1980 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final — Louisville and UCLA


By Ron Griffitts

Contributing columnist

On March 24, 1980 at Market Square Arena in Indianapolis, Indiana the Louisville Cardinals (32-3) coached by Denny Crum and ranked number three in the final AP poll faced the unranked UCLA Bruins (22-9) coached by Larry Brown.

The Cardinals were led by 6’ 4” guard Darrell Griffith (22.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.8 apg), 6’ 6” guard Derek Smith (14.8 ppg, 8.3 rpg), 6’ 8” forward Wiley Brown (10.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg) and 6’ 7” forward Rodney McCray (7.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg).

The Bruins were led by 6’ 8” forward Kiki Vandeweghe (19.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg), 6’ 1” guard Rod Foster (11.5 ppg, 2.3 apg), 6’ 5” guard Mike Sanders (11.3 ppg, 5.9 ppg), and 6’ 7” Jamal Wilkes (8.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg).

Louisville had defeated Kansas State in a close game in the first round 71-69, and got past Texas A & M 66-55 and LSU 86-66 to get to the Final Four and defeated Iowa in the semifinals 80-72 to get to the final.

UCLA got past Old Dominion 87-74, DePaul 77-71, Ohio State 72-68 and Clemson 85-74 to get to the Final Four. In the semifinals they defeated Purdue 67-62 to get to the final against Louisville.

Like many of the games in the tournament, it was a close game with UCLA leading at the half 28-26. But the Cardinals outscored the Bruins 33-26 in the second half for a 59-54 victory and the first of two NCAA titles for Denny Crum.

Darrell Griffith led Louisville with 23 points and was voted the tournament MVP. Rodney McCray added 11 rebounds for the Cardinals.

UCLA’s top three scorers were Rod Foster with 16 points, Kiki Vandeweghe with 14 and Mike Sanders with 10 as neither team had a very good field goal percentage.

UCLA was 19 of 52 for 36.5% while Louisville was 24 of 53 for 45.3% from the field.

Louisville returned to the final in 1986 and UCLA was back in 1995.

Thirteen players on the rosters of the two teams went on to play in the NBA with Jamaal Wilkes going on to play for the Lakers on their championship teams of the 1980’s.

Larry Brown is one of the more interesting coaches in college and NBA history. A 5’ 9” guard he started out as a player for five seasons in the ABA and coached alternately in the ABA/NBA for 31 years and in college for 11 years as well as three college playing years at the University of North Carolina for a total of 50 years of playing and coaching in college and professional basketball.

He won an NCAA title in 1988 with Kansas and an NBA title with the Detroit Pistons in 2004 and is in the NBA Basketball Hall of Fame.

Statistics for this article were from sports-reference.com and NCAA.com.

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