I don't plan on having anyone dunk on me like that on TV."
So Kelser helped dunk Penn from 15 feet.
At halftime-and down an unbelievable 50-17-Penn Coach Bob Weinhauer told the team to, "Play so well the second half you can walk out of here like men." At best, they were dazed men.
They remembered Price missing a layup on their first possession, after a clever feed from White. They remembered White missing a layup serveral seconds later. And White missing again, after Price made the first blessed Penn points of the game-on a layup. Then Price missed another layup.
Midway through the first half, Penn offered seldom-seen, back-to-back airballs. First, reserve Vincent Ross missed everything from about seven feet. Then Smith sent the ball off the glass from inside two feet and into a Spartan's hands.
So Penn's campus shortly will be known as The Brickyard. And Magic, Kelser and their pals will have a few hours to savor their rout.
"I want whoever," Magic said before Indiana State-De Pual, "but I think everybody else wants to see me and Larry."
And everybody assumed that Magic, in his heart, also wanted to see himself against Larry Bird Monday for the NCAA title. Today he got his points, his assists, his rebounds-and his wish. CAPTION: Chart; 1979 National Collegiate Basketball Championship