Many memories were tickled last week when Northern Iowa’s Paul Jesperson went U.S. Reed on Texas.
It brought back that amazing Saturday in 1981 in the Midwest Regional at Austin, Texas, when U.S. Reed went "U.S. Reed" on Louisville.
Jesperson’s beyond halfcourt shot to beat the Longhorns was the signature, "Oh My Gosh" moment of Friday’s edition of March Madness.
Google U.S. Reed. His beyond halfcourt shot (eerily similar and close to the same spot as Jesperson’s) to beat Louisville 35 years ago helped create the spectacle that is March Madness.
I’ll never forget Reed’s shot. I was on press row just a few feet away.
The opponent was a vintage Louisivlle team under coach Denny Crum. The Cardinals’ Derek Smith had just scored from the lane with under 6 seconds left to give the Cards a one-point lead. No 3-point shot in those days.
Coach Eddie Sutton took a timeout and Reed later said that the coach told him he was going to win the game. Reed later noted that he had practiced some long-distance shots in warm ups, telling teammates they might need something like that.
Reed took the inbounds pass and sped upcourt and heaved.
As the ball left his hand, I told a colleague next to me "that sucker has a chance to go in ... holy cow ... it did."
Pandemonium as fans swarmed the court. Crazy celebration.
I had never seen anything like it in that situation.
One of the great scenes was the late Texas coach Abe Lemons, colorful, brash and sometimes intense rival of Sutton and the Razorbacks in the old Southwest Conference, standing outside of the Arkansas locker room, calling the Hogs. "I’ve seen that kind of thing before," he proclaimed noting Reed had hit a buzzer-beater to defeat his team during the regular season.
Reed’s shot was one of three buzzer-beaters within minutes of each other as underdogs defeated higher seeds in regions across the country that day. That was the when sportscaster Brent Musburger began using the term "March Madness," now a staple in the sports vocabulary. The consecutive buzzer-beaters established the foundation of the ongoing drama, anticipation and excitement that marks the NCAA tournament, and especially the opening rounds, as possibly the greatest and exciting sports spectacles on the calendar. Now, we are conditioned to expect the unexpected.
Last weekend, Reed told Jon Solomon of CBSsports.com that "A friend of mine texted me and said, ‘The U.S. Reed shot,’ "I said, ‘No, mine was all net. (Jesperson banked his in)’ Usually when a shot like that happens, the phone is going to be ringing, and for 30-some years, the phone is ringing every March. That’s been my life ever since that shot."
"One woman said she was having a baby and thought they were cheering for the baby in the hospital, and they were cheering for the game," Reed told Solomon. "You hear stories like at the race track in Hot Springs, Arkansas, they let the horses out, the fans erupted, and it spooked the horses. The stories are the greatest thing. It truly is March Madness."
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or email@example.com)