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On This Date in Sports March 20, 1965: Gail Force

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UCLA beats Michigan 91-80 in the NCAA Tournament Championship Game in Portland. It is the second straight championship for the Bruins, who are just beginning their College Basketball dynasty for coach John Wooden. The Bruins victory is made possible by Gail Goodrich, who scores 42 points in the championship game, which at the time was the most points scored in the championship game. 

Coming off a year in which they went 30-0 and won their first National Championship, UCLA coached by John Wooden was the best in the west as they posted a 28-2 record and won the Pac-8 Championship. Both losses that UCLA suffered came at the hands of teams from the Big Ten, as they lost to Illinois in the season opener and Iowa in January. 

The 1965 NCAA Tournament had 23 teams, with the top-rated teams getting a bye to the Sweet 16. In the Western Regionals, the Bruins had a disadvantage as they had a road game against BYU in Provo, Utah. UCLA would win the game quickly, 100-76. In the Regional Final, UCLA would beat San Francisco 101-93.

While UCLA made it to the Final Four in Portland out of the West, Wichita State emerged from the Midwest, Michigan, the top-ranked team in the nation, came out of the Mideast, and Princeton won the East Regional. Wichita State won the Midwest by beating SMU 86-81 and Oklahoma State 54-46 in Manhattan, Kansas. In the Mideast Regions at Lexington, Kentucky, Michigan beat Dayton 98-71 and Vanderbilt 87-85. In the East, Princeton needed three wins, beating Penn State 60-58 in Philadelphia to reach the Regionals in College Park, Maryland. Led by Bill Bradley, the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, Princeton stunned top seen NC State 66-48 and beat Providence 109-69 to become the first Ivy League team in the Final Four since Dartmouth in 1944. 

In the semifinals at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, UCLA crushed Wichita State 108-89, as Michigan beat Princeton 93-76. In the third-place game, Bill Bradley stole the show, scoring a then-record 58 points as the Tigers beat the shocked the Shockers 118-82. Bradley would put his NBA career on hold as he studied at Oxford as Rhodes Scholar and played in Europe. Eventually, he would make his way to the New York Knicks, as he had a Hall of Fame career, leading the Knicks to two championships. 

The NCAA Championship Game was set between the two top teams in final rankings, #1 Michigan coached by Dave Strack, which is all that stood in the way for UCLA’s second straight championship. The game came down to a battle of point guards; Cazzie Russell, the driving force behind the Wolverines’ 24-3 record, had 28 points, while Oliver Darden had 17. However, Michigan had no answers for Gail Goodrich, who sliced his way up and down the court for 42 points, at the time the most points scored in the NCAA Championship Game. The Bruins also got a spark from Kenny Washington off the bench to win the game 91-80. 

UCLA would have a down year in 1966 as their best player was Lew Alcindor, a freshman ineligible to play. Once Alcindor was allowed to play the UCLA Bruins became unstoppable, winning seven straight NCAA Tournaments, as they ended up winning ten championships in 12 years.