In the 2018 national championship game, Villanova's Donte DiVincenzo scored 31 points off the bench to lead the Wildcats to their second title in three years. But he doesn't crack the Top 5 highest-scoring performances in championship game history.
Maybe it’s because DiVincenzo didn’t play for UCLA. Three of the top five highest-scoring championship game performances come from UCLA, between 1965 and 1973. That shouldn’t be surprising. The Bruins won eight of the nine national championships in that period. In the history of college basketball, only four teams have played in 10 or more championships — North Carolina (11), Duke (11), Kentucky (12), and UCLA (12). So it’s safe to say the Bruins have had a lot of opportunities to rack up points.
Here’s each of the five highest performances.
5. John Morton (Seton Hall) — 35
1989 vs. Michigan
Morton is the only one of the five players on this list to lose, but the senior guard did everything he could to prevent that. Morton scored 25 points in the second half, including 17 of Seton Hall’s last 20. His 3-pointer over Glen Rice with 25 seconds left sent the game to overtime, where the Wolverines outscored the Pirates 9-8.
4. Lew Alcindor (UCLA) — 37
1969 vs. Purdue
Only five players have ever pulled in at least 20 rebounds in a national championship game. Only one of them has done so while scoring 30 points — Lew Alcindor. Oh, and Alcindor did so while shooting an impressive 15-for-20 from the field. During the 1968-69 season, Alcindor averaged 24 points and 14.7 rebounds per game. In the 1969 NCAA tournament, he put up 95 points and 64 rebounds in just four games (an average of 23.8 points, 16 rebounds) as the Bruins picked up their third title in a row, earning the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player honors for the third straight year.
3. Jack Givens (Kentucky) — 41
1978 vs. Duke
Through the first half of the 1978 championship game, Givens was on track to be No. 1 on this list. The senior forward scored Kentucky’s last 16 points in the half for a total of 23 points as the Wildcats held a 7-point lead. His 18 more in the second half helped lock down Kentucky’s first title in 20 years. Givens finished 18-for-27 from the field and 5-for-8 from the free throw line. After the game, Kentucky coach Joe Hall explained how Givens got so many good looks:
“(Former Oklahoma State coach) Hank Iba once told me never to spread your defense from baseline to midcourt because you would leave a big gap in there around the foul line,” Hall told the New York Times. “Duke was coming out and attacking our guards and we flashed Jack (Givens) in on the post. We went to that almost exclusively.”
2. Gail Goodrich (UCLA) — 42
1965 vs. Michigan
Goodrich may have one of the best NCAA tournament runs of any player, ever. In 1965, Goodrich, averaged 24.8 points for a Bruins team that finished 28-2 and won its second championship in a row. In the four games that tournament, Goodrich put up 40 points, 30 points, 28 points, and finally 42 points in the title game. That’s a ludicrous average of 35 a game. The 42 points in a 91-80 win against Michigan came from a .545 field goal percentage, and an eye-raising 18-for-20 performance on the free throw line.
1. Bill Walton (UCLA) — 44
1973 vs. Memphis State
Scoring 44 points in an NCAA championship game? Ridiculously impressive. Doing so while shooting 21-for-22 from the field? That must be a typo. And in fact, it turns out that is slightly wrong. Walton was unofficially 25-for-26 from the field, as four baskets were disallowed due to the no-dunking rule. Sheesh.
If that weren’t enough, Walton accomplished all that after starting the second half with three fouls and picking up his fourth midway through the period.
Either way, the total propelled UCLA to its 75th straight victory and seventh championship in a row.
“We couldn't contain Walton,” Memphis State coach Gene Bartow told the New York Times. “I've never seen a player so dominating as Walton.”