It came today like a tornado blowing across Dodge City.
And it ended briskly enough, a dusting by dunking, with Houston defeating Louisville, 94-81, in an NCAA semifinal game before 17,327 at University Arena.
So now these Cougars, bloated by 14 more dunks today, advance to Monday night's NCAA championship game against North Carolina State.
Houston won because of a 21-1 streak that began with Louisville leading, 57-49, with 13 minutes to play. When the streak ended and calm returned to the environs, Houston led, 70-58, with seven minutes left.
"Kinda awesome," said Louisville Coach Denny Crum, after his team's victory streak was severed at 16, his team's season severed at 32-4.
The streak was an extraordinary exhibition of a team living in levitation. It was glorified by four Houston dunks. Two were by forward Clyde Drexler (21 points)--including one double-clutch affair--one by reserve forward Benny Anders (13) and one by Michael Young (17).
The streak of Houston domination had so many other sensations, including 7-foot sophomore center Akeem Abdul Olajuwon getting almost every defensive rebound in sight. Olajuwon finished with 21 points, 22 rebounds and eight blocked shots.
It included a Houston man-to-man defense--which began at the start of the second half after an inefficient 2-3 zone had allowed Louisville a 41-36 halftime lead--that created several steals.
The streak was, simply enough, the game.
"I don't even remember what I told the team in the timeout before the streak," said Houston Coach Guy Lewis, who heaved his red-and-white checkerboard towel into the air after the game, instead of at Louisville's Scooter McCray, which he did in a freakish first-half play.
The streak began, strangely enough, just after Houston forward Larry Micheaux had fouled out. Micheaux, a crucial Cougar, was assessed his fourth foul three minutes before fouling out, but Lewis kept him in the game because, he admitted, "None of us knew that Larry had four fouls."
The Cougars seemed paralyzed. Freshman guard Alvin Franklin kneeled at midcourt, throwing out his arms in a distressed look.
Before leaving the court, Micheaux said he told Olajuwon, "You keep going to the boards." He told Drexler, "You keep going to the basket."
And that is exactly what happened. Wam bam, 21-1 streak. Over.
Houston guard Reid Gettys said of the streak that nullified 27 minutes of Louisville control, "It was just steal, dunk, dunk, dunk."
For the first 27 minutes, color the tempo Cardinal red. Louisville guard Milt Wagner scored 16 of his 24 points in the first half, making long-range jumpers behind screens set by the McCray brothers, Scooter and Rodney. Meanwhile, Lancaster Gordon, the other guard, was scoring 17 points worth of gentle jumpers.
Center Charles Jones was doing a yeoman job of defending Olajuwon, who keeps getting better and better. Defensively, Jones played behind Olajuwon and received assistance from the two McCrays. In one first-half play, Jones blocked Olajuwon's hook from the lane and Rodney McCray dunked at the other end.
With Louisville leading, 40-36, with two minutes left in the half, the most intriguing and unusual play of the game occurred. Scooter McCray made a midcourt steal and was on his way for a likely dunk.
When McCray passed the Houston bench, though, Lewis' towel flew in his path. Lewis was given a technical. Gordon made only one free throw and a Louisville turnover followed.
"He (the official) was correct in calling the technical," said Lewis. "It slipped out of my hand. That's the first time that's ever happened."
McCray didn't believe it was a slip. "I don't know why he threw the towel at me," said McCray. "I figure he should have a little more control than that. This is only a game."
Drexler led a 7-0 streak at the start of the second half that gave the Cougars a 43-41 lead with 17:57 left.
Soon afterward came a 14-4 Louisville streak, based on fast-breaking, and the Cardinals went ahead, 55-47, with 13:10 left.
Then came The Streak, the one that had Lewis comparing this game to his grand ones of the late 1960s, when Elvin Hayes made Houston teams almost unstoppable.
At this point, the Louisville "2D" press, which had trapped Kentucky guards in the corners in the Mideast Regional final last week, was broken with consistency by Houston, which just kept the ball in the middle of the court.
The Cougars, outrebounded in the first half, 26-15, turned magnificently board-conscious in the second half, outrebounding the Cardinals, 30-14.
Rodney McCray, solemn after scoring only eight points in his 14th NCAA tournament game (second only to UCLA's Marques Johnson's 16 games), said of the streak that floored the Cards, "I thought I had a some rebounds, but somebody kept jumping over me and grabbing it before I could."
Somebody asked Scooter McCray, similarly solemn after scoring 10 points, if he had ever seen anything like Houston's 14 dunks, 11 coming in the second half, six by Olajuwon.
"Not in a real game," he said.
Even Drexler, so marvelous with a 10-for-15 shooting effort, said of his wonder dunk over a defenseless Jones, "I pumped because I wanted to make him think I was going to pass. Truthfully, I think we were both confused by it."