In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
The NCAA Tournament comes down to a battle of Ogio for the second straight season, as Cincinnati repeats as NCAA Champions, beating Ohio State 71-59 in the Final Four in Louisville. The Buckeyes had won the championship in 1960 but lost an overtime thriller to the Bearcats in 1961. Cincinnati was in control most of the game as Paul Hogue, the Tournament's Most Outstanding Player had a game-high 22 points and 19 rebounds.
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. 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. The two Ohio schools met in the finals, with Cincinnati winning in overtime 70-65.
After upsetting Ohio State, the Bearcats of Cincinnati were again among the top schools in the nation as they went to the tournament with a 25-2 record. They reached the Final Four with wins Creighton and Colorado in the Midwest Region. With Jerry Lucas again the top player in the nation, Ohio State won their first 22 games before losing to Wisconsin and finishing 23-1. The Buckeyes reached the Final Four with wins over Western Kentucky and Kentucky. Rounding out the Final Four was Wake Forest and UCLA, who each made it to the Semifinals for the first time. The Demon Deacons made the Final Four from the East Region with wins overtime wins against Yale at St. Joseph's before beating Villanova. The Bruins, coached by John Wooden, reached the Final Four from the West Region by beating Utah State and Oregon State.
Cincinnati had the most significant test in the semifinals as they held off UCLA 72-70. The Bruins were two years away from starting the greatest dynasty in college basketball. However, the year belonged to the Bearcats. Ohio State meanwhile defeated Wake Forest 84-68, but the game was costly to the Buckeyes, as Jerry Lucas suffered a knee injury.
Jerry Lucas attempted to play in the Championship Game one day after the semifinals despite the knee injury. Lucas was not his best as he had trouble moving around and scored 11 points with 16 rebounds. Cincinnati took advantage of the hobbled Lucas, as Paul Hogue and Tom Thacker combined for 43 points. The loss was a disappointing end for Jerry Lucas' career, as Ohio State was a combined 78-6 during his college career.