Cardinal Remembrance: UCLA ’75

Unlike other recent posts in this series, an attempt to hold March Sadness at bay, this shall not, for reasons that should become obvious, be a recap. But, simply my thoughts and memories after watching a video of the 1975 UCLA/ U of L semi-final, for the first time since I walked, dazed and disappointed, out of the arena that afternoon in San Diego. 

One of the constant reminders of this strange and perilous moment in our lives is that we must accept the bitter with the sweet. That there is a yin and a yang to life.

So it is with Cardinal hoops, like every other aspect of our existence.

It is all too easy to conjure up the great disappointments of my Cardinal fandom.

U.S. Reed. The Duke meltdown. First round defeats to lessers. Losing to Towson State. Failing to close against Chet Walker and Bradley. This campaign’s abrupt ending.

There are two that resonate the most for me.

Falling to SMU in the regional semis in ’67, when we could have played the last weekend on our home court.

And . . . UCLA ’75.

Until a few days ago, I had never even thought of rewatching the L to the Bruins. Frankly, I never even tried to see if it was available on the interweb.

But, sure enough, there it is on youtube. Fuzzy, obviously fashioned from a video tape, probably a screen shot. Whoever did it synchronized the video to Cawood Ledford’s immaculate radio call of the game on WHAS.

What immediately came to mind were peripherals about the setback, more than the game itself.

How U of L offered packages including tickets, flight and hotel in the middle of the season, should the Cards advance that far. It cost some absurdly low price, like $400, and required a check, but the check wouldn’t be cashed unless the Cards won the regional. Twas a nobrainer with no downside.

Mr. Bunny and I were among the first to sign up, and we kept our place in line. Our seats were tenth row or so, almost midcourt.

I remember I didn’t wear red, but a black long sleeved polo shirt, with a red bandana tied around at the biceps. I’ve never worn a black shirt to a Cards game since. And it’s why I hate when U of L wears black unis.

I also recall the school didn’t send the band.

I also vividly remember trundling to find our bus in the parking lot after the game, disconsolate, in a state of shock.

So, I waited a day after discovering the existence of video. Then, emboldened, clicked on the arrow.

I’d forgotten most, close to all, of the specifics about the game. Including that Denny Crum, as was his fashion of the day, was wearing a yellowish/ cream leisure suit.

Except, you understand, for the one play all remember, a play that unfortunately and unfairly has plagued and identified a former Cardinal since that afternoon.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that aspect.

In that regard, I’m reminded of how Charles Schultz, a diehard SF Giants fan, dealt with his team’s loss in the ’62 series. Willie McCovey was up in the bottom of the 9th with two out, runners on 2d and 3d, the Giants down 1-0. A hit and they win the series. He lined out to Bobby Richardson at second, the hardest ball he ever hit, he claimed.

In the aftermath, Schultz drew up several Peanuts episodes in the ensuing weeks, where Charlie Brown, ever forlorn, would muse something to the effect, “What if McCovey’s hit was just two feet higher?” Or, “two feet to the left?”

We each have our own way of coping with disappointment. Which is why I’ve never before looked to see if a video of this game was available. And, personal choice, not going to go into the coulda woulda shoulda by which most Cardinal fans immediately identify the loss.

Besides, there were any number of instances late when the Cards could have sealed the tilt. And didn’t. Turnovers. Missed shots. Etc, etc.

 * * * * *

Louisville was en fuego at the start, didn’t miss but a couple shots while spurting ahead 17-8, at which time they’d outrebounded the taller Bruins, 10-2. (47-35 for the game.)

UCLA tightened it up, but Louisville still led, 37-33, at intermission.

The score was knotted at 59 with 4:24 left.

Louisville scooted ahead, and had the lead, 65-61, with 1:03 left in regulation. UCLA scored,  pulling within 2, but the Cardinals had the ball three times with that lead and couldn’t shut the door. OT.

Cardinal diehards know the rest.

 * * * * *

Allen Murphy scored 33. Junior Bridgeman had 12 points, with 15 rebounds and 5 assists. Wesley Cox tallied 14, with 16 rebounds and 4 assists.

U of L got only two points off the bench, a deuce by Danny Brown.

The Cards were but 16/27 at the line, and committed 22 turnovers to 14 for the victors.

 * * * * *

How differently would Cardinal hoops history have played out, had U of L prevailed that day?

Topping the list, they’d have met UK for the national championship.

Might Denny Crum have returned to Westwood, had the Cards captured the crown?

Indy in ’80? Dream Game? Those certainly wouldn’t be as significant in Cardinal lore.

But, as my pal Jane always says, “It is what it is.”

— c d kaplan

6 thoughts on “Cardinal Remembrance: UCLA ’75

  1. I can’t watch it either…

    Best teams in UofL history by rank:

  2. JGJ, our only disagreement is I’d put 2005 on the list instead of ’09. TWill and Company had issues. They were destined to disappoint. ’05 was TOUGH.

    Well, I watched. That’s why I’m getting paid the big bucks to keep you guys entertained.

  3. I was in 7th grade in 1975. I watched the game and was crushed when we lost. The first such time a sporting event had caused that response and I think THAT as much as anything sealed my fate as a UL fan.
    So, I was scheduled to serve mass that evening and I tried to explain to my mom that I was too crushed to be able to serve. She would have none of it and off to serve mass I went.
    We had a group of young singers at my church (I think they were from Bellarmine) and they noticed that I was a little “down”. One of them asked me what was the matter? I asked them if they had just seen the UofL game. They had not. I tried to explain what happened. They smiled and said, “It’s ok. You’ll get them the next game!”
    I started to try to explain, “No! You don’t understand…there is no next game!” (I know, I know, there was, but you know what I mean.) but I just walked away. They didn’t and could never understand what I just went thru.

  4. I love it – my most vivid memory was the same as yours – how incredibly beautiful it was outside walking out of the arena in a total daze – as if we had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory – which we had –

    I think that Denny would have had to take the UCLA job if offered – but he did get his seminal moment in the delirium that was Indy in ‘80 –

    As for us – the seats were great – the tour package was insane – and through you I met the Blue-eyed Grad -Assistant History Professor @ Tulane – who by that time was already on his way to mass transit moguldom-

    The rest of the story as they say – shall remain buried in our sweet memories of the ensuing evening.

    Mr. Bunny

  5. It was my first Final Four of many, many Final Fours in a career that just furloughed to an end. I attended with my father and three of his diehard ULA friends. It was truly another era in the world of what has become corporate America’s March Madness.
    No security, not sure it was even a sell out, Jim Boeheim was in his first year as an assistant at Syracuse, a lawyer friend of mine and myself walked into the press conference with a cold one in our hands and no one cared.
    We were the best team that day. The errant pass to Washington killed us. Denny was trying to call a time out at the time and did not get it.
    UCLA cheers and cheerleaders were intimidating.
    Kentucky fans were loudly pulling for UCLA. Do not let any other tell you different.

    After the game my Dad and his friends went to the bar at our hotel and ordered a round. The bartender noticed our dejection and asked what had happened. We explained that we had just lost the NCAA Semi-Final in overtime to UCLA. He asked for more clarity? He had no clue what sport we were even talking about. That was the way it was then.

    And, if would have played Kentucky in San Diego we would have pounded them way worse than UCLA did and they knew it.

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