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On This Date in Sports March 23, 1974: NC State ends UCLA Reign

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The seven-year reign of UCLA comes to an end, as they are beaten by NC State 80-77 in double overtime in the National Semifinal in Greensboro. It is a disappointing end for Bill Walton at UCLA, as he had never lost on any level before the Bruins 88-game winning streak ended in January. NC State would go on to beat Marquette 76-64 to win the first National Championship.

There was a time that March was not mad, and that was a seeming birthright for UCLA and their coach John Wooden. From 1964-1973, the Bruins won every tournament game they played in, not making the 1966 tournament and cutting down the nets nine times in ten years. Seeking an eighth straight title, UCLA had already seen their historic 88-game winning streak come to an end with a 71-70 loss to Notre Dame on January 19th. After two more losses to Oregon and Oregon State, UCLA went into the tournament with a record of 23-3. In the tournament, UCLA reached the Final Four by beating Dayton 111-100 and San Francisco 83-60.

NC State had risen to the number one team in the nation after UCLA’s suffered three losses in the season. The Wolfpack coached by Norm Sloan held a record of 26-1 at the start of the tournament, with their only loss coming on December 15th, to UCLA (84-66). The biggest win of the year for NC State was in the final of the ACC Tournament, as they defeated Maryland 103-100 in overtime. On the way to the Final Four, NC State beat Providence 92-78 and Pittsburgh 100-72.

Rounding out the 1974 Final Four in Greensboro, North Carolina was Kansas and Marquette. The Jayhawks were expected to be there beating Creighton 55-54 and Oral Roberts 93-90 in overtime to represent the Midwest. Marquette was a surprise team out of the Mideast, as they had to play an extra game, beating Ohio 85-59. They then beat the top seed Vanderbilt 69-61 before beating Michigan in the Regional Final 72-70. Marquette would later beat Kansas 64-51 to reach the final game of the NCAA Tournament.

The other semifinal was very much the heavyweight fight everyone expected as the game was tight from the opening tip to the final whistle. In fact, the game was tied at the half 35-35 and again after the full 40 minutes, 65-65. The first five-minute overtime played like a chess match as the two teams each scored just one bucket, with a second overtime needed with the game still deadlocked 67-67. When the second overtime began, it looked like the Bruins had delivered the knockout blow, with a 7-0 run. However, the Wolfpack battled back and closed the game on a 13-3 run to score a stunning 80-77 win.

Bill Walton, playing the full 50 minutes, was the game’s leading scorer with 29 points and 18 rebounds. David Thompson meanwhile led the way for NC State with 29 points and ten boards, while Tom Burleson had 20 points and 14 rebounds. NC State would go on to beat Marquette 76-64 two nights later to claim their first National Championship. Thompson would be rewarded for his play, winning the Most Outstanding Player of the 1974 NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

UCLA had to settle for winning third place game over Kansas 78-61. Even with the departure of Bill Walton, UCLA reclaimed their crown in 1975, it what would be John Wooden’s final season as coach.