I stopped watching college basketball after having kids. I had tapered off to just the tourney at that point anyway but in the 90s. I was fully invested. I saw all the big moments live as most did back in those days, Christian Lattener’s impossible shot, Chris Weber’s time out. They are seared in my mind as the best live TV a kid could see.
There was one other game I saw that transformed into a core memory for me the LSU vs. Loyola Marymount matchup I randomly saw and it was like no other game ever played.
The cast of characters.
Dale Brown (LSU) – A Louisiana native in his 19th season coaching LSU. Brown perfected a physical, defensive style for LSU.
Paul Westhead (LMU) – A veteran college and NBA coach in his 3rd season at LMU. He pioneered LMU’s innovative run-and-gun offense. Jason Segel played him in the recently canceled HBO show Winning Time
Shaquille O’Neal (LSU) – A 7-foot freshman phenomenon. He grew up in New Jersey and dominated through his size and power. Shaq would go on to become one of the NBA’s greatest big men.
Hank Gathers (LMU) – A talented, athletic senior and scoring champion. He grew up in Philadelphia and could electrify fans with his high-flying dunks.
Bo Kimble (LMU) – A creative junior guard. Kimble grew up with Gathers in Philly. Together they powered LMU’s fast-paced offense.
Chris Jackson (LSU) – A skilled freshman guard. Jackson grew up in Louisiana and paired with Shaq using his shooting and ball-handling.
Stanley Roberts (LSU) – A 7-foot-1 center. Roberts joined Shaq down low to give LSU an intimidating inside game.
As a kid from the Philly area, I followed Bo and Hank. They were on a team that averaged 122 points a game going against two 7-footers. This is a match-up of players who would do some damage in the NBA.
The fast-paced, high-scoring matchup perfectly showcased the two teams’ contrasting styles. LMU and its star Hank Gathers were known for a run-and-gun approach, while the talented LSU squad led by freshman phenom Shaq took a more physical, dominating approach.
Gathers went off and put up an astounding 48 points for LMU. But Shaq’s LSU squad matched them basket for basket in an overtime thriller. O’Neal dominated inside with 29 points, 18 rebounds and even a couple assists. His dunks brought LSU fans to their feet every time. Other future NBA talents like LSU’s Chris Jackson (later Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf) and LMU’s Bo Kimble also shined bright.
The game ultimately came down to the wire, with LSU squeezing out a 148-141 win in OT. This was the last game I saw Hank Gathers play. What I consider the saddest moment in sports was when he collapsed and died on the court just weeks later, shocking the basketball world. His incredible talent and spirit were gone too soon at age 23.
Gathers’ legacy lives on, as does the legacy of this game – one of inspired, unforgettable basketball showcasing some of the sport’s biggest talents. For Shaq, Chris Jackson, and others NBA awaited. For the NCAA it was the golden age of scoring, players playing more than a year or two in college and the action was as good as the pros.