The Washington Post
Maravich’s career scoring mark, set 53 years ago, remains unmatched
Detroit Mercy guard Antoine Davis scored 22 points in the Titans’ 71-66 loss to Youngstown State in the Horizon League tournament quarterfinals Thursday night, leaving him three points shy of tying Pete Maravich’s Division I career scoring record. Here’s a look back at the night Maravich set the mark, which he has held for 53 years.
LSU guard Pete Maravich entered the Tigers’ home game against Mississippi on Jan. 31, 1970, needing 40 points to break Oscar Robertson’s major college basketball scoring record. With 14 games remaining in the regular season and Maravich averaging 47.6 points, it was a matter of when, not whether, Pistol Pete would surpass the mark of “The Big O.”
Before the game, LSU Coach Press Maravich joked that his son should “average three points the rest of the way” and break the record in the final game of the regular season.
“He told me he didn’t want to disappoint the fans,” Press Maravich said after Pete scored 53 points against the Rebels to pass Robertson, who scored 2,973 points in 88 games at Cincinnati from 1958 to 1960.
Maravich began his senior season in 14th place on the all-time scoring list. He scored 55 points in a loss to Kentucky on Jan. 24 to pass Elvin Hayes for second place. Two days later, he was limited to 29 points in a win over Tennessee, leaving him 39 behind Robertson.
Maravich tied Robertson’s mark with eight minutes remaining in the second half. As the overflow crowd at John M. Parker Agricultural Coliseum, which was affectionately known as the “Cow Palace,” chanted “One more! One more! One more!” Maravich proceeded to miss his next five shots. He finally broke the record with a one-handed jumper from the right wing with 4:41 to play.
“I wasn’t really conscious of it, but I may have been,” Maravich told reporters afterward when he was asked whether he was pressing. “Actually I thought I had broken the record with the tying field goal because of the way the crowd was roaring, but when they kept it up I knew I had to hit another one. These are the greatest fans in the world.”
Members of the crowd, police officers, reporters, photographers and cheerleaders ran onto the court after Maravich’s shot swished through the net. LSU’S Al Sanders and Bob Lang lifted Maravich up on their shoulders and carried him to midcourt, where he was presented the game ball and accepted congratulations from his teammates as the fans who remained at their seats gave him a standing ovation.
“Look, we’ve still got to finish the game,” Maravich yelled over the crowd’s chants of “Pete! Pete! Pete! Pete!” according to the Associated Press.
“Pete, what was the shot that did it?” a reporter asked Maravich during the ensuing stoppage, which lasted more than five minutes.
“That last shot did it,” Maravich said matter of factly. “It went through, didn’t it?”
With more than 1,000 students who couldn’t get into the game watching on closed-circuit television in the student union, LSU cruised to a 109-86 win after the court was cleared and play resumed.
“I really don’t think I can express it in words,” Maravich said afterward. “Right now I’m a little shook. It’s the greatest honor to come to me, breaking the record of someone of Oscar Robertson’s stature. I think he’s probably the greatest basketball player ever, and I think I’m fortunate to break it.”
“I never dreamed it would happen,” Press Maravich said. “I never thought he would break the record tonight. The pressure on Pete this week has been tremendous. I didn’t see how he could keep from caving in with all of this buildup. He has had calls from all over the nation this week. People from New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, some of the Midwestern states, everywhere, have been calling all week, wanting to know about the record. I’ve never seen heavier pressure on any one athlete in all my career.”
Among those not surprised by Maravich’s performance was legendary St. John’s coach Lou Carnesecca.
“You talk of Jerry West or Oscar Robertson or any of those great ones who scored and passed so well. Maravich is better,” Carnesecca told the New York Times two weeks earlier. “He’s a show. Pistol Pete put on the greatest performance for a limited time that I have ever seen when we played him.”
Maravich scored 40 of his 53 points in the second half of LSU’S 80-70 win over St. John’s at the Rainbow Classic in late December.
“The more men we put on him the better he got,” Carnesecca recalled. “He’s got a whole bag of tricks. He passes under his legs at full speed, pops the ball in from 25 feet and out and even passes by punching the ball with his wrist. Ever seen that?”
Maravich scored 53 points on 21-for-46 shooting against Mississippi and added 12 assists.
“I’ve played and worked at this game every day of my life ever since I can remember, and I’ve had the best father and coach anyone could want helping me along,” Maravich said after breaking the record. “I’m just happy it has all been worthwhile.”
Maravich finished his college career with 3,667 points over 83 games, a remarkable 44.2-point average that will never be touched. He accomplished the feat before freshmen were eligible and without the benefit of the three-point line, which the NCAA didn’t universally adopt until 1986. (The lack of a three-point line on the court as a point of reference might help explain why different newspaper accounts describe the distance of Maravich’s record-breaking shot as anywhere from 15 to 23 feet.)
Shortly after his son passed Robertson, Press Maravich was asked whether he thought the new mark would one day be eclipsed.
“Yes, I do,” he replied. “In the first place, records are made to be broken. I think someday — I don’t know how soon — some of these young kids will come along and score the points. But Pete’s name will be in the record books for the next 30 to 40 years. I won’t be around to see it, but someone will break it.”
Press Maravich died at 71 in 1987. Pete, who averaged 24.2 points per game over 10 NBA seasons, died less than a year later after collapsing during a pickup game. An autopsy revealed Maravich, 40, had a rare and undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
Until this season, Portland State’s Freeman Williams, who scored 3,249 points in 106 games from 1975 to 1978, was the closest challenger to Maravich’s Division I record. Robertson, who scored 2,973 points in 88 games at Cincinnati, now ranks 12th on the all-time list.
Davis, the nation’s leading scorer, was limited to 7-for-26 shooting against Youngstown State and missed a three-pointer in the final seconds that would have tied Maravich’s mark. Unless Detroit Mercy receives an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational or the tournament formerly known as the Col-legeinsider.com tournament, Thursday was the 143rd and final game of Davis’s collegiate career.