LOS ANGELES — The last time the Wichita State was on the brink of a Final Four, in 1981, it was the Shockers against the world.
Or at least against LSU, which might as well have been the world considering the Elite Eight game took place in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans with thousands and thousands of party-down Tiger fans dancing in the aisles.
That hostile atmosphere was too much for WSU, playing on tired legs and emotionally spent after squeaking out a 66-65 win over Kansas in the Sweet 16 two nights earlier.
You might have heard of that game. Some Shocker fans still wear T-shirts commemorating one of the most famous wins in Wichita State basketball history.
But it was a beaten-up team that took the floor on a Sunday afternoon against LSU, which had lost three games and ran off 26 straight victories from late November through early March before losing by two points to Kentucky in the final SEC game of the season.
LSU was led by its five starters – Rudy Macklin, Greg Cook, Leonard Mitchell, Ethan Martin and Howard Carter. They were big, strong and athletic and the Shockers – even with the likes of Antoine Carr, Cliff Levingston, Tony Martin and others – couldn’t keep up.
Carr (6-foot-9) and Levingston (6-8) were nicknamed the Bookends.
LSU shot almost 64 percent, built a 48-33 halftime lead and won 96-85 in a game that never got close enough to cause the Tigers any stress.
That Shocker team, coached by Gene Smithson, finished 26-7 with three players – Carr, Levingston and Ozell Jones – who played in the NBA. All three were sophomores, but NCAA violations kept the Shockers out of the tourney in 1982 and 1983.
Carr and Levingston combined for 41 points in the loss to LSU, while guard Randy Smithson added 18. Wichita State shot 50.7 percent with Carr, Levingston and Smithson combining to make 25 of 36 shots.
Stopping LSU was the problem.
All five starters scored in double figures, led by Macklin’s 21 points to go with 10 rebounds.