In 1970 UCLA 27-2 returned for the fourth consecutive year to the NCAA tournament final and faced ateam Jacksonville, makingits only NCAA final appearance.
With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar graduated to the NBA John Wooden’s team went to a balancedoffense with five players averaging in double figures, including forwards 6’ 8”Sidney Wicks 18.6 points per game, 11.9 rebounds per game and 6’ 7” Curtis Rowe 15.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg, guards John Vallely 16.3 ppg, Henry Bibby 15.6 ppg and center Steve Patterson 12.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg.
They defeated Cal State Long Beach 88-65, Utah State 101-79 and New Mexico State 93-77 to get to the final at Cole Field House in College Park, Maryland.
Jacksonville who also had all five starters average in double figures, was led by 7’ 2” Artis Gilmore 26.5 ppg, 22.2 rpg, Vaughn Wedeking 13.7 ppg, Greg Nelson 10.6 ppg, Rex Morgan 18.2 ppg and 7’ Pembrook Burrows 10.8 ppg. They bested Western Kentucky 109-96, Iowa 104-103, Kentucky 106-100 and St. Bonaventure 91-83 to get to the final. I think ii is safe to say Jacksonville had a tougher road to the final than UCLA did.
So instead of having a seven footer on his team for the past three years, John Wooden had to defend against two seven footers in Gilmore and Burrows.
The game was closer than the previous three finals UCLA had played in. They led 41-36 at halftime and were 39-33 in the secondhalf for an 80-69 win. Both teams did poorly from the field with UCLA slightly better at 28 of 69 for 41.4% to the Dolphins 31 0f 80 for a 38.8%. While Jacksonville scored three more field goals, UCLA made up the difference at the free throw line with a 24 of 35 performance as Jacksonville got to the free throw line only eight times and made seven.
The difference in free throws determined the outcome as UCLA had more turnovers with 23 to 18 for Jacksonville and UCLA outrebounded the taller Dolphins 50-38.
Artis Gilmore was 9 of 29 for nineteen points and 16 rebounds and Vaughn Wedeking and Pembrook Burrows each added 12.
For UCLA Curtis Rowe led with 19 points, Sidney Wicks had 17 points and 18 rebounds, Steve Patterson had 17 points and 11 rebounds and John Vallely had 15 points.
UCLA returned to the final the following season for their fifth in a row. Jacksonville has not returned to the NCAA final.
Several players went on to NBA careers including the entire starting five for UCLA, Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, John Vallely, Henry Bibby, and Steve Patterson: for Jacksonville Rex Morgan and Artis Gilmore who spent eighteen seasons in the ABA and NBA, helping the ABA Kentucky Colonels to an ABA title in 1975 went on to careers in the ABA/NBA.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for the Daily Advocate