Ultimate March Madness Regional Final: 1996 Kentucky Wildcats vs. 1968 UCLA Bruins

Can the Wildcats claw one out against the Bruins?

This matchup is between possibly the two best teams that these programs ever produced. It would be a high-quality game that fans will not want to miss. Both teams ran away with their regional semifinals contests and the Bruins will enter this game as a 7-point favorite, mainly because of the unstoppable Lew Alcindor. Kentucky’s “Untouchables” squad, however, boasts 9 players on the roster that would go on to play in the NBA.

Starting Lineups

1996 Kentucky Wildcats

Guard – Tony Delk

Guard – Derek Anderson

Forward – Antoine Walker

Forward – Walter McCarty

Forward – Ron Mercer

1968 UCLA Bruins

Guard – Lucius Allen

Guard – Michael Warren

Forward – Lynn Shackelford

Forward – Mike Lynn

Center – Lew Alcindor

The Game

Early on Allen and Warren control the tempo and feed Alcindor, who is unguardable early on as the Bruins race to an early 12-4 lead before the first TV break. It is obvious that the Wildcats need an answer for Alcindor and that answer is to pressure the Bruins’ guards. The only problem, in this case, is the Bruins are real good at breaking the press and the Wildcats slowly start to fall farther and farther behind. The Bruins get to halftime with a comfortable 42-26 lead over the Wildcats.

Guard Jeff Shepard hits a couple of early threes to start out the second half and a steal by Walter McCarty leads to a thunderous dunk by Antoine Walker as the Untouchables go on a quick 8-0 run, leading to Coach John Wooden to use a timeout just three minutes into the half. UCLA still leads but now that lead sits at 42-34. The next 7 minutes are fairly evenly played and the Kentucky reserves look like they are starting to have an effect on the Bruins’ legs.

With 10 minutes left in the game the Bruins lead 52-47 and it’s clear that Kentucky’s depth is starting to change the tide. Bruins guard Lucius Allen picks up his fourth foul with just 6 minutes left in the contest and the Bruins lead by a mere 4 points. Tony Delk hits both ends of the one and one and the UCLA lead is now just 57-55. Michael Warren answers by hitting a huge three-point shot and then Alcindor blocks a Ron Mercer shot that ends in a huge bucket from the wing to extend the Bruins lead to 62-55 with 4:45 left in the game. Coach Pitino has to use a timeout.

Tony Delk gets loose and hits a three-pointer to pull the Cats back to within 4, then a huge turning point in the game occurs when Lucius Allen gets called for his 5th foul with 3:34 left. Delk steps up and calmly hits both free throws to cut the Bruins lead to just two points. The Bruins on the next trip down get a huge basket from Alcindor to move the lead back to 4. After each team makes a couple of empty trips down the floor, Alcindor comes up big again with a drive to the basket the extends the Bruins lead back up to 6 with just under a minute left.

The Wildcats use a timeout and on the next possession, Walter McCarty drives to the hole and hits the layup while drawing the fourth foul of the game on Alcindor. McCarty converts the free throw, cutting the Bruins lead to 66-63 with just 43 seconds remaining in the game. With a 30-second shot clock will the Cats play it out and try to get the stop, or will they foul?

They decide to play it out and with 15 seconds left Warren hits Alcindor in the post and a skyhook puts the Cats down 5. The Cats use a timeout leaving them with just one left but they still have time. Delk drives and dishes to Sheppard who nails a three-pointer from 24 feet out and the Cats are now down 68-66 with 8 seconds left. The Bruins inbound the ball to senior Mike Lynn who is quickly fouled by Mercer and with just 5 seconds left Lynn will be shooting a double bonus. The Cats save their timeout and Lynn settles in at the line to close out the game. His first free throw clangs off the front of the rim and the Cats have life! The second rims in and out and Walker grabs the rebound and immediately calls a timeout for Kentucky with just 4 seconds remaining. The Cats will have to go the length of the floor to tie it or win it.

Antoine Walker is the inbound man and the Bruins are covering him. He finds McCarty open just inside the half-court line and makes the pass, McCarty turns, takes a dribble and fires a pass to Tony Delk across the court, Delk catches the ball 30 feet from the basket and fires the ball at the basket. The ball smacks off the backboard and drops down into the net with the buzzer blaring in the background! The Untouchables have pulled off an incredible comeback against the great John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins, making it 69-68 to advance to the Final 4 in the Ultimate March Madness tournament.

Follow along for the 1996 Kentucky Wildcats Final 4 game next Monday!

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