1983 NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament
In the final game, performed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, NC State led at halftime with a score of 33–25. Houston was hampered by foul trouble that plagued star Clyde Drexler, who picked up four first half fouls. In the second half, the Cougars came out with a second wind and based control of the match, finally taking a seven-point lead.
However, things were not all good for Houston. Considering that the game was played Albuquerque, players had to take care of the city’s mile-high elevation. The Cougars’ star center, Akeem Olajuwon, had problems adjusting to the environment and drained quickly, having to test out of this match multiple times so that he could wear an oxygen mask and then recuperate. With Olajuwon on the bench, Houston head coach Guy Lewis decided that so as to protect the lead and the health of his huge man at precisely the same time, the Cougars had to start slowing down the game.
Yet more, this allowed the Wolfpack to go back to their standby strategy of extending the game. Houston’s free throw shooting was very suspect entering the game, which worked greatly in NC State’s favour as they could rally back and even the score at 52 in the final two minutes. On what is the last Houston ownership, Valvano called for his players to back off and allow guard Alvin Franklin bring the ball up the court. The Wolfpack defenders would let the Cougars use their slowdown strategy of passing around. Once the ball got back to Franklin he was fouled immediately. With 1:05 left, the freshman was fouled and sent to the line for a one-and-one. The idea to filthy Franklin sprung in the enormity of the second; NC State thought that the comparatively inexperienced Franklin could not withstand the strain of going to the line together with the championship at stake and knowing that fifty million viewers were tuned into watch the match. The theory proved correct as Franklin failed to convert and the Wolfpack grabbed the rebound. Valvano called timeout with 44 seconds left and drew up a play for senior guard Dereck Whittenburg during the timeout, which called for the team to pass him the ball ten minutes left on the clock so he could take the last shot.
Houston needed a defensive stop so they could find another opportunity to close out the game. Lewis decided to move from the man-to-man shield his team had been running the entire match to a half court zone trap defense. The Wolfpack, who weren’t expecting the defensive modification, were made to deviate and began passing the ball around just to keep the Cougars from slipping it. Houston nearly obtained the turnover it had been searching for if Whittenburg made an errant pass to Gannon that Drexler almost came away with prior to the sophomore recovered control of the ball. The ball eventually wound up at the palms of guard Sidney Lowe, who lent it to forwards and fellow mature Thurl Bailey in the corner.
Trying to keep the ball moving, as he had been double teamed as soon as he received the move, Bailey appeared back toward Whittenburg, who was roughly thirty feet from the hoop near midcourt. Bailey threw what Whittenburg would later call a”poor basic” overhanded pass that Houston’s Benny Anders, guarding Whittenburg about the play, was able to steal. At this point, Whittenburg hearkened back to his high school days with Morgan Wootten in DeMatha Catholic High School, where he was taught to always catch the basketball with both hands. If Whittenburg hadn’t attempted to do this in this case, Anders might have gotten the steal and a game-winning breakaway layup. In college basketball at the moment, the match clock continued to operate after a made field goal, and the Wolfpack probably wouldn’t have had time even to inbound the ball. As it was, Anders knocked the ball from Whittenburg’s hands, but Whittenburg quickly regained control.
The clock, meanwhile, had ticked down to five minutes and Whittenburg was standing a substantial distance from the goal. Once he regained control, Whittenburg turned and launched a desperation shot, later claimed by Whittenburg to be a pass, to attempt to win the game for NC State. The shot’s trajectory took it to the front of the basket where Olajuwon was covering Wolfpack center Lorenzo Charles. As he watched the shot, Olajuwon said he knew the shot was going to come up short but he also did not wish to select the ball too early because of the prospect of goaltending. Charles took advantage of the indecision from Olajuwon and went up for the air ball, and, in one movement, he scored the go-ahead points with a two-handed dip. The final second ticked off the clock prior to Houston could inbound the ball, and with that, the match ended, and the Wolfpack were the winners.
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