The owners of the remarkably happy faces on the opposite page are the beneficiaries of a dream. They are part of the Iowa State basketball team, and their picture was taken at the very moment of the final buzzer when they realized their team had accomplished a highly improbable feat. They had beaten the University of Kansas, which was presumed by all the experts to have insurance against defeat during the 1956-57 season in the 7-foot frame of Wilt (The Stilt) Chamberlain, the new economy-size wonder boy of basketball.
The dream that was the cause of it all came during the understandably fitful sleep of the Iowa State team's assistant coach just two nights before the Kansas game was to be played on their home court at Ames. Assistant Coach Bob Lamson knew a good dream when he had one, and so did Head Coach Bill Strannigan, to whom he took it the day before the big game. Coach Strannigan rehearsed it with the team for 30 minutes and decided to buy it. Well, the next night it worked like a dream.
For a year, even before he graduated from .the freshman ranks, basketball coaches have been trying to devise ways and means of stopping the giant Chamberlain, who threatened to tear through the nation's basketball defenses like a Kansas cyclone. Accordingly, when Lamson eased his head onto the pillow on this fateful January night, he might have been filled with the determination to dream up a way to stop a cyclone. And he dreamed a working strategy which he was able to put down on paper (see diagram), as well as the game in its entirety, right up to its victorious end.
He saw State's big center, Don Medsker, playing in front of Chamberlain, where he would grab at passes aimed for the big fellow, and the forwards (Crawford and Vogt, who play the backcourt in the zone defense) applying a pinch on Chamberlain. The one on the far side from the ball would move in behind Wilt and block off the boards. The guards, Thompson and Frahm, and the loose forward were free to go after the outside shooters. This, of course, was permitting Kansas some leeway on shots from the corners, but since there was no backboard to serve as a target and as a deflecting bank, many of these shots were going wild.
January 28, 1957
And that's just about the way the game played out in realistic wakefulness. Chamberlain did not score a field goal in the first half. All told, he got only five and seven free throws.
Coach Strannigan, no dreamer, was well aware that an ordinary offense, coupled with his assistant coach's dream defense, would not do. If his boys took their normal number of shots, depending on a fair percentage hitting, State would lose the ball almost every time they missed because Chamberlain is such a superb rebounder. So State played the percentages when they yielded space for corner shots, but not when they had the ball. They shot only 38 times, hitting with 13. In between, they kept the ball moving, maneuvering relentlessly until they shook a man loose enough so that he had a reasonably good try at a score.
The game ended in an explosion of excitement when Don Medsker sank a jump shot from 15 feet out as the buzzer sounded. No one was more excited than State cheerleader Nancy Dickenson. She had become engaged to Medsker that same day. The score was Iowa State 39; Kansas 37.
As the bedlam in the Ames Field House quieted to a roar, it was revealed that Bob Lamson is a perfectionist among dreamers. "In my dream," he said with slight disappointment, "it was Gary Thompson [Iowa State's top scorer] who scored the winning basket in the last second." Disappointed on more substantial grounds, Kansas Coach Dick Harp said, grimly: "We play State again February 2. Remember the date. February 2."
On that date, incidentally, another nationally ranked team—SMU—will also have its first opportunity to start winning again after an upset. Last week the Mustangs lost (77-68) their first conference game in two seasons (they were 12-0 last year) to a Texas team which kept two men on Big Jim Krebs all night.
Tulane and Stanford completed the week's surprises. The Green Wave took over first place in the Southeastern race by soundly beating the Kentucky powerhouse 68-60, and the Indians removed Washington from the Pacific Coast's undefeated list 70-63.
There were also areas of consistency. Ohio State beat Minnesota 85-73 and Michigan State 70-51 to lead the Big Ten with a 4-0 record. In a game much closer than the score indicates (it was 53-50 with seven minutes remaining) North Carolina defeated N.C. State 83-57 and stayed at the top of the Atlantic Coast Conference. In its overall record (15-0) Carolina is now the only major unbeaten team in the country and becomes the favorite entry in the NCAA championships at Kansas City next March.
Among the independents, Louisville won their sixth straight 104-67 against Eastern Kentucky, making it even more regrettable that the Cardinals are ineligible for postseason tournaments. St. John's returned to form with a 68-66 squeaker over St. Francis, and Loyola of Chicago kept the Midwest lead with a 10-5 record.
Free Throw Line