Ir­ish to play Bru­ins again

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - SPORTS - 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 1960-70, 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 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.

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.

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