A tumultuous roar began in tiny Alumni Hall a full 15 minutes before game time as a capacity crowd of 5,400 De Paul disciples proclaimed "We're No. 1" for millions of fans who were tuning in on national television.
The roar did not end until sophomore Mark Aguirre sank two free throws with one second remaining to clinch De Paul's 78-73 victory over Louisiana State. The victory affirmed the No. 1 ranking for the Blue Demons, now 15-0.
LSU Coach Dale Brown spent most of his afternoon roaring at the officials who called so few fouls against De Paul that Tigers shot only five free throws -- the first one coming with only 11:32 left in the game.
"We really played well," Brown said, "but our lack of free-throw shooting killed us. De Paul shot 37 times from the line while we had only five. That statistic alone killed us."
If that didn't kill LSU, De Paul's 6-foot-7 Aguirre certainly did. He scored 31 points, pulled down seven rebounds, and hit 13 of 14 free throws.
"We just wanted to show the world that we're the best team in college basketball," said Aguirre, the chunky 26-point-per-game scorer Blue Demon fans call "Pooh Bear."
"This will be the first time ever, but I'm going to vote De Paul No. 1," Coach Ray Meyer announced after the game. Meyer reportedly never had voted his team any higher than third previously in the United States Press International coaches' poll.
"We knew our players were up for this one," Meyer continued. "Mark (Aguirre) was ready to go from the first whistle." Only seconds after the first whistle, Aguirre started the game by taking a pass from guard Clyde Bradshaw and swooping in for a one-handed stuff.
On the ensuing play under the LSU basket, the visitors' star forward, Durand Macklin, severely sprained his ankle. He was helped off to the dressing room after 22 seconds, taking his 21-point and 10-rebound per game averages with him.
"This win is a little tainted with Macklin out," said Meyer. "But I wonder if with him in the LSU lineup whether (Dwight) Scales could have had all those outside shots."
Scales' outside sniping gave him 26 points on 12-for-22 shooting. Only one of his baskets came from within 12 feet. Scales was forced to alter his offensive game and gun from the outside after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half. The 6-9 junior averages 16.5 points per game and almost singlehandedly kept LSU in the game down the stretch.
Scales had to take up extra slack because of the injury to Macklin and because LSU's 7-foot, 270-pound center, Rick Matrick, fouled out with no points scored one minute into the second half.
LSU trailed De Paul by nine points with only two minutes remaining, but Scales and 6-5 freshman forward Howard Carter threw in seven quick unanswered points to pull the 14th-ranked Tigers within 75-73 with 47 seconds left.
Bradshaw and Aguirre then scored three more free throws to assure the victory.
"I'm happy for De Paul," Brown said. "They're a great basketball team, but No. 1 will be determined in March in Indianapolis in the NCAA tournament."
But there was no fear in the voice of ever-exuberant Demon Aguirre. "We'll be there," he warned. "Without a doubt, we'll be there."