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Remember these? Notre Dame Men’s Basketball Upsets of No. 1 Teams

You should

NCAA Basketball: USA TODAY Sports-Archive
Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Austin Carr in action against the UCLA Bruins. Mandatory Credit: Malcolm Emmons
Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a rough year for fans of Notre Dame men’s basketball. I love Coach Brey, and all that he’s done for the University over the years, but at the same time I am excited about what lies ahead for the program. Notre Dame men’s basketball wasn’t super great when I was a student there. We had one year of Digger Phelps, and three years of Coach MacLeod, but nothing really exciting to write home about.

I started walking down memory lane today, through some memorable upsets from the past, and here are some of the ones that I found.

Notre Dame and its Upsets of No. 1 Teams:

L.A. Times Archives

Notre Dame 89, UCLA 82

Jan. 23, 1971

Austin Carr scored 46 points as the Fighting Irish handed the Bruins their only loss of the season, snapping UCLA’s 19-game winning streak. The Bruins were 14-0 at the time and finished the season 29-1 and national champions for the fifth straight time. UCLA didn’t lose for three more years.

Notre Dame 71, UCLA 70

Jan. 19, 1974

Dwight Clay scored the winning basket, a jumper from the right corner with 29 seconds remaining, to stop UCLA’s collegiate record 88-game winning streak. Gary Brokaw led Notre Dame with 25 points and John Shumate added 24 as the Fighting Irish bookended the Bruins’ record streak.

Notre Dame 93, San Francisco 82

March 1, 1977

The Dons entered the game riding a 29-game winning streak. Don Williams led the Irish with 25 points and Toby Knight contributed 19 points and 14 rebounds. The Notre Dame fans were voted MVP of the game by NBC Sports.

Notre Dame 65, Marquette 59

Feb. 26, 1978

Defending national champion Marquette held a 39-25 halftime lead before a furious Notre Dame rally sealed the victory. Kelly Tripucka scored all 15 of his points in the second half to lead the Irish, while Bill Hanzlik held All-America guard Butch Lee to a 3-for-15 shooting performance over the game’s final 25 minutes.

Notre Dame 76, DePaul 74

(2 overtimes)

Feb. 27, 1980

Kelly Tripucka led Notre Dame with 28 points but it was two free throws by Orlando Woolridge with 19 seconds left that iced the victory for the Irish. The loss ended a 26-game winning streak for the Blue Demons.

Notre Dame 60, North Carolina 58

Feb. 1, 1987

David Rivers scored four of his 14 points in the final minute as the Fighting Irish rallied from a 16-point first-half deficit. Gary Voce led Notre Dame with 15 points. The loss snapped a 16-game winning streak for the Tar Heels.


Everybody talks about that 1974 upset of UCLA. I wish I was old enough to remember that one, but sadly I do not. I found this great write up about the game in the New York Times archives, and thought I’d share an excerpt from it today!

By Gordon S. White Jr. Special to The New York Times
Jan. 20, 1974

SOUTH BEND, Ind., Jan. 19—U.C.L.A.’s record 88-game basketball winning streak came to an end today on the same court where the Bruins had last lost three years ago.

In a surprising and thrilling finish, unbeaten Notre Dame turned an 11‐point deficit and apparent defeat in the last 3 minutes 32 seconds into a 71‐70 victory.

Dwight Clay Welt a jump shot from the right corner and the ball went through for the winning points. With 29 seconds remaining, the Irish held on in a wild finale to beat the school that has been the National Collegiate champion for the last seven years and nine of the last 10.

The crowd of 11,343 fans in Notre Dame’s Athletic and Convocation Center was almost stunned. It was a few seconds before belief registered, apparently, and then the fans swarmed on the court, smothering the Irish players and Coach Digger Phelps with wild undergraduate enthusiasm.

The Irish will obviously move up from No. 2 to No. 1 in the weekly polls, replacing U.C.L.A., which has been No. 1 since the semifinals of ‘the 1968 National Collegiate Athletic Association championship tournament. The victory came 20 days after Notre Dame’s football team became the No. 1 team by beating Alabama in an equally exciting Sugar Bowl game.

However, the basketball team will have to fight to retain its lofty spot because it meets U.C.L.A. in a return game a week from tonight at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles.

What made the victory more impressive was that the Irish beat the “Walton Gang,” with Bill Walton playing the entire 40 minutes and playing very well. That U.C.L.A. could not get the ball to the big redhead at the end was telling factor after Clay’s shot,

Walton injured his back seriously in a fall during game at Washington State last Monday, and had misted the last three U.C.L.A. victories. He played today with an elastic corset. He scored 24 point, had nine rebounds and intimidated Notre Dame throughout.

This was the first time Walton or any of the other Bruins had tasted defeat as varsity players. Walton, Tommy Curtis and Keith Wilkes are the outstanding seniors who went a long time before losing.

Phelps, in his third year as Notre Dame coach after leaving Fordham, said

“This was great for college basketball. I’m sure everyone was rooting for us the way they used to root against the New York Yankees. The win was special for Notre Dame, for the kids, for my staff, for my mother and father [who were present] and for us all.”

Describing the action of the final three minutes, Phelps said

“We thought we had to to go to really pressing again, and so I put in Ray Martin [freshman from Long Island City, Queens] for Bill Paterno [freshman from Spring Lake, N. J.] The kids never gave up and were incredible, just unbelievable.”

The other Notre Dame players who went down the wire in the press when the Irish got their first and only lead of the gene were Clay, John Shumate (defending against Walton), Adrian Dantley (a freshman from Washington) and Gary Brokaw, who led the game scoring with 25 points.

Big Leads Dwindle

U.C.L.A., which led by 17 points twice in the first half, and by 43‐34 at the intermission, was in front, 70‐59 with 3 minutes 32 seconds to go. Phelps ordered time‐out 10 seconds later and set up a press, replacing Paterno with Martin.

Shumate connected on a hook shot over Walton with 3:07 remaining. But nobody could believe that this was the beginning of the end for the national champions.

Shumate, strong and quick at 6 feet 9 inches and 235 pounds, stole the ensuing U.C.L.A. inbounds pass right under the basket and easily scored again. Now the crowd sensed something and began hollering, “Shoo! Shoo!” for Shumate.

U.C.L.A. made the inbounds pass this time, but at midcourt Dantley, an amazing freshman, stole the ball from Curtis and went in unchallenged for the basket that cut the margin to 70‐65.

Another Turnover

U.C.L A. tried something different, with Wilkes making a long, up-court pass to Curtis. Curtis was behind Martin, who fell. But when Curtis got the ball, he ran with it and Notre Dame gained possession on the turnover.

The Irish worked for a good shot by Brokaw, the junior from New Brunswick, N. J. and the score was 70‐67. Dave Meyers went in for a layup for U.C.L.A but was charged with traveling. Again Notre Dame scored on the turnover as Brokaw hit a short jumper. The place went wild.

Now Wilkes tried to score on a drive, but he fouled Brokaw in the process for the fifth U.C.L.A. turnover in those final minutes.

The Irish wanted to work the ball to Shumate with less than 45 seconds remaining. But Shumate wasn’t open, so Brokaw got the ball to the open man, Clay, who hit on the jump shot and fell into the crowd as he came down.

The Bruins at a signal from Coach John Wooden, called time‐out with 21 seconds to go, plenty of time for them to get the winning shot. But Curtis shot from 25 feet and missed, Meyers missed a tip in of the rebound and Walton got his hands on the ball, but not enough to control it for a good shot.

After a Notre Dame player knocked the ball out of bounds with 6 seconds to play, U.C.L.A. worked the ball to Walton, who was off on a 12‐foot shot. Two Bruins missed follow up shots as time ran out.

Thus U.C.L.A., which set the collegiate record with 61 victories in a row by winning here a year ago, was doomed to have its new record end here.

After the game Clay said: “It was one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had, looked out at Gary [Brokaw] with the ball when he was trying to get it into Shoo. Then I saw the defense shift in to Gary and I was alone, so I called to him for the ball.”

Continue reading more of this article here!

What’s the best Notre Dame basketball game you’ve ever seen in person? Mine was the January 2012 upset of Syracuse, which I wrote about here.

Cheers & GO IRISH!