Jerry West

Sunday Gazette-Mail
March 22, 1959

California Defeats WVU 71 to 70 for NCAA Title

Comeback Effort Falls Point Shy

By Skip Johnson

LOUISVILLE - West Virginia called for just one more of its second half comebacks here Saturday night, and almost got it, but the bid fell short by a single heart-breaking point as California won the NCAA basketball championship, 71-70.

The Mountaineers fell 13 points behind with 11:12 to play, but only a tip-in goal by 6-10 Center Darrall Imhoff saved the day for the Pacific Coast Conference champions.

California led 69-68 when Imhoff got his game winning basket with 17 seconds to play. Willie Akers scored underneath for West Virginia to make it 71-70 at the 10 second mark.

Bucky Bolyard fouled California's Benny Fitzpatrick with two seconds to play in a desperation attempt to get the ball. Fitzpatrick missed his shot and Jerry West got the rebound, but the game ended just as the ball settled into his hands.

It was a bitter disappointment to West Virginia, especially after the Mountaineers had built up and then lost a 13-point lead in the first half.

West scored 28 points, despite playing the final 15 minutes with four personal fouls on him. Jerry thus tied the individual five-game scoring record of 160 points set by Hal Lear of Temple in 1956. In the end, it was California's slow-down, defensive type of game that doomed the Mountaineers. West Virginia got only 55 shots, and couldn't get its fast break moving for any sustained length of time. However, the Mountaineers gave it a good try. They trailed 57-44 with 11:12 to go and kept sniping away until they closed to only three points - 65-62 - with 3:36 remaining.

Two California goals and four WVU free throws still left the margin at three points with 1:02 of precious time left.

Then Bolyard stole the ball under the West Virginia basket and West was awarded two points on a goal-tending call, making it 69-68 California with 55 seconds to play.

West tied up Imhoff with 46 seconds left but California got the ball and Imhoff followed with his tip-in that clinched the first NCAA cage championship for the Golden Bears.

Fitzpatrick led California with 20 points and played a good defensive game. Bob Dalton added 15.

West Virginia did a top-notch defensive job on Imhoff, holding the hero of Cal's semi-final win over Cincinnati, to only 10 points.

Akers and Bob Clousson got 10 points each for West Virginia.

Oscar Robertson scored 39 points in the consolation game earlier to lead Cincinnati to a 98-85 victory over Louisville for the tournament's third place position.