by Adam Goudchaux, Contributing Writer
January 19, 1974 – Notre Dame beats UCLA, ends NCAA-record 88-game basketball win streak.
Ummmmm what? A Division 1 Men’s basketball team that won 88 games in a row? Never ever again will that happen. Not in this era of one-and-dones and mid majors pulling off upsets at a fairly regular interval. Talk to the North Carolina Tar Heels about their loss to the UNLV Running Rebs earlier this season. I often waiver on ranking the great streaks in sports history: Dimaggio’s 56, The Lakers’ 33, The Flyers 35 (unbeaten streak), Celtics 8 championships, UCLA basketball’s 7 championships, Connecticut Huskies women basketball 90, Dolphins 18, Patriots 18…
But my lord, 88 straight wins is unfathomable. In that streak UCLA had not lost since Jan. 23, 1971 with a loss to none other than Notre Dame. A week later, UCLA defeated UC Santa Barbara, 74-61, and the winning streak was born. UCLA All-American center Bill Walton had a personal winning streak dating back to high school of between 139-143 depending on who you ask. Walton probably felt like he would never lose again. “We didn’t talk at all about the streak because we never thought about losing,” said Pete Trgovich, a 6-foot-6 guard for UCLA.
Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps made defensive adjustments going man-to-man in the last two minutes of the game knowing UCLA headcoach John Wooden’s tendency to seldom call timeout in the final two minutes. The ratcheted up defense led to 4 UCLA turnovers. Wooden, indeed, never called timeout. The strategy turned a 70-59 UCLA lead into a slim one-point UCLA lead as Notre Dame rattled off 10 unanswered points. This set the stage for Notre Dame Guard Dwight Clay who would slam the lid shut on all the trash talking that led up to the game. He hit the decisive shot in the waning seconds. 71-70 final. South Bend went nuts, stormed the floor like they’d just won the tourney. Digger Phelps even had his team cut down the net to punctuate the David and Goliath scenario.