Golden Basketball Magazine
Season in Time: CCNY 1949-50 - III
Fresh off their stunning victory in the National Invitational Tournament in their hometown, the City College of New York Beavers entered the NCAA Tournament, which in 1950 was held after the NIT and was not considered as prestigious as the NIT.
  • The NCAA was a regional tournament consisting of just eight schools. The four eastern teams competed in one bracket while the four western teams slugged in out in the other.
  • CCNY lucked out in that the eastern semifinals were played at Madison Square Garden. The top-seeded Beavers faced #8 Ohio State, the Big Ten champions, in the opener before #4 Holy Cross and #5 North Carolina State squared off in the nightcap.
The Buckeyes prided themselves on playing sound, fundamental basketball.
  • Coach Tippy Dye's team compiled a 21-3 record, the losses coming to DePaul in the first game of the season, Bradley, the team that City defeated in the NIT finals, and Illinois on January 21. OSU closed the season by winning their last 12 games.
  • The undisputed star of the team was 6-5 All-American F Dick Schnittker, who averaged 21.3ppg shooting with either hand. The next closest scorer was another future NBA player, 6-3 F Robert Donham, at 12.8ppg.
  • The Buckeyes employed a tight zone defense, clogging the middle to prevent opponents from driving to the basket - a CCNY staple.
  • Offensively, OSU used the fast break to put pressure on the defense.

L-R: OSU Coach Tippy Dye; Dick Schnittker, Robert Donham
CCNY and OSU traded baskets through most of the first half, which ended 40 all.
  • When his Beavers opened a three-point lead early in the second half, Coach Nat Holman told his men to hold the ball to force the Buckeyes out of their zone defense and open up the lane.
  • When Coach Dye didn't take the bait, nothing happened for five minutes of playing time.
  • Finally, City began shooting over the zone, and the pace quickened.
  • Floyd Layne and Norm Mager, neither known for their outside shooting, hit seven baskets each to lead CCNY with 17 and 16 points respectively.

Still, the Buckeyes stayed close and trailed by only two when Holman tried to take advantage of a rules change that was hardly ever used.

  • The rule permitted a team that was fouled in the last two minutes of the game to keep possession of the ball after shooting a free throw whether the shot was made or missed.
  • But this ploy failed also. Irwin Dambrot passed to C Ed Warner, who was all alone under the basket. He could have made an easy layup to extend the lead to four points, or he could have brought the ball back outside to continue the free. Confused, he did neither and was called for a three seconds in the lane violation.
  • However, State could not take advantage of the blooper, missing their attempt at a tying basket. CCNY rebounded and held the ball again until the clock ticked under 20 seconds.
  • That's when another miscue almost cost the Beavers the game. Ed Roman drove to the basket but was called for charging. Bob Burkholder made the free throw to make the score 56-55, and now OSU could employ the very rule that Holman planned to use against them.
  • Schnittker, who tallied 26 points, and Donham had both fouled out. So Jim Remington was tagged to take the last shot. But he could not work free and tossed up a desperation shot with five seconds left. CCNY G Alvin Roth rebounded the ball and held it until the buzzer mercifully sounded.

OSU's Fred Taylor fights for a rebound.
City's next opponent two nights later was North Carolina State.
  • The Wolfpack had scored an amazing 87 points in defeating Holy Cross and their star G Bob Cousy by 13 points.
  • State's Sam Ranzino set an NCAA scoring record with 32 points. Dick Dickey added 25.
  • Everett Case's Southern Conference champions were a "run and gun" team long before that term was coined.

L-R: Sam Ranzino, Dick Dickey, Everett Case
It just wouldn't be a CCNY game if it didn't keep the sellout crowd of 18,000 on the edge of their seats to the final horn.
  • The lead changed hands 12 times and the score was tied 15 times. Al Roth's tap-in just before the halftime buzzer gave CCNY a 38-37 lead.
  • State twice fell behind by seven points in the second half but rallied each time. Ranzino was a one-man team for the first ten minutes, scoring all of State's 16 points during that period before the Beavers finally bottled him up.
  • With five minutes left, Dick Dickey of the Wolfpack missed a free throw that would have tied the game at 66. At the two minute mark, the Beavers led 72-69. Then "a sensational one-hander by Dickey while on the dead run" again brought the Wolfpack within one. He was fouled but again missed the charity toss.
  • Ed Warner drove for a left-handed layup, and Floyd Layne added a free throw to make it 75-71. But Bob Cook sank a long shot to cut the lead in half with 30 seconds to play. When the pesky Dickey intercepted a long pass, the partisan crowd groaned. But with a chance to tie, Vic Bubas charged into Layne, and "the slim Negro" (to quote the United Press article) converted the free throw to make it 76-73 - a two score lead in those days before the three-point shot. Dickey committed his fifth foul with 50 seconds left - the third State player to be disqualified along with two from City. When State missed a shot, Warner got loose in the pivot for an easy lay in, this one with his right hand, to sew it up with 10 seconds left.
As luck would have it, CCNY's opponent in the NCAA finals was the same team they defeated for the NIT crown.
  • Ironically, Bradley had been the last team selected for an NCAA berth. The Braves were tied with Kansas in District Five, but the playoff game was postponed to allow Bradley to compete in the NIT.
  • So the day after its heartbreaking loss to CCNY, the Braves flew to Kansas City to face a strong Kansas team led by 6'9" Clyde Lovellette. Bradley eked out a hard-fought 59-57 decision to win a spot in the NCAA western regionals.
  • Battling fatigue, the Braves came from behind in the second half to top UCLA 73-59. The regional final was even closer, Baylor falling 68-66.
Previous results did not bode well for City to complete the "grand slam" of winning both the NIT and NCAA championships.
  • Four times in the last ten years, the NIT winner also competed in the NCAA tournament, but none of them made it to the NCAA finals that same year.
  • Nevertheless, Coach Holman was confident. "The team just seemed to arrive in the Kentucky game during the Invitation. I don't think they have been lucky, and I don't think they've been just hot. They simply found themselves."

So ten days after meeting for the NIT championship, the Beavers and Braves faced off again in the same location - Madison Square Garden, which was, in effect, City's home court. This game would be closer than the 69-61 NIT final.

  • City fans filled the Garden long before tipoff, chanting their war cry: "Allagaroo, garoo, garah; Allagaroo, garoo, garah; Ee-yah, Ee-yah, Sis, Boom, Bah." The din would continue throughout the contest.
  • The crowd anticipated another individual matchup between Dambrot, the only senior on City's all-New York City starting five, and Bradley's high scorer, All-American Paul Unruh. Dambrot had held him to 15 in the NIT game.

    Al Roth tries to shoot over Billy Mann.
Bradley switched tactics from the first meeting.
  • They played man-to-man the last time they met City but now used a zone defense to neutralize the Beavers' speed. Like Ohio State, Bradley hoped to stop CCNY from driving to the basket.
  • Holman countered by having his team fast break after a defensive rebound to beat the Braves to the other end of the court before they could set up their defense.
  • Ed Roman, playing outside to spread the zone wide, scored 12 points in the first 12 minutes on six long shots. That helped City lead throughout the half, which ended 39-32.
  • Bradley switched back to man-to-man the second half, but the Beavers utilized their running game to stretch the lead to ten midway through the final 20 minutes.
  • The Braves went to a full-court press that seemed to wear City down. To make matters worse, Roman fouled out with nine minutes left. The lead dwindled to five with two minutes to go.
  • Gene Melchiorre stole a pass and made an uncontested layup to pull to within 66-63. But City scored the next three points on a Mager free throw and Dambrot's field goal with 57 seconds remaining.
  • Bradley didn't go down without a fight, unleashing a withering press. Joe Stowell made a foul shot, then Melchiorre struck again, picking up a loose ball and laying in the tying basket to make 69-66. Then he intercepted a pass and made another layup. 69-68 with 40 seconds on the clock.
  • Unbelievably, Gene did it again, but this time a defender blocked his path to the goal. So he pulled up at the foul line for a short jumper to take the lead. But the much taller Dambrot blocked the shot and grabbed the ball. Irwin then fired the ball to his fellow senior, Mager, who laid the ball in the basket with 10 seconds to go to seal the victory.
  • City's beautiful balance was evident in the scoring totals. Dambrot, voted the MVP of the finals, led with 15. Mager and Warner were next with 14 apiece. Roman finished with the 12 he scored in the first half, and Layne had 11.
  • Melchiorre's late heroics made him the game's top scorer with 16, but Unruh, held down by Dambrot again, canned only eight.

The Beavers were the toast of the college basketball world after becoming the first team to win the NIT and NCAA tournaments in the same season. But their euphoria would not last long.

Coach Holman carried off the court by the jubilant Beavers.
To be continued ...

Reference: The Game They Played: The True Story of the Point-Shaving Scandal That Destroyed One of College Basketball's Great Teams, Stanley Cohen (2001)

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