Jan. 19, 2017
The cell phones belonging to former Notre Dame basketball greats John Shumate, Gary Brokaw, Dwight Clay and Ray Martin rang again today.
That's because today is the 43rd anniversary of Notre Dame's 71-70 men's basketball victory over top-rated and unbeaten UCLA on Jan. 19, 1974, at the Athletic and Convocation Center in a game that ended what still ranks as the longest win streak (88 games) in the history of men's college basketball.
Former Irish head coach Digger Phelps figures he has been making those calls for 35 or 40 years now--simply to reminisce with his former players from that 1973-74 Notre Dame team about what happened on that remarkable Saturday afternoon in South Bend. Former Irish assistant coach Frank McLaughlin called Phelps this morning to catch up.
"It's crazy, but every year we get it done," says Phelps. "We talk about the game and we laugh.
"I always tell them Dice (Martin) was the smartest guy on the team. Shumate still has a nickname for Dice. He calls him Arthur because he looked like he had arthritis in his wrist when he shot. If Martin didn't get the ball to Brokaw and took the last shot instead the streak would have gone to 89.
"Brokaw had hit two jumpers in a row from the wing with Dice getting him the ball, so on that last possession when Tommy Curtis left Clay to double-team Brokaw with Keith Wilkes, Brokaw found Clay in the corner."
That's the sort of lighthearted give and take that's been commonplace for years when these old colleagues touch base on this same January date.
That 88-game streak remains a not-likely-to-be-broken NCAA record. Second place belongs to San Francisco teams that won 60 straight from 1955-57. The best anyone has done since 1974 has been UNLV, winner of 45 straight in 1990-91.
Clay hit the game-winner in the right corner at the end of the UCLA bench with 29 seconds to go, then the Irish withstood a flurry of late shots, several by Bruin star Bill Walton who long has referred to that game as his most painful defeat. Notre Dame scored the game's final 12 points after trailing 70-59 with 3:22 remaining when Phelps called timeout. The Irish also had been behind 35-18 with six minutes to go in the first half.
Brokaw led all scorers with 25 points (10 of 16 field goals), while Shumate had 24 and led both teams in rebounding with 11. Adrian Dantley had nine points and eight rebounds, Clay seven points and Martin two points off the bench. Walton led UCLA with 24 points (12 of 14 field goals), while Keith Wilkes had 18. UCLA led 43-34 at halftime after hitting 70.3 percent from the floor in the opening 20 minutes.
Top-ranked UCLA under John Wooden came into the contest 13-0, while the second-rated Irish were 9-0. The Bruins that year went on to finish 26-4, falling to eventual NCAA champion North Carolina State in an NCAA Championship national semifinal.
The Irish victory remains the most significant in program history.
The other end of the 88-game streak was a victory by the same team in the same arena--an 89-82 Notre Dame triumph over a 14-0 and top-rated UCLA team on Jan. 23, 1971, at the ACC. In that game Austin Carr scored 46 points (including 15 of the last 17 for the Irish) as Notre Dame knocked off the Bruins who had won each of the last four NCAA titles (and would go on to finish 29-1 and win it again in 1971).
Phelps is retired and lives in South Bend. Shumate scouts for the NBA Phoenix Suns. Brokaw recently retired as director of basketball operations for the Tampa (Florida) Metropolitan YMCA. Clay lives in Pittsburgh and works for the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Martin is an assistant basketball coach at North Carolina A&T State. McLaughlin is associate vice president of student affairs for athletic alumni relations and external affairs/athletic director emeritus at Fordham.