Archive for Saturday, February 16, 2008

Miracles no slouches

Supporting cast full of good players

February 16, 2008


Two NCAA men's basketball championships. One common denominator.

Both of Kansas University's national-title teams were regarded as one-man shows - uncannily similar tours de force by Clyde Lovellette in 1952 and Danny Manning in 1988.

Lovellette had 33 points and 17 rebounds in the '52 title game. Manning had 31 points and 18 boards in the '88 championship contest. Both men were listed at 6-foot-10 and 230 pounds. Both were named college basketball player of the year.

Ah, but there was one notable difference. Nobody ever called the '52 champs "Clyde and the Miracles."

Lovellette's supporting cast never has been diminished by insinuating they were just along for the ride. To this day, '52 Jayhawks such as Bill Lienhard, Bill Hougland, Dean Kelley, Bob Kenney and Charlie Hoag never have been regarded as Clyde's caddies.

Now, after 20 years, it's a shame the men who played with Manning are stuck with that Miracles nickname because it carries the connotation they were just a bunch of bodies fortunate to have Manning as a teammate.

Well, I'm here to tell you there was nothing miraculous about the Miracles. They could play. More important, those guys could shoot, and, hey, isn't that what the game is all about?

As a team, Kansas missed only 20 shots in its stunning 83-79 championship victory over Oklahoma, a team that had defeated it twice during the regular season, and 11 of those misses were Manning's.

In other words, the other Jayhawks who scored - and there were eight Miracles who did - missed only nine shots combined. That's right. Just nine. The Miracles made 22 of 31 shots.

Here's a breakdown:

¢ Milt Newton - Junior wing player made all six of his attempts and finished with 15 points.

¢ Kevin Pritchard - Sophomore point guard made six of seven shots and finished with 13 points.

¢ Chris Piper - Fifth-year senior who manned double post with Manning was 4-for-6 for eight points.

¢ Clint Normore - Senior guard, a defensive back on the football team who joined roster at midseason, was 3-for-3 off the bench with a three-pointer for seven points.

¢ Lincoln Minor - Junior back-up point guard was 1-for-4 and finished with four points.

¢ Keith Harris - Sophomore reserve was 1-for-1 for two points.

¢ Jeff Gueldner - Sophomore starter was 1-for-2 for two points.

¢ Scooter Barry - Junior reserve was 0-for-2, but had a free throw for one point.

That sizzling shooting by the Miracles wasn't an anomaly, either. It was not a serendipitous one-game fluke because in its 38 games that season, the Jayhawks shot 52.1 percent as a team. This year's KU outfit, certainly one of the most talented in school history, is shooting around 51 percent.

OK, the Miracles could shoot. But could they play defense? Of course they could. You didn't play for Larry Brown if you were one-dimensional.

In retrospect, perhaps the most overlooked stat from that stunning victory over Oklahoma was the steals. Manning's 31 points and 18 rebounds overshadowed the fact he also had five thefts. Piper added three. Steals are a category dominated by guards, yet KU's two big men combined for eight of them.

The history books will always call them Danny and the Miracles, but they were really Danny and the Darned Good Players.


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