Programs linked by game in 1973

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SAN ANTONIO --- On March 26, 1973, in St. Louis, UCLA topped a school then known as Memphis State, 87-66, for its unprecedented seventh title in a row under coaching great John Wooden, who won 10 in all before retiring in 1975.

Memphis coach John Calipari (left) talks with Pierre Niles as the Tigers get set for tonight's Final Four contest with UCLA.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Memphis coach John Calipari (left) talks with Pierre Niles as the Tigers get set for tonight's Final Four contest with UCLA.

That game always will be remembered as Bill Walton's unbelievable performance in which he hit 21 of 22 shots for 44 points, including two free throws. His field-goal percentage of 95.5 remains the best in the tournament's 69-year history.

That Bruins squad completed its second consecutive 30-0 season, the only school to compile back-to-back perfect seasons.

Meanwhile, that season put Memphis State on the national basketball map, with the Tigers earning their first NCAA bid since 1962.

That Tigers' roster included more black players than any team in school history, notable because Memphis was a racially divided city still reeling from the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., who was shot 40 years ago Friday.

It would be another 33 years before the Tigers and Bruins met again in the tournament. UCLA won 50-45 in a 2006 regional final and went on to lose to Florida in the championship game.

The current Bruins, led by freshman phenom Kevin Love, play Memphis in tonight's national semifinal game at the Alamodome. These Tigers are two-point favorites.

Gene Bartow, coach of that Memphis State team, went on to succeed Wooden at UCLA, a thankless task that lasted two seasons.

"But I have to admit I'm a Memphis fan these days," Bartow said.

Love, whose big man's game reminds many UCLA fans of Walton, has watched a tape of the 1973 game, calling it "very special."

Wooden said it's unlikely anyone will duplicate Walton's incredible effort.

Love's best shooting performance this season was a 10-for-10 effort against Western Illinois.

"Don't expect 21 of 22 out of me," Love said. "That's a little much."


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