THE BIGGEST BRUIN HAD FRIENDS

Lew Alcindor was devastating, intimidating and more. But he was not the whole show, as Duke found out when it swarmed around the giant sophomore and all but ignored his very good UCLA teammates
December 19, 1966

The UCLA 1966-67 basketball press booklet is a handsome little compendium filled with all pertinent information except the phone numbers of the pompon girls. For instance, it reports that the team captain in 1937 was Orv Appleby. A freshman forward named Vytas Katilius is an engineering major. Chancellor Franklin D. Murphy once did malaria research. And there is a load of facts and figures on past Bruin heroes—Don Barksdale, Willie Naulls, Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich. Great care went into compiling two pages of school and Pauley Pavilion records. On the blue, gold and white cover is a grainy, surrealistic photograph of senior Forward Mike Lynn pulling down a rebound. All in all, the press guide is a good introduction to the current UCLA team, the unanimous pick to win the NCAA championship. But last week, because of alternately happy and unhappy events, the booklet's record pages and cover were already obsolete, though the season has hardly begun.

In the home opener with USC, 19 records were broken as towering sophomore Lew Alcindor dropped in, literally, 56 points against a man-to-man defense. Last weekend Duke's Blue Devils tried a zone defense, with two and sometimes three men surrounding Alcindor, and they were beaten by 34 points one night and 20 points the next. Alcindor, who is agile, strong and, most important, 7 feet 1‚Öú inches tall, scored 57 points in the two games and prompted Duke Coach Vic Bubas to say, "He destroys you, that's what he does." Alcindor's junior and sophomore teammates did a good share of the destroying too.

Just how devastating the Bruins are may be understood more clearly if you realize they trounced a good Duke team without using two of the better forwards in the nation, Edgar Lacey and Cover Boy Mike Lynn. Lacey was the team's leading rebounder as a sophomore. Last season he missed the final seven games because of a knee injury. The knee still bothered him in the first week of practice this winter, so he will undergo corrective surgery this month and return next season. Dr. Robert Kerlan, the caretaker of Sandy Koufax's elbow and Elgin Baylor's knees, will perform the operation. Bruin Coach Johnny Wooden said Lacey was not only an exceptional rebounder but the important last man in the zone press as well.

Lynn's absence must have been harder for Wooden to take because it was so unnecessary. A few nights before the USC game, Lynn and his roommate, Larry McCollister, a former freshman player, were arrested in a West Los Angeles department store. A store detective said they had attempted to purchase phonograph records with a credit card that had been reported lost. They were booked on suspicion of forgery, a felony, and released on $1,000 bail each.

It was too late to erase the press booklet cover and, equally embarrassing, too late to alter a full-page feature in the USC-game program entitled, Spotlighting UCLA's Mike Lynn. University officials say Lynn is a good student, has never been in trouble before and, although present at the time, was not the one who tried to imitate the credit card signature. Pending a court decision in the case, the school said, he could practice with the team but could not represent UCLA in games. Even if the courts only slap Mike's wrists, he faces possible punishment from the university or its image-conscious athletic department ("We're the last great bastion of student discipline that exists on this campus," said Athletic Director J. D. Morgan).

The loss of Lacey and then of Lynn took muscle and valuable experience away from UCLA. Lynn is 6 feet 7, 210 pounds and an expert at tapping the ball into the basket. As Bruin shots rolled around the rim in practice last week (the few times they did not drop in cleanly), one of Lynn's hands was usually poised above to nudge the ball back on course. He played on the 1964-65 NCAA champion team and last season led the team in scoring and rebounding.

Lynn was in street clothes on the sidelines for the USC game, and a man from Duke was there, too, to take notes between gasps. UCLA beat a surprisingly good Trojan team by 15 points. Nobody could stop Alcindor, but then nobody could stop USC's Bill Hewitt either (he scored 39 points). "When it's man-to-man, Lew can score any time he gets the ball," said new Trojan Coach Bob Boyd. It was a nonconference game and most spectators felt USC would use more than one mere human being on Alcindor the next time the teams meet in league play. There also was a feeling that a top team (and Duke has been one for six straight years), sagging in on Alcindor and somewhat ignoring the inexperienced corner men, could beat the Bruins.

Johnny Wooden was still trying to keep down the pressure. At a luncheon he was asked if his current team compared to 1964's. "Well, I'd pick the '64 bunch without much doubt," he said, "because they were the quickest team I've ever seen or ever had." However, he did not slight Alcindor. "If he gets the ball in there, he's going to score. I don't want them to shoot from outside if they can get it in to him—never."

Duke's squad arrived a day earlier than expected. It worked out Wednesday and Thursday in Los Angeles, tried to get accustomed to the time change and toured Disneyland and Universal City. But the area's best tourist attraction was the show Duke was a part of in Pauley Pavilion, just down a gentle slope from several complexes of huge, Hilton Hotel-like dormitories. Inside the arena there were those traditionally cute pompon girls, dressed in lemon-yellow shoes, socks, sweaters and miniskirts and shaking large blue pompons. They had movie-starlet names like Lainie Larkins, Candy Wilson and Linda Lockwood. The Varsity Band belted out Sweet Georgia Brown and Mame. High in two corners of the new arena were banners commemorating the school's two NCAA basketball titles. And more than 12,000 people jammed the place each night, not to mention representatives of newspapers from New York to Redondo Beach, at least three national magazines, two radio stations, one TV network and a partridge in a palm tree.

Duke started right away using a 2-3 zone defense and stayed with it. Two guards played on either side of the top of the key. Center Mike Lewis, a 6-foot-7 junior from Missoula, Mont., who turned down UCLA to go to Duke, and one of the forwards (usually the one on the side away from the ball) stayed as close to Alcindor as his skin, flanking him under the basket with their arms held straight up as if they were being robbed by a gunman. A couple of times when Alcindor got a pass despite his shadows, a third Blue Devil would belly up to him with hands held high so that the New York giant seemed to be looking through prison bars of flesh and bone. Of course, UCLA had four other men who were not bashful about firing away and, once they adjusted to the zone, they murdered Duke.

The defense actually went pretty well in the first half, except that Mike Lewis got three fouls before he had worked up a sweat and had to be replaced. Alcindor got only 11 points that half, far fewer than his 32 points in the first half against USC, but UCLA had a comfortable 13-point lead and Duke's Bob Verga was not hitting his long distance jump shots.

In the second half Bruin Guards Lucius Allen and Mike Warren started hitting, and UCLA raced off to a 31-point lead, egged on by a rooting section thirsty for blood. UCLA also kept its annoying zone press going throughout. When the margin got to 33, Wooden took Alcindor out. Verga never got his jump shot sighted in, and the Bruins won 88-54. Mike Lynn, sitting quietly and soberly at the scorers' table, chuckled occasionally toward the end. Alcindor had been held to 19 points, but Warren, a junior from South Bend, Ind., had 26 and Allen had 19.

Wooden was unconcerned with Alcindor's point production. "I don't know what he got and I don't care," he said. "I seriously believe Lew feels the same way." Duke's Vic Bubas gave Alcindor credit for making a "fantastic difference" in the game—drawing the full attention of two men, blocking seven shots, getting 16 rebounds and scaring off any drives to the basket. Bubas added, "Warren and Allen are as fine a guard combination as you'll find in the country."

Saturday night was a little different. All-America candidate Verga found the range for the first time this season for Duke, throwing in shots from intercontinental distances. The Blue Devils stayed in the 2-3 zone except for a brief and disastrous attempt at a 1-3-1, but Alcindor was more aggressive and his teammates did a better job of feeding the ball up to him through the forest of arms. He made 18 of 22 field-goal attempts and two of seven free throws for 38 points, plus 22 rebounds and some blocked shots. ("The most effective word I can use about his defense is 'intimidation,' " said Bubas.)

Alcindor's teammates from last season's unbeaten freshman team were much improved over the night before. Lynn Shackelford, counted on to hit on jump shots from the corners when Alcindor was wrapped in bodies, made 10 out of 13 shots from the floor. Lucius Allen added 20 points, and Kenny Heitz, coming off the bench, played well enough to have a starting job from now on. He was the cleverest Bruin at floating in passes to Alcindor. The final score was 107-87, and long before the game was over the Bruin rooters (who used to yell, "This is our town") bellowed in unison, "This is our country." They were being cocky, not patriotic, and not one of them was worrying about Lacey and Lynn, a couple of pearls missing from a treasure chest.

So the man-to-man defense had failed miserably, and the 2-3 zone had failed miserably. Coach Bubas was asked if somewhere, maybe in tea leaves or the stars, there could be found a way to beat Alcindor, Warren, Shackelford, Allen and Heitz. He answered slowly and deliberately, and the reporters gathered around could almost feel the presence of hundreds of worried basketball coaches straining to hear.

"I suppose that if I had one game to play against them and my job depended on it," he said, "I would slow the pace way down, play a zone defense, hit 50% of the shots and hope we could do some kind of job on the boards. Basically I don't believe in that kind of basketball, but in a game where the ball is put up to the hoop many, many times, they sure do have an advantage."

Thus, the next thing UCLA probably will face is a slowdown. If that does not work, and it is not likely to in the face of Johnny Wooden's press, the Bruins might go undefeated clear into January 1968, when they have a date to meet Houston's huge, tough players in the Astrodome. That game could draw the largest college basketball crowd in history.

PHOTOFour men, all tall themselves, could not stop the agile and aggressive Alcindor from scoring. PHOTODuke's swarmers were equally unable to prevent high, floating passes sent in to Alcindor.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)