43 years ago last night…March 16, 1978. Arkansas took down UCLA in the West regional.
It is not anywhere near an overstatement to say that UCLA basketball at that time was everything Alabama Football has been over the last decade, and then some. Take a look at this list of NCAA Champions and start in 1964. You will see that UCLA won 10 of 12 during that time. Beating them, especially in the NCAAT, was HUGE…
It was one of the greatest moments of my life. I lived much of my grade school and middle school years in Albuquerque…I knew that PIt area well. But to watch our team unwind the remnants of the 1975 champs and their, at the time,marvelous record, was wonderful.
Slept through a Stat test the following morn. Career changing.
Our house felt the brunt of that game. Sidney dived on a loose ball, the UCLA guy dived on top of him, and somehow Sidney was called for the foul. My brother, who was a 15 year old offensive lineman at the time, jumped up and put his fist through the wood paneling in our den. It still had a dent in it when we moved out eight years later (Dad wasn’t much for home repairs).
If I recall correctly, Sidney had a breakaway for a layup or dunk late in the game and a UCLA guy, maybe Greenwood, knocked him halfway to El Paso with a foul. Today it was probably a flagrant 1 or 2, but Sidney picked himself up off the floor and missed both foul shots, I thought that might end up costing us the game, and/or Sidney’s services in the Elite Eight, but Sidney was able to play against Fullerton. Little did we know what Fullerton would do to our baseball team 15 months later.
I arrived at UA after Counce was done as a player, but I got to know him during his stint as a GA before he went to med school. I remember one night after a long day working at the athletic department, I went out to eat alone before going back to my apartment, which was not uncommon for me (I don’t cook much better now than I did then). Jim and Kathy were a couple of tables down in the same restaurant and asked me to join them. They didn’t have to do that, but I appreciated it.
Fast forward about 15 years, I’m in PA school doing a clinical rotation at Baptist in Little Rock, and Jimmy’s down there for some reason (I think he may have practiced briefly in LR before going back to NWA). Came up behind him on the floor one afternoon and said “What’s up, Dr. Counce?” He recognized me immediately, which wasn’t bad for not having seen me in 15 years. I would run into him occasionally in medical settings, particularly when I was working in Springdale and doing rounds at Washington Regional.
My boss at the time, Ernie, was a native Indianan and very vocal in showing his prejudices about “blue blood” basketball. One Monday morning that season, he came to work after watching Notre Dame and UCLA play over the weekend, and pronounced to me and another Arkie on our staff that he had watched Arkansas play earlier in the year and they might be pretty good, but there was “no way Arkansas could stay with the likes of either UCLA or Notre Dame”. We got the last laugh on Ernie when the Hogs beat BOTH of them in the NCAA tournament later that season, and believe me, we let Ernie know about it. Ernie, good-natured about it, had to eat crow but did admit–as we Arkies already knew–the Arkansas Razorbacks really did belong with the big boys.
I remember that game so well. Don’t recall details, but it was huge at the time. It did indeed put us on the map. The year before we lost the opening round to Wake Forrest. (The NCAA only had about 48 teams at that time as I recall. It increased in size several times after the early 70’s until it finally stayed at 64 teams for several years. Then of course we’ve added the two play-in games–if that’s what they’re called any more.
I listened to this game on a beat up AM radio in the KA house at MTSU. Those were the days…you’d listen to a game at night on a far off AM station…plenty of static… sometimes the signal would bleed over to another station, or disappear altogether. Loved those Hogs…what a night!
You are right, Eli. Don’t want to get too far off topic (UCLA game), but I grew up in El Paso and in that era, Arkansas seemed a long, long way from me. I only knew them through the very occasional TV game (football at the time) and doing the transistor radio thing to try and pull in games from time to time. There was a mystique and magic to pulling in some far off radio signal that’s hard to explain to a young person today. You just had to be there at the time to understand.
I never had the transistor radio, but when I was about 13 or 14 I got a cheap little stereo for my room: Record player (remember those?), 8-track player (ditto), AM and FM radio. And if you wanted sports, it was AM. Dialing around (only at night) to find a crackly signal from WOAI in San Antonio (how I became a Spurs fan), or KMOX during baseball season, or some station in Pine Bluff that carried Hogs basketball, at a time when the basketball radio network was like today’s UA women’s network – less than 10 stations, mostly in NWA.
I remember listening to KOA from Denver, and WLS from Chicago, occasionally WWWE from Cleveland (which is now WTAM; WWWE is a station in Atlanta now), and WHAS from Louisville. A few weeks before we lost to Kentucky in the ‘78 FF, I listened to Cawood Ledford call the Jellycats’ overtime loss to SAO in Baton Rouge on WHAS. He gave the Corndogs credit, said they deserved to win. That was the last game that Kentucky team lost.
I’m going out on a really long limb, we will never have three better players on the same Hog team as the Triplets. Everything they did seemed completely without effort, pure athletes and gifted ballers.