Glory days: Notre Dame, UCLA rivalry back after 9 years
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 1960-70, 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. Saturday night’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 nine-year 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 1966-84, 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.