The No.1-seeded UCLA Bruins trailed the No. 8-seeded Missouri Tigers by 1 point and time wasn't on their side. Just as memories of those John Wooden-led UCLA Dynasties were officially fading to black, a diminutive point guard named Tyus Edney took the inbounds pass under his own basket, shook a defender with a blacktop-bred behind-the-back dribble, maneuvered into the lane and floated a shot over 6-foot-9-inch Derek Grimm. When it was said and done, Edney had taken the ball 94-feet in 4.7 seconds on some Usain Bolt-type action, and in one herculean effort lifted the proud University out of its basketball Dark Ages and back into the national spotlight.
Coaching icon John Wooden won 10 national titles in 12 seasons from 1964 to 1975, including seven straight from 1967 to 1973. UCLA went undefeated a record four times, in 1964, 1967, 1972, and 1973. It had been over two decades since UCLA visited Titletown, and a loss to Missouri would have prolonged that streak.
"I was in awe," said Edney, who is now director of basketball operations for the Bruins. Edney says the 2014, fourth-seeded Bruins remind him of his team that lost to Tulsa in the NCAA tournament’s opening round in ‘94, but rebounded to win the 1995 national championship. He sees a comparable mix of youth and O.G.’s, but most importantly, a group of players with boulders on their shoulders.
"There are similarities for sure," Edney told latimes.com prior to the Bruins’ opening March Madness win against the Golden Hurricane. "They're more confident in themselves now and they believe they can make a good run."
And with strong tournament runs comes improbable (some say lucky) moments like the ’95 team’s 75-74 victory against Missouri. It not only spared the Bruins the embarrassment of premature tournament evacuation, but it punched their ticket to Oakland, Calif., for the Sweet 16.
The 2014 Bruins will need a bit of magic on Thursday night, as they battle the tournament’s top-seeded Florida. UCLA has a sour history with the Gators, as Billy Donovan’s Dynasty knocked them out of the Final Four two-straight years in 2006 and 2007.
While Kyle Anderson and Jordan Adams are fine players, that ‘95 team had nothing but studs for ya honey. Point guard Edney was probably the least likely of all UCLA starters to be the offensive hero of the NCAA Tournament. Despite not playing much in the title game after a wrist injury suffered against Oklahoma State shut him down with 17:23 left in the first half—he’s still considered the most important part of that miracle season.
Jim Harrick’s Bruins also featured pure dopeness in the O’Bannon brothers (Ed and Charles), 7-foot Czech bruiser George Zideck, plus dynamic freshmen in sharp-shooter Toby Bailey and J. R. Henderson. Edney’s backup Cameron Dollar came off the pine and did his thizzle in Edney’s absence, playing 36 minutes, dishing eight assists and pick-pocketing four steals.
Here’s a list of NBA players on that 1995 Bruins squad:
UCLA lost just one game all season — 82-72 to Oregon on January 25th. Then the ghosts of UCLA lore kicked in and they ran off 26-straight wins en route to the school’s 11th NCAA Basketball Championship.
In the NCAA Tourney they smoked Florida International 92-56, then they almost got clipped by Missouri, but a fleet-footed buzzard that Missouri couldn’t swat stung the Tigers – shot up in em’, deadly venom.
Then UCLA dumped on Mississippi State (86-67) and won an Elite Eight shootout with Ray Allen’s UConn squad (102-96). Oklahoma State was no match for UCLA in the Final Four, losing 74-61.
Norm Richardson and his “40 Minutes of Hell” Arkansas Razorbacks were favored by most college basketball analysts to repeat, but UCLA was on such a roll at that point, not even the ‘72 Bruins could have stopped them. They completed the season with a sparkling 32-1 record. All-American Ed O’Bannon was “that dude” all season, so it was only right he scored 30 points, beasted 17 boards and garnered Most Outstanding Player props, as the Bruins dusted off the defending-champion Razorback's by a convincing 89-78 margin.
Edney’s shot, however, is a staple in anyone’s Big Dance Throwback Attack moments. It's the day Mighty Mouse stood on a court with Plastic Man, The Wonder Twins and the Incredible Hulk and proved to be a colossal titan.