BACK TO '83: Wolfpack Streaks Into NCAA Title Game
April 2, 1983
BY TIM PEELER
In fact, Georgia never really had the chance to try on what Dereck Whittenburg calls his “Cinderella boots,” the lucky sneakers that have brought Wolfpack head coach Jim Valvano and his team from the verge of being left out of the tournament all together through a series of miraculous comeback victories to reach the final game of the season for the second time in school history.
Valvano and crew now known as “Destiny’s Darlings” and the “Cardiac Pack” will now face top-ranked
“The dream continues,” Valvano said after the game. “This was magnificent for me.”
Unlike all the Wolfpack’s other stops, there was little doubt about the outcome of this one. Sure, the Southeastern Conference-champion Bulldogs made run at the end of the game, as the Wolfpack got sloppy with the ball. But Valvano’s squad, which had trailed in the second half of all seven of its previous post-season games, led from beginning to end, opening with a 22-foot jumper by senior guard Dereck Whittenburg.
That simple shot dispelled any notion that Whittenburg would be bugged by the flu, which had kept him in bed the two previous days with a 102-degree temperature. He went on to score 20 points in the game, a total matched by fellow senior Thurl Bailey.
The Wolfpack controled the tempo from the outset, settling into a half-court game, mixed with some fast-breaks that caught the Bulldogs off guard.
“Sidney [Lowe] and I decided before the game that we would run any chance we got,” said Whittenburg, who made eight of his 18 shots on the night. “I think that surprised them.”
The most impressive performance of the night, however, was turned in by 6-11 sophomore Cozell McQueen, who posted a career-high 13 rebounds against the undersized Bulldogs. He also scored eight points, while playing more than he has throughout the post-season, when the Wolfpack has used a three-guard lineup.
“I thought I would play a lot because all they do is run,” McQueen said. “My game is playing defense and rebounding, and if there isn’t a fast pace, there’s not much happening and the third guard comes in.”
The Bulldogs could not replicate their shooting success from last weekend’s trip to
That lead stretched to 18 points, as
“Hey, we’re an agricultural school,” Valvano said. “If we can’t milk a lead like that, then we shouldn’t be here.”
The pass was one of Lowe’s 11 assists on the night, as he broke the North Carolina All-America Phil Ford’s ACC record for career assists. Lowe now has 764 assists in his four years with the Wolfpack, with one more game to go.
But in the final five minutes,
“At the beginning of the game, we didn’t shoot the ball very well,”
Fleming made only seven of his 17 shots, and Gerald Crosby mad just five of his 15 shots. Six of their 13 baskets came in the final five minutes, during
“I don’t really think we were nervous,” Fleming said. “We were ready to play the game. We got the shots we wanted. They just weren’t falling for us.”
Though Valvano worried about his team’s near collapse, the Wolfpack was in control throughout the contest. Bailey and sophomore Terry Gannon made five free throws in the final minute, and Bailey ended the scoring with a six-foot jumper with five seconds to play.
“We weren’t tight,” Lowe said. “We were loose and we were shooting. We felt good. I wasn’t concerned that we were going to lose. I was just concerned that we would lose our composure. If we had lost the game and lost our composure, that would have been hard to deal with.”
Bailey, who added 10 rebounds to go with his 20 points, echoed those thoughts.
“We never really thought the game was in danger of getting away from us,” Bailey said. “We knew we just had to make our free throws and we would win.
The Wolfpack won’t have that advantage Monday night when it faces the top-ranked Cougars, which enter the championship game on a 26-game winning streak.
Led by 7-foot junior Akeem Olajuwon, the Cougars had 13 dunks in the game to
“We didn’t have enough dunks in the game,” Lewis said after the game. “I wish we could have had some more.”
Lewis said he was joking, but Valvano isn’t so sure.
“Nobody in the country has more talent,” said the Wolfpack coach.
You may contact Tim Peeler at email@example.com.