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February 01, 2010

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EXCERPT | Jan. 29, 1968

Rise of the Big E

UCLA's 47-game winning streak died in the Astrodome

In college basketball's Game of the Century, Elvin Hayes outscored an injured Lew Alcindor (scratched cornea) 39--15 to lead second-ranked Houston to a 71--69 upset over No. 1 UCLA at the Astrodome in front of 52,693, the largest crowd ever to see a basketball game in the U.S. Joe Jares reported for SI.

It was not a matter of the Cougars sneaking up on UCLA. The Bruins were ranked first in both wire-service polls and were riding a 47-game winning streak, but Houston was ranked second and had won 48 straight games at home. The Cougars had won 17 in a row since losing to UCLA in last year's NCAA semifinal, and Hayes was the third-leading scorer in the nation and certainly no stranger. The city of Houston was all atwitter about the confrontation, to the point that one radio station kept listeners up to date with "KTHT Ruin-the-Bruins time is five-oh-four." The manager of UCLA's motel provided a 10-foot bed with "Big Lew" printed in large letters at the foot.

But the 7'2" Alcindor was completely outplayed by the 6'8" Big E. The Bruins' defense could not cope with Hayes in the first half. Edgar Lacey tried, then Lew, then Mike Lynn, all to no avail. Elvin pumped in 29 points and every time he got the ball, the crowd started chanting, "E, E, E," until it sounded like one long "EEEE." When a Hayes shot went in, the monstrous Astrodome message board would flash a big E two stories high.

In the national semis 62 days later the No. 2 Bruins whipped the top-ranked Cougars 101--69 on the same floor—borrowed from and then reinstalled at L.A.'s Sports Arena—en route to a second straight NCAA title.

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PHOTOPhotograph by JAMES DRAKELIGHTS OUT Hayes shot 68% from the field, grabbed 15 boards and blocked Alcindor three times. PHOTOGEORGE LONG (WALTON) PHOTOJAMES DRAKE (CARTWRIGHT) PHOTOJERRY WACHTER (BERRY) PHOTOSIMON BRUTY (MEYER) PHOTOPETER READ MILLER (BREES) PHOTODAVID BERGMAN (FAN) PHOTOBOB MARTIN (WILLIAMS) PHOTOBOB ROSATO (SMITH) PHOTOV.J. LOVERO (MCGWIRE) PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (CALHOUN)

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)