DARRELL HAD THEM ALL OVER A BARREL
Louisville was fast running out of time. It was the NCAA championship game in Indianapolis and the Cardinals trailed UCLA 50-45 with 6:28 left. Then Louisville's All-America guard, 6'4" Darrell Griffith, went to work. In a four-minute stretch he made a three-point play, hit a jump shot from the corner, assisted on two baskets and threw in another from the top of the key as Louisville took the lead for good. "We were trying to guard the best player in college basketball," said UCLA Coach Larry Brown. In fact, seven different men had been assigned to him at various times in the semifinal and the final. The only way to succeed, they said, was to prevent Griffith from getting the ball. That proved to be impossible, because he often brought the ball upcourt himself.
E PLURIBUS UNUM TIME IN THE NCAAS
When the NCAA expanded its field for the 1980 PlIF tournament from 40 to 48 teams, critics howled. Regular-season games, even conference playoffs, would be rendered meaningless, they said, and just about anyone could qualify for the NCAAs. But as luck would have it, there were so many able teams—and so few dominating ones-that barring any of the 48 might have meant excluding a potential champion. The byword for the season was parity, and no wonder. In recent years scholarships had been reduced from 18 to 15 a team, more high school stars had chosen schools at which they could play immediately instead of big-name colleges where they would be substitutes; new conferences with big arenas and instant TV exposure were springing up; and, most important, stall tactics had been making scores closer. "On any given night we can beat any of the top 50 teams," said Louisville Coach Denny Crura "On any other night any of them can beat us."
Sure enough, in the second round of the NCAA tournament, top-ranked DePaul and its Player of the Year, Mark Aguirre, were upset 77-71 by UCLA, an unranked team using a 6'6" center named Slew Sanders, second-ranked Louisville survived the regionals, but only because little-used Tony Branch beat Kansas State in overtime with a 15-foot jumper. And who joined Louisville in the final four? Why, UCLA, whose 17-9 regular-season record had inspired "Bruins in Ruins" headlines, Iowa, a foundering five whenever Guard Ronnie Lester's bad right knee kept him benched; and Purdue, a so-so team on the occasions Joe Barry Carroll didn't come to play. The 7-foot Carroll was scarcely in evidence when UCLA and its tiny pivotman humbled the Boilermakers 67-62, and Lester wasn't even at courtside—he'd been forced to the locker room by a first-half bruise—when the final buzzer sounded in Iowa's 80-72 loss to Louisville. The championship game finally produced a title-worthy team and a dominant player. Led by Griffith, who scored 23 points, Louisville defeated UCLA 59-54.
February 12, 1981
Seniors Nancy Lieberman and Inge Nissen were outstanding as Old Dominion beat Tennessee 68-53 for its second straight AIAW title.
Gene Banks had the stuff for Duke, but the ACC champs lost out in the NCAAs.
DePaul's Aguirre (far left) dominated the season but was just a guy in the crowd during the NCAAs.
The outstanding player in the tourney, Griffith went up with the best-and never seemed to light, as Iowa's Kevin Boyle was one of many to discover.
Iowa was 15-1 with the ball-hawking Lester, 8-9 without him.
Kiki vandeweghe and the Kids were the last team selected for the NCAAS.
Griffith's teammate, Center Rodney McCray, had 11 rebounds and three blocks in the title game.
Rocket Rod Foster, a freshman guard, drove by Ohio State's Carter Scott in a 72-68 regional upset and was a sparkplug in the NCAA title game.
The Bruins couldn't quite make No. 1, but Brown got them close.