Today in 1961, the Houston Cougars beat #2 Bradley at Sam Houston Coliseum, 60-59. UH’s Jim Lemmon, a senior from Wood River, Illinois, 150 miles north of the Bradley campus, hit a free throw with 35 seconds left to play to win it.
It was the second-straight year that a second-ranked Braves team came to Houston and lost. Just 11 months earlier, UH had beaten #2 Bradley, 63-58. From the start of the 1959-60 season, Bradley won 36 of 39 games, including an NIT championship, but two of the three losses were to Houston. The Cougars and Braves had been Missouri Valley Conference rivals but the 1960-61 season was UH’s first as an independent.
In the 1961 game, Bradley’s Tim Robinson scored 22 points in the first half and the Braves led 39-29 at the break. At halftime, Guy V. Lewis moved Gary Phillips over to guard Robinson. It worked: Phillips held the big man to just two points in the second half.
On the other end of the floor, the offense got it going. Tommy Thomson hit three quick buckets, leading the Coogs on a 12-3 run that cut the lead to one with 15 minutes to play. The teams traded baskets for the next eight minutes before Ted Luckenbill sank a free throw to tie it at 58. Lemmon hit a free throw seconds later to give UH their first lead of the game, but Bradley’s Al Saunders tied it at the line with 5:35 left.
UH played keep-away for the next four minutes until Bradley forced a jump ball with 90 seconds left. After a Brave turnover, Lemmon had two free throws, making the second for a 60-59 lead. The “Big Red,” as UH fans called their team at the time, held on for the win. Luckenbill (14 points), Phillips (13), and Thompson (13) led the Coogs in scoring.
The Cougar win snapped Bradley’s 13-game winning streak that began right after UH’s 1960 win. The 1960 game had broken a 15-game Bradley winning streak.
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