The UCLA Bruins 28-1 with their only loss being to Southern Cal 46-44 in the last regular season game, were back for a third consecutive year, this time to face the Purdue Boilermakers, 23-4, making their first and only NCAA final appearance.
UCLA was coached by John Wooden, led again by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 24.0 points per game, 14.7 rebounds per game and Curtis Rowe 14.7 ppg, 7.9 rpg and John Vallely 11.0 ppg as Lucius Allen had graduated and went on to the NBA.
UCLA held the number one AP final ranking. They defeated New Mexico State 53-38, Santa Clara 90-52 and Drake 85-82 to get to the final.
Purdue, coached by George King was led by Rick Mount 33.3 ppg, Herman Gilliam 15.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg and Bill Keller 13.3 ppg. Mount was one of the top scorers in the country but played when Pete Maravich was at Louisiana State, whoaveraged 44.2 ppg in that same season.
Purdue defeated Miami of Ohio 91-71, Marquette 75-73 and North Carolina 92-65 to face UCLA in Freedom Hall in Louisville.
It was an interesting situation for coach Wooden as he was an Indiana native and attended Purdue as an undergraduate so he was coaching against his alma mater. But his intense concentration and attention for detail overcame whatever sentimental feelings he had about Purdue.
The two teams met in March of 1969 with the Bruins in control ofthegame from the beginning to build a 42-31 halftime lead and with a 50-41 second half effort won the game and their third title in a row 92-72.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, playing in his last college game scored 37 points on 15 of 20 from the field and pulled down 20 rebounds while John Vallely had 15 points and Herman Gilliam 11 rebounds. The most telling statistic was percentage from the field as Purdue was only 27 of 92 attempts for 29.3% with Rick Mount putting up 36 attempts, making only 12 and finishing with 28 points to lead Purdue.
UCLA had 19 turnovers to Purdue’s 4 but that may reflect the faster pace the Bruins played at. UCLA won the rebound battle 52-41.
Kareem won tournament MOP as he moved on to the NBA where in 20 seasons with the Milwaukee Bucks and LA Lakers he would garner six MVP’s, be on six NBA championship teams and score 38387 points. His sky hook became one of the hardest to defend against of all moves in the NBA.
While Purdue has not been back to an NCAA final, UCLA returned with a more balanced team to the in 1970.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate