Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Today is the 35th anniversary of UCLA center Bill Walton's 21-of-22 shooting performance from the field, in the Bruins' 87-66 NCAA title game victory over Memphis State (now the University of Memphis).

As shown in this online video, Walton's attempts in that game were a blend of mid-range perimeter shots and shorter ones -- lay-ups, tip-ins, and alley-oop plays. With this being the immediate post-Alcindor era of the banned slam-dunk, whenever Walton would receive a beautiful pass leading him to the hoop, he had to release the ball gently above the cylinder to score.

I was able to find this compendium of NCAA title game box scores through 2000 (although both FG attempts and makes were not included until 1950). Perhaps the first comparison that would occur to UCLA fans is that with Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). In three title games, Alcindor was 8-of-12 (1967), 15-of-21 (1968), and 15-20 (1969). Walton played in one other NCAA title game, in 1972, and went 9-of-17 against Florida State.

Statistically, Walton's cumulative title game shooting of 30-of-39 (.769) and Alcindor's 38-of-53 (.717) are not all that different. But on one particular night in 1973, Walton stood above everyone else.

In looking over the box scores for championship games after 2000, the closest performance to Walton's -- though still a ways away -- was the 10-of-11 shooting of North Carolina's Sean May in 2005.

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