33 years ago: Is that ball still bouncing on the rim?


Before you read the game story and column (wish it had been better), let me remind you of this:

It was as if the basketball grew little arms and hands and pulled itself back into the basket.

I remember that’s what I was thinking as the ball bounced and bounced and bounced along the Reunion Arena rim, then bounced out, and then, defying gravity and physics and breaking Louisiana Tech hearts, pulled itself back in and down.

“I think about it,” Wayne Smith said, “every March.”

Wayne was a four-year starter for Louisiana Tech at point guard and a junior in 1985 when Tech lost to Oklahoma in overtime in the Midwest Regional semifinals by two points on the can’t-make-up-it’s-mind shot from Sooner All-American Wayman Tisdale. Wayne was also Tech’s all-time leader in assists for 33 years.

Two time outs and two game-clock seconds after the shot, Louisiana Tech’s 1984-85 basketball season was over. This Wednesday, March 21, marks 33 years.

Teddy Allen

I was 25 at the time and would change some things in here if I could—including the final score, because I really wanted to see Tech play Memphis. The Tech coaches felt like they matched up really well against Memphis, the Regionals 2-seed. Oklahoma was No. 1.

Memphis would beat Oklahoma, 63-61, to get to the Final Four, where they would lose to Villanova, the No. 8 seed in the Southeast, who’d beaten No.1 Michigan, No. 5 Maryland, and No. 5 North Carolina. In a game for the ages—if you were alive and love college basketball, you remember—Villanova beat the heavy favorite, Georgetown, the No. 1 seed in the East, 66-64, to win it all.

Tech came close to being Villanova that year instead of Villanova being Villanova. I’ve always wondered what would have happened if Tisdale’s shot would have decided to stay out.

Regardless, here is my Tech-Oklahoma game story and column that ran the next morning, Friday, March 22, 1985, in the News-Star-World, and a tip of the Designated Writers cap to a team that was much fun to watch and to know and write about.

“Great memories,” Wayne said. “The 29-3 record with two losses to Oklahoma, one in overtime, was the best in the nation. And I relish the fact that we did it with a bunch of Louisiana kids.”

Wayne Smith


By Teddy Allen
March 22, 1985/Monroe News-Star-World

DALLAS — All-American Wayman Tisdale’s turnaround jumper from eight feet out along the left baseline bounced five times along the rim before falling through with :02 left in overtime to lift Oklahoma to an 86-84 win over Louisiana Tech in the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Thursday in Reunion Arena.

As Tisdale’s shot played 10 feet above the floor with the score tied, 84-84, Reunion Arena stopped breathing. For over two hours, Oklahoma and Tech had fought it out for the right to advance to the Midwest final Saturday. Now, with time running out, the basketball couldn’t decide what to do.

“For 10 minutes,” Tech coach Andy Russo said, “it hung on the rim.”

“It was up there forever,” Tech forward Karl Malone said.

“I got two fingers on it,” Tech’s Robert Godbolt said, holding up his hand. “I could feel it. I altered it, and it hit the backboard. That’s when I thought it was going off the other side. But it bounced forward instead.”

And then the net called it home and Oklahoma had its ticket. Tech worked perfectly an inbounds play to halfcourt on a Godbolt-to-Malone pass and called timeout with :01 left. Wayne Smith’s inbounds pass from alongside the Tech bench to Malone underneath the goal actually hit the rim and the hand of Malone, who was going up for the alley-oop as Tisdale moved in.

Karl Malone

“I could see it coming,” Malone said. “But I couldn’t get a handle on it.”

The game was over, along with Tech’s season. The Southland Conference champion Bulldogs finished 29-3, while the Sooners take a 31-5 record into the finals, the last step before the Final Four next week in Lexington.

Tisdale, who sat the bench for five minutes late in the second half with four fouls, finished with 23 points to lead all scorers. But his last two points are the ones that will be most remembered in a game that took its time and teased a sellout crowd of 17,007 before ending with an OT encore.

“Looked like we were out for a minute,” Russo said, “then we slowly crept back in there.”

Tisdale left with four fouls and nine minutes left in the game and Tech cut the Sooner lead to four, 58-54, on a Malone offensive rebound and bucket at 8:53. But Tech, playing man defense the entire second half, let a couple of layups sneak by as the Sooners spread it out late and went up, 68-60, with 4:45 left.

However, Tech came back on two Malone free throws, a steal and stuff by Willie Bland, two Alan Davis jumpers, and a pair of offensive rebounds for baskets, one each by Bland and Davis. With 2:27 left, it was tied at 72-72.

“We missed some shots going down the stretch,” Russo said, “but when we did, it seemed one of our guys was always there to put it in. Those were some determined kids out there.”

On both sides. The Sooners took a 74-72 lead on a Tisdale turnaround shot over Malone and held that lead and the ball with 1:11 left. But Oklahoma wasn’t able to inbound the ball, and Tech took over on its own end.

Within the final minute, Godbolt missed a one-and-one with :50 left, and Oklahoma’s Anthony Bowie did the same thing with :45 left. Godbolt rebounded Bowie’s miss, and Tech had the ball trailing by two.

With :17 left, Tech point guard Wayne Smith took a shot from 15 feet to the left of the key that Bland grabbed underneath as the shot hit only air. Bland went back up, and it was tied at 74-74.

The Sooners Linwood Davis pushed the ball upcourt and missed from 20 feet with :04 left. Malone got the rebound and threw an outlet to Godbolt, whose shot from halfcourt hit the backboard and ended regulation.

The Sooners scored off the tip on a Linwood Davis layup and Bowie got a layup, but it was mostly Tisdale in overtime. He got eight, including the two that made the difference.

Bland got four points in overtime and Malone got four while Godbolt hit two free throws with Tech trailing, 84-82, with :18 left. The Sooners called time out before the 6-5 sophomore got to the line.

“I was just thinking about getting up there and hitting them like I’ve been doing,” Godbolt said.

He did, but then it was Tisdale’s turn. With Tech in its stunting zone, Tisdale was surrounded by Malone and Godbolt. But when you have an All-American, you give him the ball. Tim McCalister did, with :08 left, and Tisdale shot it, watched it dance for four seconds, and was covered with Sooners when it fell.

Davis finished with 9-of-15 shooting and 18 points while Bland also got 18 to go with Malone’s 20. Smith was 2-of-11, but had eight assists along with Davis.

“Obviously, Wayne didn’t play too well offensively,” Russo said. “but he’s not an offensive-type player in terms of shooting. We’re more interested in his running the thing and getting the ball down the floor. Again, it’s a case of us having one or two players who don’t play too well, but the others pick up the slack. It’s been that way all year.”

Malone led everyone with 16 rebounds, and both Godbolt and 6-10 senior forward Willie Simmons, playing in his last game, had 10 each.

SEE BELOW: A Column from Teddy Allen


A Column by Teddy Allen
March 22, 1985/Monroe News-Star-World

DALLAS — Don’t show up at an NCAA Tournament without telling your emotions to be on the lookout for anything. Expect the unexpected, the best or the worse. Because one way or the other, you’ll be taken to the limit either way, win or lose.

NCAAs aren’t for the tender-hearted.

So put a quarter in the jukebox in a town where country music is king. Play something happy for the Oklahoma Sooners, because this one belongs to Billy, Wayman and the Boys.

Oklahoma advanced to the Midwest Regional final game against Memphis State by beating Louisiana Tech for the second time this season, and the Bulldogs lost only three games all year. The Sooners broke the same heart twice, and nothing’s worse than heartbreak, at least nothing short of maybe dying. Good girls and big games are tough to lose.

Andy Russo and Tech will have a tough time watching the rest of the NCAA tournament because the Bulldogs were a doggone dog bone away from advancing.

“Thank God there’s not that many games left,” Russo said.

Fate grabbed Tech by the foot and nailed it to the floor. For eight overtime games, dating back to 1982, Tech had left the court smiling. This time, in overtime with Oklahoma, it ended.

Willie Simmons

The Sooners beat Tech by fighting back from an early eight-point deficit and doing whatever it took in overtime. And when it came down to the final bullet, Wayman Tisdale proved his All-American worth. The only way he misses is if you tie him up with barbed wire and wrap a red bandana around his beaming, happy eyes.

Tech, too, played the way it’s played all season. It seemed all year when a couple of players couldn’t turn it on, a couple of others could.

Willie Bland, the Slam Man, came off the bench to get 18 points and six rebounds, all on the offensive end. As usual, he played as if every second was his last. And if any outlaw is looking for a sidekick, look for Bland back on the Tech campus—he had five steals.

Alan Davis came back from a poor shooting first half to get 14 second-half points and 18 for the game along with eight assists. It was his swan song, the last game for the guy who holds the Tech record for games played. In his finale, he also got the 1,000th point of his career.

“At halftime,” Davis said, “I said I was going to go down fighting.”

Karl Malone did the same, with 16 boards and 20 points in what could have been his last game should the junior decide to try the NBA.

“That’s something I’ll have to think about and decide on my own,” Malone said. “But I know we fought hard all year, and we could have folded when we were down by 10. We wanted it as bad as they did, but we just came up short.”

Tech committed just 10 turnovers compared to 26 in the December loss to the Sooners. Although point guard Wayne Smith was 2 of 11 from the field, he had just two turnovers and had eight assists.

Instead, it was a dry spell in the latter part of the first half, a time when Tech got gun shy, that made the difference. Eight times down the court the Bulldogs failed to score, and went from eight points ahead to four behind.

And so, the Sooners will ride their blazing offensive saddle again Saturday night, while Tech will think back on Dallas and Ruston and Lake Charles and Beaumont and all the other towns it’s been to this season. Tech will think of Bowling Green and Huntington, West Virginia, and Monroe and Lafayette.

“When you reflect back on a 29-3 season,” Russo said, “it’s hard to find a whole lot of negatives. We kept believing we could do it. When you’ve got a group of kids who believe in themselves, it’s hard to be anything but positive.”

Tech ends with its second straight NCAA postseason appearance, and this time, it went one game farther than last year and only two wins short of the Final Four.

In the Tech locker room, Bland leaned against a wall.

“We had a good chance to win it,” Bland said. “We were hustling, playing hard. Things were going in our favor — until that final shot.”

Robert Godbolt pulled on his Bulldog sweatshirt.

“I thought it was coming off the rim,” Godbolt said. “Especially to look up there and see it roll around. When I think about this game, I’ll think about something that just wasn’t meant to happen.”

He looked at the ceiling. Somewhere up there was Tisdale’s jumper, waiting to fall.