On This Date in Sports March 7, 1970

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

In an early example of upsets that would be the hallmark of March Madness, Niagara upsets Penn 79-69 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Purple Eagles were making their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Playing at Jadwin Gym in Princeton, while the Quakers the top team in the Ivy League was one of the tops ranked teams in the country.

As the 1970 NCAA Basketball Tournament began, the field was just 25 and played on a much smaller level. A typical first-round game would be played on local campuses like Jadwin Gym in Princeton. Mid-major teams at the time often had to settle for the National Invitational Tournament, as even the biggest conference just had one bid.

Penn coached by Dick Harter went into the tournament, with a record of 25-1 after winning the Ivy League, while Niagara an independent at the time posted a record of 21-6 coached by Frank Layden was one of the last teams to make the field of 25.

The game was close throughout as the Quaker held a 35-34 lead at the half. In the second half, the Eagles soared, scoring 45 points to score the 79-69 upset win to reach the Sweet 16. Niagara’s upset win was thanks in large part to Calvin Murphy who scored a game-high 35 points, while Bob Churchwell had 14 points and 14 rebounds. The Quakers were led by Steve Bilsky with 22 points, while Corky Calhoun had 15 points and 13 boards.


Niagara’s tournament run would not go much longer, as they were beaten in the Eastern Regional Semifinals by Villanova 98-73. The Purple Eagles would not win another NCAA Tournament game until 2007. Calvin Murphy’s big game played a role in boost his draft status, as he was the first pick in the second round (18th overall) by the San Diego Rockets. Murphy played in the NBA for 13 years, all with the San Diego and Houston Rockets, and made the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993.