On January 19, 1974, the University of Notre Dame men’s basketball team defeats the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) 71-70, in South Bend, Indiana, snapping UCLA’s record-setting 88-game winning streak.
The Irish entered the game undefeated for the season and ranked No. 2 in the country. UCLA, coached by John Wooden and led by the future Hall of Fame center Bill Walton, held the No. 1 ranking. Despite injuring his back in a fall the previous week against Washington State, Walton played all 40 minutes of the game, wearing an elastic brace. He performed impressively, scoring 24 points and grabbing nine rebounds.
With three and a half minutes left in the game, the Irish were trailing by 11 points when they began an aggressive press that caught UCLA off guard. Notre Dame won the next 12 points, spurred by the play of center John Shumate (24 points), guard Gary Brokaw (25 points) and Dwight Clay, who scored the winning two points on a jump shot from the right corner, with 29 seconds remaining. When Walton missed a 12-foot shot in the final seconds, the game was over–as was UCLA’s long streak of wins. Many in the stunned crowd of 11,343 at Notre Dame’s Athletic and Convocation Center rushed onto the court to congratulate Coach Digger Phelps and the victorious players. “This was great for college basketball,” Phelps told the press. “I’m sure everyone was rooting for us the way they used to root against the New York Yankees.” It was the second big Irish upset that season, coming just three weeks after Notre Dame’s football team beat Alabama in a thrilling Sugar Bowl to gain the No. 1 spot.
The Irish played a pivotal role at several points in UCLA’s historic streak. The Bruins’ last loss had been on January 23, 1971, in South Bend. The previous year, the Bruins had broken the collegiate record for consecutive wins with their 61st straight victory–over Notre Dame. A week after their streak ended, the Walton Gang would get revenge, beating Phelps’ squad 94-75 in a return game at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles to regain the No. 1 ranking.