Basketball came riding into America's sports scene last week. La Salle, defending national champion and proud possessor of Super Star Tom Gola (opposite page), opened with an effortless 88-72 victory over a little college called Millersville State Teachers. Iowa, favored to win the Big Ten title, worked harder overpowering Loyola of Chicago 89-79. Although UCLA, a power on the Coast, trounced Kansas State 86-57, the UCLAns worked hardest of all. Their bruising, sprawling game broke up in a riot.
All across the country the basketball season—the winter season on the campus—had begun. More than 500 games were played in the college circuit alone and the smaller games, involving the smaller schools, trailed off into a maze of agate type on sports pages. But on the scene, in big colleges and small, all basketball meant pretty much the same thing: a game, a dance, a date.
La Salle is a small school in Philadelphia and doesn't have a field house of its own. When the Explorers played Millersville they rented a local high school gymnasium. Quickly they went ahead 40-12 and as a contest, the game wasn't much. But as a college evening, La Salle's game with Millersville was just fine, especially for a trim girl who sat in a front row and drew whistles whenever she stood up. She stood up often.
To an expert, De Paul's 94-93 overtime victory over Minnesota at Chicago Stadium was no more than an interesting preliminary to the big test for Iowa. But to Marv Gerstein, a De Paul junior, there was near catastrophe before his school managed to overcome an obvious outrage (see below) and secure victory.
December 13, 1954
In California it was a matter of philosophy and Fred (Tex) Winter, the Kansas State coach, was the philosopher.
"We're not that bad a ball club," he declared after the game and the riot had ended, "but the philosophy has certainly changed for the worst on the Coast. Four or five years ago, the Midwest played pretty rough, but that was child's play compared to this. And we've cleaned things up since."
The roughness led to a riot which started with a scramble for a loose ball, continued with a Kansas State assistant coach running onto the floor and ended with both benches and the university police in on the action. But the tumult and the shooting soon died.
Basketball does not give its fans a full week for reflection, as football does. Every night from now until March some teams will be playing. Most play three games each week. Someone has estimated that before this season ends 8,000,000 people will have seen college basketball. To a few it will mean the intricacies of the sloughing defense and the screen. To others it will mean a chance to watch a special star. But to the collegians it will mean what it has always meant: a game, a dance, a date.