Notre Dame, UCLA ri­valry is back on

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - PAGE 2 BITS - BY BETH HARRIS

LOS AN­GE­LES — Mar­ques Johnson, Bill Wal­ton, Adrian Dant­ley and Austin Carr on the court. Dig­ger Phelps and John Wooden on the side­lines. In those days, Notre Dame vs. UCLA in bas­ket­ball was one of the sport’s great­est ri­val­ries.

From 1960 to ’70, UCLA won five matchups in a row by scores of 31, 29, 51, 13 and 31 points.

Still, the Fight­ing Ir­ish kept com­ing back.

Carr helped Notre Dame to just its sec­ond win in the se­ries in Jan­uary 1971.

That fall, Phelps took over in South Bend. His over-the-top per­son­al­ity added to the ri­valry’s elec­tric at­mos­phere, even while the Bru­ins were rack­ing up four wins in a row by an av­er­age of 32 points.

Time and cir­cum­stance even­tu­ally ended the se­ries that be­gan in 1952.

Now it’s back for a new era.

Tonight’s na­tion­ally tele­vised game at Pauley Pavil­ion will be the 49th in the se­ries, which UCLA leads 28-20.

The schools last met on Dec. 19, 2009, when Notre Dame won at home 84-73.

For­mer Bru­ins coach Ben How­land re­vived the se­ries in 2004 af­ter a nineyear gap.

“I wanted to bring that back be­cause I just re­mem­ber that as a kid,” said How­land, who grew up in the Santa Bar­bara area and watched UCLA when the games were shown on tape-de­lay.

In How­land’s sec­ond sea­son, the Bru­ins won in South Bend in late Fe­bru­ary, help­ing pro­pel them into the NCAA tour­na­ment.

“There was re­ally a lot of ex­cite­ment about it be­cause it’s nostal­gic,” said How­land, who went 2-2 against the Ir­ish. “It brings back me­mories of old, see­ing that leprechaun be­tween time­outs on TV.”

From 1966 to ’84, the Ir­ish and Bru­ins met ev­ery year and just twice in that stretch was nei­ther team ranked in the Top 25.

Nei­ther the Fight­ing Ir­ish (6-2) nor the Bru­ins (6-2) is ranked this week. The Ir­ish are com­ing off a two-point loss to Ok­la­homa in New York, while UCLA has won two straight. The schools have five com­bined Sweet 16 ap­pear­ances since 2014.

Ir­ish coach Mike Brey wanted to get UCLA back on his team’s sched­ule in part for guard Rex Pflueger, who played at Mater Dei High in Santa Ana. The se­nior av­er­ages 7.5 points and 4.8 re­bounds.

“We talked about it in the re­cruit­ing process to get Rex home for a game,” he said this week. “We want to ro­tate back to UCLA ev­ery cou­ple years.”

The Ir­ish will host the Bru­ins next sea­son for the 50th meet­ing.

In seek­ing a home-and­home se­ries, UCLA coach Steve Al­ford said Notre Dame makes the most sense.

“It’s a great school, there’s a lot of tra­di­tion, a lot of rich his­tory be­tween Notre Dame and UCLA and be­ing in a con­fer­ence like the ACC, all that’s just go­ing to help you down the road,” he said, al­lud­ing to the NCAA tour­na­ment.

The pin­na­cle of the ri­valry was Jan. 19, 1974, when Notre Dame ended UCLA’s men’s record 88-game win­ning streak in South Bend, a game UCLA cen­ter Bill Wal­ton has de­scribed as the most painful of his ca­reer.

Phelps had his team re­hearse cut­ting down the nets at prac­tice dur­ing the week. The Ir­ish’s 71-70 vic­tory, thanks to Dwight Clay’s cor­ner jumper, was also the sig­na­ture win of Phelps’ 20-year ca­reer in South Bend.

UCLA later ended a 60-game Notre Dame win­ning streak in South Bend.

Al­ford was fa­mil­iar with the ri­valry from grow­ing up in In­di­ana. But what held sway with him was Notre Dame’s an­nual game against In­di­ana, where Al­ford starred in col­lege.

“I paid at­ten­tion to all that stuff. I was a bas­ket­ball tra­di­tion­al­ist of lov­ing all that stuff,” Al­ford said. “When I played I didn’t have AAU bas­ket­ball so it was just your state, your area.”

UCLA and Notre Dame played 42 times from 1966 to 1995. For years they played twice a sea­son, home and away. In the early ’70s, the se­ries pit­ted the fiery Phelps against the crafty Wooden on the side­lines.

“I used to love those when Dig­ger was the coach. He would al­ways cre­ate a lot of hoopla around the game with his abil­ity to pro­mote,” said How­land, now coach at Mis­sis­sippi State af­ter be­ing fired from UCLA in 2013.

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