Sweet 61: Carr's tourney scoring record stands test of time
CLEVELAND (AP) Austin Carr never imagined his record would last five years. It has stood for 45.
''It's been that long?'' he said. ''Yeah, that does surprise me.''
On March 7, 1970, Carr, Notre Dame's unguardable guard, set the NCAA Tournament record by scoring 61 points in a 112-82 first-round win over Ohio in Dayton. Since then, Carr's massive mark has endured rule changes (there was no 3-pointer), the tournament's expansion and the madness of many a March.
On the list of seemingly ''unbreakable'' sports records - Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, Cal Ripken's 2,632-consecutive game streak, Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game come to mind- Carr's could elbow in for room near the top.
No one has challenged 61, just three fewer points than unbeaten Kentucky scored on Saturday in its win against Cincinnati. The closest threat was Navy's David Robinson, who scored 50 against Michigan in 1987.
Carr actually holds three of the top 5 scoring games in NCAA Tournament history. Following the win over Ohio, he scored 52 in a victory over Kentucky and had another 52-point performance the next year against TCU. The No. 1 overall draft pick in 1971 by Cleveland, Carr averaged an incredible 52.7 points in the 1970 tourney and his career tournament scoring average of 41.3 (seven games) is easily the highest. Princeton's Bill Bradley is next at 33.7.
For Carr, who spent nine of his 11 seasons in the NBA playing for the Cavaliers, the majestic 61 remains a source of pride.
''It's a good feeling to have the record,'' Carr said last week. ''But at the same time, I was always told records are made to be broken so I don't really get caught up in that. But I'm amazed that it has lasted that long.''
Maybe more amazing is what Carr would have done if there had been a 3-point line. While many of his baskets came off layups and short jumpers, he drained a few long-range shots.
''I was told by a guy who went back through and broke down the game that I would have scored 73,'' Carr said, smiling. ''I could have scored 73.''
Carr's record might be untouchable in today's game for several reasons.
First, teams play more sophisticated defenses designed to stop scorers - or at least slow them down.
Advancements in technology allow coaches to have advanced scouting reports on teams. The more film on a player, the easier it is to expose their flaws. Also, it's rare to find any college team who relies so heavily on one player to carry an offense. Carr averaged 38.1 points in 1970. For comparison's sake, Wisconsin All-American Frank Kaminsky averaged 18.4 this season for the Badgers.
''The style of game has changed where coaches now have three guys do what one guy did,'' said Carr, a longtime TV broadcaster for the Cavs.
The 6-foot-4 Carr, equally devastating inside and outside, knew early on he was in for a big game against the Bobcats. The Fighting Irish geared their offense around the unstoppable Carr and he had 20 points in the first nine minutes and 35 at halftime. Here's a reel of Carr's performance: https://youtu.be/ULXHcoutilw .
''The ball was flowing,'' Carr said. ''Most of my game was without the ball and Jackie Meehan, our point guard, he would get you the ball right where you could do something with it, and that night we were just clicking right away and the ball was feeling good going in and I just kept going.''
Carr made 25 of 44 shots from the field, 11 of 14 from the line.
With his team comfortably ahead late, Notre Dame coach Johnny Dee wanted to substitute for Carr at about the same time the All-American learned he was only a few points from breaking Bradley's tournament record of 58 points.
''I was about three or four points away from it and he said, `We've got the game won, I gotta get you out,''' Carr recalled. ''I said, `Welp, I guess I better try to get it then.'''
He got it, and the record could last another 45 years.
''I don't know if it's unbreakable,'' Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. ''It will be hard in a tournament game because you're playing against really good teams, probably really well coached. To get to 61 would be hard. You don't know who is going to come along next, who is going to be the next great player and have the opportunity to get hot. That's a pretty amazing record.
''And I was a big Notre Dame fan. So that was good to see.''