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John Wooden against Princeton.

Shortly after the news broke last night that legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden had passed away at the age of 99, I received a note from a reader asking if Princeton had ever played against a Wooden-coached team.

The Tigers faced UCLA twice during Wooden's incredible run, the initial meeting in 1968 when Princeton's first undefeated Ivy League champs fell 83-67 to the 29-1 eventual national champions in the first round of Saint John's annual Holiday Festival tournament at Madison Square Garden.

Lew Alcindor scored 40 points matched up against Chris Thomforde in UCLA's 23rd straight win. The next day Princeton was crushed by previously unbeaten North Carolina, 103-76 in the tournament's consolation game.

One year later, on December 28. 1969, the Tigers traveled to Pauley Pavilion for the Bruin Basketball Classic and a game that was nearly the program's biggest victory.

On the tournament's first day of action, UCLA had defeated Georgia Tech 121-90 and Princeton got by Indiana 82-76 to set up the schools' second meeting in as many seasons.

In the Tigers' victory over the Hoosiers, John Hummer tallied 32 and Geoff Petrie added 31. The rest of the Tiger lineup totalled 19.

UCLA (6-0) by this point had won an astounding 99 of their previous 101 contests and were ranked second in the nation, but the Bruins found themselves down 16-8 after five-and-a-half minutes.

The Bruins went up one at the break, but six minutes into the second half Princeton held a 53-47 lead. This advantage was 71-65 with just over three minutes left in regulation.

Reggie Bird with the ball.

UCLA answered with a 9-2 run, until a John Hummer lay-in with 15 seconds left put Princeton up one, and Wooden called time out with eight seconds showing.

Sidney Wicks' left corner jump shot with three seconds remaining allowed UCLA to escape with the one point win.

Geoff Petrie scored a game-high 28 points and Hummer added 25 for Princeton in defeat.

Asked in 2007 about his team's 50-49 NCAA tournament loss to Georgetown, Pete Carril said "We played some games much better than that one. That one got a whole lot more recognition for that one than for some others. We played UCLA out there once when they were No. 1. We lost by one at the buzzer. We were ahead the whole time. Nobody ever really talks too much about that one."

Perhaps now they will.

Come March, the Bruins would win their sixth national title under Wooden, while Princeton would finish the season 16-9 and 9-5 in the Ivy League behind Top 25 Penn and Columbia squads.

Alberta Sargeant said,

June 5, 2010 @ 11:25 am

Our family had a close personal connection to Coach and his family. He was a dominant influence in Matt's life, both on and off the court. We celebrate his glorious life today, but feel the pain of this loss, not only to us, but to the world. We are so happy to think of him reunited with his beloved Nell. Thank you Coach for all you gave to our family. We love you. R.I.P.

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