OTD: Phi Slama Jama Beats UVA In Final Four

On this day in 1984, the Houston Cougars outlasted Virginia 49-47 in overtime to advance to their second-straight national title game. The weekend at the Kingdome in Seattle was Guy V. Lewis’ 5th Final Four.

“I don’t think you ever get over the thrill of the Final Four,” Guy V. said at the time. “But this year there wasn’t as much hype at the University of Houston. I wanted it that way. There were no pep rallies because I wanted it that way. Instead of being happy to be here, our attitude was, ‘By golly, I want to win it.'”

The Cougars (32-4) had run through the SWC schedule once again and won the league and tournament titles. In fact, from February 1, 1982, until the end of 1984, the Cougars went 44-2 in the Southwest Conference.

The day before the game, Michael Young’s brother, James Earl Young, had been injured in a shooting. But Michael did not learn about the incident until just after the UH win over the Cavaliers. Young left the Kingdome before the team’s postgame press conference.

The wounds to James were superficial and he was not seriously injured.

Cougars 49, Cavaliers 47

The Cougar starters – Young, Akeem Olajuwon, Alvin Franklin, Reid Gettys, and Rickie Winslow – played 224 of the 225 possible minutes. Young led all scorers with 17 points while Akeem had 12 and 11 boards to go along with 5 blocks.

Alvin Franklin had 7 assists and Reid Gettys had six. Both finished with 6 points. Young hit five of his first 8 shots and the Coogs led 14-4 early on.

Michael Young over UVA’s Kenton Edelin / The Houstonian Yearbook

But UVA slowed the game to a crawl, employing a four-man sag to keep Akeem in check. Every time Olajuwon touched the ball, four men would crash towards him. The strategy worked: the big man took just five shots and had 8 turnovers.

Virginia defenders surround Akeem

“They made up their minds that Akeem wouldn’t beat them,” Lewis said.

UH had played Virginia exactly 6 weeks before, a 74-65 Cougar win. The game had become a national story after Akeem elbowed Cavs freshman Olden Polynice, knocking him out of the game. Olajuwon got away with it but “The Elbow” became a topic of conversation in the week leading up to the Final Four.

“I remember about the elbow,” Olajuwon said. “I was very disappointed in myself. But I was frustrated the way he was fouling me around, pushing me on the back.

“There will be none of that this game.”

Akeem rebounds over UVA players. He led the country in rebounding in 1984. / The Houstonian

Leading by two, Franklin turned the ball over with 29 seconds left. Virginia tied it up at 43 before Akeem traveled on the next possession. But as UVA attempted to win it, Olajuwon stepped out toward the baseline and force an errant pass. Turnover with two seconds left. Young got off a desperation attempt that missed and the game went to OT.

It was the first OT for the Coogs since the game at SMU in 1982. Guy V. said that he felt his players were “a little dejected” having to go into OT with a team they felt they should beat.

In OT, the game moved at a slow pace again until Young scored off an inbounds from Gettys. 47-45. A minute later, Rickie Winslow followed an Akeem miss with a dunk and it was 49-45.

UVA hit two foul shots to get within two before Mike Young missed a FT to give the Hoos a chance. But when Virginia PG Othell Wilson tried to drive the lane, Akeem tipped it out to Young who got it to Franklin up the court. The Cougars had survived.

It was the only time in Phi Slama Jama’s run that Guy V.’s team was held under 50 points but the 32nd win was a school record (that stood for 35 years until the 2019 team surpassed it).

The UVA win in OT was the last win in the magical three-year run of Phi Slama Jama.

Houston advances to national title game / Washington Post

Box Score

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PlayerFG/FGA (FG%)ReboundsAssistsBlocksPoints
Michael Young8/16 (.500)71017
Akeem Olajuwon4/5 (.800)111512
Alvin Franklin2/7 (.286)4706
Reid Gettys3/7 (.429)3606
Rickie Winslow4/7 (.571)7018
Eric Dickens0/00000
Marvin Alexander0/00000
TOTALS:21/42 (.500)3215.649