Iconic College Basketball Programs Clash at Madison Square Garden; Duke Triumphs over UCLA, 80-63

Howard Goldin

New York, NY---A crowd of 15,410 packed Madison Square Garden on Thursday night for a college basketball game. The huge crowd was not attracted by a doubleheader nor by a popular local match-up, but was drawn by a rare contest between two of the most legendary collegiate basketball programs in history.

UCLA is the collegiate record holder of 11 National Championships. Ten of those were won during a 12 year period under legendary coach john Wooden, and seven were won consecutively, 1967-73. The Bruins compiled four unbeaten seasons under Coach Wooden, 1964, 1967, 1972 and 1973.

Duke has become a national basketball power of the highest level since Mike Krzyzewski became head coach in 1980. The Blue Devils have, under his tenure, won four national championships and reached the Final Four 11 times.

Despite their repeated high rankings and long histories, the two iconic programs have met only 15 times prior to Thursday night’s game. Their most recent contest took place more than a decade ago, April 30, 2002, in Los Angeles with Duke victorious, 84-73. The 80-63 victory on Thursday raised their record to 10-6 over UCLA; the series mark is 8-1 in favor of Duke under Coach K.

This week’s game was the 222nd straight game in which Duke was ranked in the top ten. The currently 8th ranked Blue Devils have compiled a 184-38 mark during that stretch.

A scoring run by each team in the first half was nullified by the other to keep the contest tied at 37 as the first half concluded. Duke began the contest with an 18-8 run to reach the only double digit lead of the half at 12:52. At that point the Bruins went on a 24-8 tear to take their largest advantage of the game, 32-26, with 5:10 remaining in the half.

A 20-10 scoring advantage by the Blue Devils brought their lead again to double figures, 56-47, at 12:43 in the second half. They scored the final nine points of the game to reach their largest lead, 80-63, as the game ended.

Coach K. explained the difference for the Duke victory while individually pointing out the contributions made by virtually every player on the court, “We beat a tough team, , a team that’s difficult to defend. In the first half, we were having trouble with their zone. The second half was really good basketball for us. I thought we pressured the ball to prevent it from getting to Jordan [Adams]. Since the Alabama game [November 27 at MSG] , we’ve become a really good defensive team.”

Two underclassmen, sophomore Kyle Anderson of UCLA and freshman Jabari Parker of Duke, were not affected by the huge crowd or by the renown of the storied venue. Anderson of Fairview, New Jersey was the only local product on the court. The graduate of a superior high school basketball giant, St. Anthony’s of Jersey City, recorded his fifth double-double of the young season and exhibited his versatile talent, 15 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 steals.

Parker kept up his season scoring average [22 ppg.], the leading freshman, with 23 points. He also grabbed 10 boards and passed for 5 assists. His coach said of him, “Jabari loves to play; he’s a natural; he embraces the moment.” Parker may, after this season, follow his father Sonny, who played six seasons in the NBA, by becoming one of this year’s NBA lottery draft picks.

The two clubs, who now have identical 9-2 records, are preparing to again qualify for the national NCAA Tournament at the season’s end.