On This Date in Sports March 25, 1961: Battle of Ohio

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

It is the battle of Ohio in the NCAA Tournament, as Cincinnati upsets Ohio State 70-65 in the Championship Game in Kansas City. The Buckeyes were defending tournament champions and had a 32-game winning streak as they sought to complete an unbeaten season. Cincinnati had struggled early in the season but entered the final on a 21-game winning streak at 25-3. Jerry Lucas, named Most Outstanding Player for the second straight year, led all scorers with 27, but the Bearcats with balanced scoring won in overtime led by the efforts of Bob Wiesenhahn. 

The Ohio State Buckeyes were the kings of college basketball as the 1960s began. Coached by Fred Taylor, they won their first National Championship in 1960, upending defending champion California. Ohio State was led by Jerry Lucas, the top player in the NCAA, becoming the first to get 30 points and 30 rebounds in a college game. Cincinnati had gone to the Final Four in 1960 but settled for third place after losing to California in the Semifinals. With the graduation of Oscar Robertson, the Bearcats were an unknown commodity in 1961, as they started 4-3. However, led by coach Ed Jucker, they went on a 21-game winning streak and were ranked second when the tournament began. 

There were 24 teams in the NCAA Tournament in 1961. Ohio State, the reigning NCAA Champions, reached their second straight Final Four by beating Louisville and Kentucky in the Mideast Region. Jerry Lucas dominated these games in Louisville, as most expected the Buckeyes to roll to the championship. Cincinnati, who finished the season on an 18-game winning streak, beat Texas Tech and Kansas State in the Midwest Regionals in Lawrence, Kansas. Rounding out the Final Four was St. Joseph's, who won the East Region in Charlotte n and Utah, who emerged from the West Region Portland. In the semifinals, Ohio State dominated St. Joseph's 95-69, while Cincinnati beat Utah 82-67. 

The championship game would be delayed due to a thriller in the third-place game, as St. Joseph needed four overtimes to beat Utah 127-120. It tied the record for the longest name in NCAA Tournament history. However, the Eagles had their third-place finish voided due to a Gambling Scandal. 

In the Championship Game, both teams had to wait in small rooms due to the lack of locker room space at the Memorial Auditorium in Kansas City. The teams did not look to be affected too much, as the first half was played at a great pace with Ohio State, holding a 39-38 lead at the half. The second half was more of a defensive struggle, as teams combined for 45 points, with the game being tied 61-61 at the end of regulation. Jerry Lucas had 27 points to lead all scorers, adding 12 rebounds. However, the rest of the Buckeyes struggled, with only Larry Siegfried reaching double digits, with 14 points. John Havlicek had a nightmarish game, with four points, making just one of five shots from the field. Cincinnati meanwhile used a balanced attack, as four of five starters reached double figures, with Paul Hogue scoring nine points. Bob Wiesenhahn led the way with 17 points, while Carl Bouldin had 16 points, Tom Thacker had 15 points, and Tony Yates had 13 points. In overtime, the Bearcats were in full command, outscoring Ohio State 9-4 to claim the National Championship. 

Cincinnati would beat Ohio State again in 1962 in a championship rematch.