40 Greatest Scoring Performances
MSNsportsNET.com is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the WVU Coliseum – the history behind its construction, as well as the top players, coaches and teams to play in the facility over the last 40 years. Today’s installment looks at the top scoring performances in the building.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia coach Sonny Moran thought he had discovered the secret formula to stopping Notre Dame’s great All-American guard Austin Carr.
The first time West Virginia faced Carr in the Sugar Bowl Tournament in New Orleans, Moran threw a sagging two-three zone defense at college basketball’s most prodigious scorer.
And it worked – at least on Carr anyway (Notre Dame ended up winning the game 84-80, though).
The junior made just 11 of 26 field goal attempts and finished the game with 27 points, which believe it or not, was far below the 38.1 points per game he averaged that season. That’s right, 38.1. Today we go crazy over a guy who averages 20 points per game and Carr was frequently doing that by halftime.
The two teams happened to play again two months later out at Notre Dame and Moran tried the same defense against Carr. This time the old sagging two-three didn’t work out so well, Carr lighting up the nets for 55 points in a 114-78 victory. Forty one years later it remains the most points ever scored on the Mountaineers. So when Carr and Co. made their return trip to the WVU Coliseum on Feb. 20, 1971, Moran simply shrugged his shoulders when someone asked him what he planned to do to try and stop Carr this time.
“After three years, Carr has seen every special tactic in basketball,” he said.
Austin Carr played during an era of exceptional scorers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The year he averaged 38.1 in 1970 he actually didn’t lead the country. Top honors that year went to LSU’s “Pistol” Pete Maravich, who dropped in a cool 44.5 per game.
There were seven players in ’70 who averaged more than 30 – names you may recognize such as Purdue’s Rick Mount, Kentucky’s Dan Issel and Michigan’s Rudy Tomjanovich. Right at the cut line was Niagara’s Calvin Murphy and St. Bonaventure’s Bob Lanier.
“In college ball that was the only era when you had that type of scoring,” said Carr, a TV analyst and Director of Community Relations for the Cleveland Cavaliers. “In that little 10-year era was really some great scoring in there.”
Carr scored 2,560 points in 74 career games at Notre Dame to average an astonishing 34.6 points per game. All 58 games he played during his junior and senior seasons at Notre Dame he scored at least 20 points, a phenomenal demonstration of consistency and endurance.
It makes you wonder how many times during those 58 games he played either injured or sick?
Nobody stopped him. Not Adolph Rupp. Not Guy Lewis. Not Ray Meyer nor Al McGuire – the guy simply just couldn’t be stopped the way defense was played back then.
“He could score every which way there was to score,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, then still in high school when Carr was playing at Notre Dame. “He could shoot but he could drive, too. He was real strong; he could score with people on his body.”
West Virginia guard Levi Phillips, who drew the last straw and had to guard Carr during his only appearance at the Coliseum in ‘71, marveled at his range and the quickness of his release.
“He would pull up from deep and the net never moved,” said Phillips. “That’s how accurate he was as a shooter.”
Wil Robinson, West Virginia’s top scorer in 1972 averaging only 29.4 points per game, said Carr was a scoring threat from just about anywhere on the floor.
“You just could not let him open because he had no conscience,” Robinson said.
There were a couple of factors that led to those incredible scoring totals in the early 1970s. One, defenders were not permitted to put their hands on offensive players and, two, scouting reports were not nearly as sophisticated as they are today.
Go back and look at those grainy films during Carr’s era and see how far defenders played off the offensive players, even in man-to-man. UCLA, the best team in the country that year, was giving up nearly 70 points per game. Carr admits it was a much, much different game back then.
“The fact that you couldn’t touch an offensive player changes everything,” Carr said. “If you can touch somebody you can redirect their balance.”
Carr said today’s coaches are also very reluctant to put the scoring load on a single player the way Press Maravich did with his son at LSU and Johnny Dee did with him at Notre Dame.
“Coaches don’t like to have one guy do all of that scoring because if you have an off-night it puts you in jeopardy,” he explained. “They like to spread the wealth more.”
Still, there were traits in Carr’s game that are difficult to find in players today: namely a great shooting stroke and the ability to work off of teammates to get into position to score.
“You have to be able to shoot – it’s as simple as that,” Carr said. “You have to be able to make five, six shots in a row and most guys can’t do that anymore.”
When you examine Carr’s stats probably the single most impressive thing about his career is the fact that he was a 53% percent shooter. Yes, he took a lot of shots but he obviously also made a lot, too.
“That’s what people fail to realize,” he said. “I was shooting over 50% from the field. My (high school) coach used to tell me, ‘If you’re going to shoot that many times you better make more than 50% of them.’”
Someone once researched the shot chart of Carr’s record 61-point performance against Ohio in the 1970 NCAA tournament and determined that he would have scored 72 or 73 had there been a 3-point line back then.
Carr said one of the secrets to his great success was learning early on how to play without the basketball.
“The one art that is gone in the game is learning how to play without the ball and when I was in high school my coach told me, ‘You’re going to be without the ball more than you’re going to have the ball, so you have to learn how to play without it if you want to be a dominant player,’” he said.
Austin Carr was a dominant player – one of the best to ever play the college game.
As for Carr’s one trip to the Coliseum in ’71, he put up 47 on the Mountaineers, still the most points ever scored against West Virginia in the 40-year history of the building (Rhode Island's Tom Garrick has the Coliseum record with 50 points scored against Rutgers in an 1988 Atlantic 10 tournament game).
Carr has fleeting memories of that game, namely the raucous students and the arena looking like a giant clam stuck right in the middle of the mountains. But he does know the great history of West Virginia University basketball.
“That was Jerry West’s stomping grounds so if felt good (to play well there),” he said. “And Hot Rod (Hundley) has always been my favorite.
“I just remember it was a good game, a well contested game, and I had a pretty good evening,” he said.
Yes he did.
Top 40 Scoring Performances at the Coliseum (West Virginia games only)
47, Austin Carr (Notre Dame) 2-20-71
45, Wil Robinson vs. Penn State, 2-24-71
43, Da’Sean Butler vs. Villanova, 2-13-09
42, Wil Robinson vs. Pitt, 3-4-72
41, Gary Trent (Ohio) 12-18-93
41, Wil Robinson vs. Manhattan, 2-26-72
41, Wil Robinson vs. Virginia Tech, 1-26-72
41, Walt Szczerbiak (George Washington) 1-30-71
40, Stan Boskovich vs. Davidson, 2-1-75
39, Wil Robinson vs. Furman, 12-5-70
39, Wil Robinson vs. Colgate, 12-1-70
38, Alex Ruoff vs. Radford, 12-23-08
38, Antonio Daniels (Bowling Green) 3-12-97
38, Greg Jones vs. Virginia Tech, 2-2-83
38, Wil Robinson vs. Davidson, 1-8-72
37, Chris Brooks vs. Massachusetts, 2-12-91
37, John Hempel (Massachusetts) 2-12-83
37, Wil Robinson vs. Navy, 2-5-72
36, Marsalis Basey vs. St. Joseph’s, 1-23-93
36, Tracy Shelton vs. Pitt, 12-9-89
36, Aron Stewart (Richmond) 1-23-74
35, Dominique Jones (USF) 1-17-09
35, Darrell Griffith (Louisville) 2-14-80
35, Stan Boskovich vs. Illinois State, 3-1-75
34, Kevin Pittsnogle vs. Canisius, 12-30-05
34, Lowes Moore vs. Virginia Tech, 1-10-79
34, Tony Robertson vs. Richmond, 2-25-76
34, Tony Byers (Wake Forest) 12-4-73
34, Collis Jones (Notre Dame) 2-20-71
34, Wil Robinson vs. George Washington, 1-30-71
33, Mike Gansey vs. Marquette, 1-14-06
33, Ryan Gomes (Providence) 2-9-05
33, John Wallace (Syracuse) 1-16-96
33, Aron Stewart (Richmond) 2-13-72
32, Joe Alexander vs. Pitt, 3-3-08
32, Drew Schifino vs. Rutgers, 2-14-01
32, Troy Murphy (Notre Dame) 2-14-99
32, Aaron McKie (Temple) 1-3-93
32, Chris Leonard vs. St. Bonaventure, 1-6-90
32, Bruiser Flint (St. Joseph’s) 2-22-87
32, Chuck Person (Auburn) 12-29-84
32, Greg Jones vs. UNLV, 2-27-83
32, Greg Jones vs. Rutgers, 2-14-81
32, Lowes Moore vs. Pitt, 1-20-79
32, Pat Tallent (George Washington) 3-5-76
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