1973 NCAA Tournament Final — UCLA and Memphis State


By Ron Griffitts

Contributing Columnist

On March 26, 1973, at the St. Louis Sports Arena, the UCLA Bruins (29-0), coached by John Wooden and playing in their seventh consecutive NCAA title game, met the Memphis State Tigers (24-5) coached by Gene Bartow.

The Bruins extended their winning streak to 74 games and dispatched the Indiana Hoosiers led by Steve Downing and Quinn Buckner and coached by 32-year-old Bobby Knight in his second year at Indiana, 70-59 in the final four semifinal to get to the final.

That game was closer than the final score indicates as UCLA led 40-22 at halftime only to have the Hoosiers behind 6’ 8” Steve Downing bring Indiana to within two points of the Bruins with five minutes left in the game before Downing fouled out after scoring 26 points.

UCLA was led by Bill Walton (20.4 points per game, 16.9 rebounds per game), Jamaal Wilkes (14.8 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Larry Farmer (12.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg).

Memphis State had defeated the Providence Friars in the final four semifinal 98-85 and were led by Larry Finch (24.0 ppg), Larry Kenon (20.1 ppg, 16.7 rpg) and Ronnie Robinson (13.5 ppg, 11.2 rpg).

This final proved to be much closer than the previous six as the teams were tied 39-39 at halftime but Bill Walton took over the game, making 21 of 22 from the field and two free throws for 44 points and pulled down 13 rebounds in what is considered to be one of the best individual performances in an NCAA final ever.

He also added to that one block and two assists.

The Bruins pulled away, outscoring the Tigers 48-27 in the second half and ended up winning 87-66. Jamaal Wilkes added 16 points for UCLA and Larry Finch led Memphis with 29 points and Larry Kenon had 20.

This was the Bruins’ seventh consecutive NCAA title and 75th consecutive win streak that would go to 88 games before they lost at Notre Dame 71-70 in the following season.

Walton again got the most outstanding player of the tournament award and was joined on the all-tournament team by Ernie DiGregorio of Providence, Larry Finch and Larry Kenon of Memphis State and Steve Downing of Indiana.

Walton, Kenon, DiGregorio, and Downing all went on to play in the NBA.

After coach Wooden retired after the 1974-75 season, Gene Bartow replaced him as the Bruins’ head coach.

Statistics for this article came from sports-reference.com, dailynews.com and si.com.

Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.

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