Stanford Basketball And The Original 'Miracle at Maples'

Jan. 26, 2010

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Veteran Cardinal broadcaster John Platz takes a look back at a memorable moment in the history of Stanford Basketball.

Stanford's Maples Pavilion has been host to some amazing men's basketball games.

There was Nick Robinson's buzzer-beating, game-winning 35-foot shot to beat Arizona in 2004. There was the 48-point massacre of UCLA in 1997. There was the thrilling upset of No. 1 Arizona in 1988.

But the first to occur of all of the amazing Maples games--the first time the noise in the arena was truly deafening, the first time the fans rushed the court after the game, the first time a Stanford win in Maples made instant national news--took place in January 1975, 35 years ago this month.

It is known, simply and fondly, as the Miracle at Maples.

Thirty-five years ago, the UCLA Bruins were in their national championship heyday. Winners of nine NCAA titles in the previous 11 seasons, the Bruins were on their way to national championship #10 in 1975. Legendary coach John Wooden had led UCLA to 57 conference wins in its most recent 59 games. With this formidable portfolio in tow, UCLA traveled to Palo Alto for a Friday night, January 17, 1975 Pac-8 contest against Stanford.

The Bruins, featuring future NBA star Marques Johnson along with seven-footer Ralph Drollinger and future pros Dave Meyers and Richard Washington, brought a perfect 12-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking into the game.

Stanford countered with a veteran roster led by senior center Rich Kelley--who following Stanford graduation would enjoy an 11-year NBA career--along with senior forward Ed Schweitzer and senior guards Melvin Arterberry and Mark Gilberg.

With a noisy, standing-room-only crowd of 7,913 behind it, Stanford got off to a strong start, building a double-digit lead in the first half. With ear-splitting crowd noise accompanying every Cardinal basket, Stanford maintained its momentum, and the first half ended with Stanford ahead of the Bruins, 37-24.At the start of the second half, with the Maples roars seemingly reaching El Camino Real one-half mile away, the Stanford lead grew to 15. UCLA center Drollinger drew his fourth foul early in the half, aiding the Cardinal hopes for the upset.

Then UCLA came storming back.

Richard Washington scored, then scored again. Suddenly UCLA had reeled off 11 straight points. With 10 minutes remaining, Stanford's lead had been sliced to four points. Like so many times before, home and road, the talented and poised Bruins of John Wooden were ready to take hold of the game.

But with the screaming Maples fans behind them, the Stanford players held their ground during the final frenzied minutes. The teams traded baskets and free throws, with Kelley and Schweitzer getting the big baskets and key rebounds down the stretch.

As the final seconds ticked away, it suddenly sunk in to Stanford players, coaches, and fans. The shocking final score: Stanford 64, UCLA 60. For the first time in 17 games since the mid-1960s, Stanford had beaten UCLA. And these were days when hardly anyone beat UCLA. On this January 1975 night, Stanford had become only the sixth school to defeat a Bruin team since 1970.

As the final buzzer sounded, the ecstatic Maples student section--as one--streamed off of the lower-level bleachers and engulfed the Stanford players. The court became a sea of 18-22 year old humanity, bouncing on the springy Maples floor as the Stanford band lustily played choruses of 'All Right Now'.

Rich Kelley finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds and a perfect eight-for-eight from the free throw line. Ed Schweitzer added 22 points. The senior Stanford big men, in their final chance to knock off UCLA in Palo Alto, met the challenge.

For head coach Howie Dallmar, the Stanford playing legend of the early 1940s and the beloved Stanford head coach since 1955, the win would become a particularly sweet memory. 1975 would be Dallmar's final season as Stanford's head coach. Dallmar could not have scripted a better signature game in that final season: a win over Hall of Famer John Wooden and eventual 1975 national champion UCLA.

News of the Stanford upset of #2 UCLA immediately rocked newsrooms across the country late that Friday night and early the following Saturday morning. Any team beating UCLA in those days made for huge headlines. It was only the ninth Bruin loss in nine seasons!

And it wasn't the only magic produced by Stanford basketball that memorable January 1975 weekend.In the 1970s, in the Pac-8 conference that existed prior to the addition of the Arizona schools in 1978, teams played conference games on Friday and Saturday nights. Then, as now, the conference schools traveled in pairs, UCLA and USC in one pair, Oregon and Oregon State in another, Washington and Washington State, and so forth.

So, Stanford had only 24 hours to savor the UCLA upset. Another titan was coming to Maples: the nation's No. 5 USC Trojans, on Saturday January 18, 1975.Again a raucous, sellout crowd filled Maples Pavilion, hoping for another roof-rocking upset win and postgame celebration.

The USC-Stanford game was tight, right from the start. Avoiding an expected letdown following the epic win over UCLA, Stanford was able to forge an early lead, but only by single digits. Both Rich Kelley and USC guard Gus Williams were scoring in bunches. Stanford led by a small margin at halftime, but a second straight Stanford upset win over a highly-ranked team was far from certain.

With 1:20 remaining in the game, Stanford held only a one-point lead, 63-62. With the 35-second shot clock not yet in existence, USC's strategy was to foul Stanford and hope for missed Cardinal free throws. The Trojans chose Rich Kelley as the target to foul and send to the free throw line.

Bad decision by USC coach Bob Boyd.

Kelley, though fatigued from being pushed and leaned on for a second straight night, had enough left in the tank--and enough ice left in his veins. Kelley coolly hit four consecutive free throws in the final minute, including both ends of a pressure one-and-one with 18 second left and Stanford clinging to a one-point lead.

USC could not answer. Final score: Stanford 67, USC 66. Again a wild, fans-rush-the-court, band rocking celebration accompanied the final buzzer.

As Kelley, who merely produced 52 points, 28 rebounds and a perfect 18-of-18 from the free throw line for Stanford in the two Cardinal victories, succinctly put it: 'It was quite a weekend.'

Two wins in two nights over two national top-five ranked teams. It had never happened before at Maples Pavilion. It has not happened since.

Little wonder the January 1975 weekend was dubbed then--as it is remembered now--as the Miracle at Maples.

-- John Platz

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