1960 OHIO STATE
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Greatest College Basketball Teams: Spotlight 1960 Ohio State
The 1960 Ohio State Buckeyes basketball team went 25-3 and won the National Championship. The Buckeyes had four Hall of Famers, all in their second year. Second year coach Fred Taylor, sophomore starters Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek, and reserve sophomore forward Bobby Knight. Havlicek later said, “As sophomores, we really didn’t fear anything. We just went out and played as hard as we could.”
In 1959, Taylor’s first year coaching Ohio State’s varsity team, the Buckeyes were a mediocre 11-11. The Buckeyes gave up 80 or more points 11 times in 22 games. In the off-season, Taylor went to a defensive coaching clinic run by Pete Newell, coach of the California Golden Bears. The clinic paid off. In 1960, the Buckeyes gave up 80 or more points only six times in 28 games.
The star of the 1960 Buckeyes was sophomore center Jerry Lucas. Lucas led Middletown High School to a 76-game winning streak and two Ohio state championships. He was a three-time national high school All American and twice national high school player of the year. Lucas broke Wilt Chamberlain’s high school scoring record his senior year. A great student and leader as well as a great athlete, Lucas was president of his senior class.
Lucas was recruited by over 150 colleges. Adolph Rupp, the legendary Kentucky coach came to Middletown to recruit him. In the end, Lucas chose Ohio State. Although Ohio State did not have much of a reputation as a basketball school, Lucas claimed he chose Ohio State because then freshman coach Fred Taylor was the only recruiter that had stressed the importance of getting an education. After recruiting Lucas, Taylor was promoted to coach the varsity team.
In 1960, Lucas averaged 26.3 points and 16.4 rebounds per game. Lucas led the nation in shooting percentage by shooting 63.7 percent from the floor. The second best field goal shooter in 1960 shot only 57.6 percent. He was named an All-American for the first of three consecutive years and was named the most outstanding player of the NCAA tournament for the first of two consecutive years.
Lucas holds several Ohio State records, including best single season shooting percentage, best career shooting percentage, most career rebounds, and first, second and third most rebounds in a season. Lucas was not only a great scorer and rebounder, but a great passer. Pete Newell, California’s coach called Lucas “the most unselfish player that ever played.”
Teammate Bobby Knight said, after coaching in the Big Ten for years, that Lucas was “the best player that I’ve ever seen in the Big Ten.” Most experts agree. Wilt Chamberlain said Lucas was “the toughest player I ever played against.”
Lucas was on the gold-medal-winning 1960 USA Olympic basketball team. In the NBA, Lucas was a six time all star and won the NBA Championship with the 1973 New York Knicks.
Sophomore forward John Havlicek averaged 12.2 points and 7.3 rebounds for the Buckeyes in 1960. Havlicek was a three sport star at Bridgeport High School in Bridgeport, Ohio. Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes recruited Havlicek to play quarterback for the Buckeyes, but his mother didn’t want him to play football. He ended up accepting a scholarship to play basketball instead.
Havlicek started all three years he was on the varsity team and was an All American as a senior in 1962. In the NBA, Havlicek was a 13-time all star and won eight championships with the Boston Celtics. Havlicek is the Celtics all-time scoring leader and he is considered one of the best defensive players to ever play the game.
Junior guard Larry Siegfried averaged 13.3 points and 3.8 rebounds for the Buckeyes in 1960. He was co-captain of the team. He was the first round draft pick of the NBA’s Cincinnati Royals. He went on to start for the Boston Celtics and win five NBA championships there. A great free throw shooter, Siegfried twice led the NBA in free throw percentage.
Sophomore guard Mel Nowell averaged 13.1 points and 2.6 rebounds for the Buckeyes in 1960. He was a star player at Columbus East High School in Columbus, Ohio. His senior year, Nowell was considered the second best player in the state of Ohio behind Jerry Lucas. Spurning scholarship offers for numerous schools, Nowell opted to follow Lucas to Ohio State.
Nowell was quick and had a great outside shot. He played for the Chicago Zephyrs in the NBA.
Senior forward Joe Roberts averaged 11 points and 6.9 rebounds for the Buckeyes in 1960. Roberts, like Nowell, had been a star at Columbus East High School. Roberts was drafted in the third round of the NBA draft by the Syracuse Nationals and had a brief NBA career as a reserve forward.
Sophomore reserve forward Bobby Knight didn’t play much for the Buckeyes in 1960, averaging just 3.7 points and 2 rebounds per game. John Havlicek said of Knight: “He wasn’t the quickest man on foot, but defensively he played hard. When you got fouled by Bobby, you knew you had been fouled.” After graduating, Knight went on to a much more impressive career as a coach. Knight coached at Army, Indiana and Texas Tech, amassing more wins than any other coach in college basketball history. Knight coached Indiana to three NCAA Championships and coached the 1984 USA Olympic team to a gold medal.
The Buckeyes started the 1960 season well. They won their first six games in a row before falling to Utah on December 21, 97-92. After winning on the road against BYU on December 22, the Buckeyes lost at #13 Kentucky on December 28, 96-93.
After the Kentucky game, the Buckeyes had back-to-back home games against #8 Illinois and #11 Indiana (who had pounded the Buckeyes 122-92 on the Buckeyes’ home court the year before). On January 4, the Buckeyes defeated Illinois 97-73. Five days later, they defeated Indiana 96-95.
The Buckeyes rolled the rest of the season until the rematch on the road against Indiana on February 29. Indiana beat the Buckeyes 99-83. The loss to Indiana was the only one the Buckeyes suffered in the Big Ten, as they easily won the Big Ten championship with a 13-1 record.
In the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State dominated. They won every game by more than 15 points. In the first game against Western Kentucky, Jerry Lucas scored 36 and the Buckeyes rolled 98-79. Next, the Buckeyes dismantled #13 Georgia Tech 86-69. In the Final Four, the Buckeyes crushed #12 NYU, 76-54.
In the finals, Fred Taylor and the #3 Buckeyes faced his defensive teacher, Pete Newell and the #2 California Golden Bears. The Buckeyes led the nation in scoring offense with 90.4 per game and the Golden Bears led the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 49.5 per game.
Ohio State completely dominated the first half of the game, 37-19. The Buckeyes shot 16 of 19 from the field and shut down the Golden Bears with great defense. At halftime, Newell told his players they needed to get more defensive rebounds. Center Darrall Imhoff answered, “Coach, there have only been three, and I got all of them.”
California made a comeback run at the start of the second half, but faded and lost the game 75-55. “We had a defensive plan,” Newell said, “but they beat us with their quickness, especially Mel Nowell.” The Buckeyes wound up shooting 67 percent against the best defensive team in the nation (in an era when the average team shot less than 40 percent). Five players finished in double digits.
Lucas led all scorers with 16 points and all rebounders with 10. He was named most outstanding player of the tournament. Mel Nowell, who scored 15 in the final game, was also named to the all-tournament team.
Name Pos Class Pts Reb
Jerry Lucas C SO 26.3 16.4
Larry Siegfried G JR 13.3 3.8
Mel Nowell G JR 13.1 2.6
John Havlicek F JR 12.2 7.3
Joe Roberts F JR 11.0 6.9
Dick Furry F/C SR 5.1 3.3
Bob Knight F SO 3.7 2.0
Howard Nourse C SO 3.1 2.7
Gary Gearhart G SR 2.6 1.2
Richie Hoyt G SO 2.5 0.8
How would the 1960 Ohio State Buckeyes do against the teams of today? How would they handle the shot clock and the three pointer?
With three first round NBA draft picks, two NBA all stars and five starters that played in the NBA, there is no doubt that the 1960 Ohio State Buckeyes would be a force to be reckoned with even today. Jerry Lucas is still considered by many to be the best player ever to play in the Big Ten. At 6’8”, Lucas would still be big enough to play power forward or even center. Lucas was an outstanding outside shooter and could force opposing big men to have to come out and cover him from behind the three point line. Although only 6’5”, John Havlicek’s hustle and excellent outside shooting would make him an outstanding college swingman and dangerous three-point threat today. Mel Nowell was another great outside shooter. He was also very quick and could take opposing players to the basket one-on-one. Larry Siegfried was a great scorer in college, averaging nearly 20 points per game the season before the talented sophomore trio of Lucas, Havlicek and Nowell arrived. With the three-pointer, this great outside shooting team would probably be even more effective offensively today than it was in 1960. Defensively, Havlicek and Siegfried were both known in the NBA for their great defense. In college, Nowell was considered the best defensive player on the team. Given that the Buckeyes scored more than 90 points per game, the shot clock probably wouldn’t give them any trouble.
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