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1957 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship Game: Wikis


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1957 NCAA Tournament Championship Game
National Championship Game
1 2 OT 2OT 3OT Total
North Carolina 29 17 2 0 6 54
Kansas 22 24 2 0 5 53
Date March 23
Arena Municipal Auditorium
Location Kansas City, MO
Referee Conway & Anderson[1]
Attendance 7,778[1]

The 1957 NCAA Basketball Championship Game featured Wilt Chamberlain and the Kansas Jayhawks against the undefeated North Carolina Tar Heels. The game went into triple-overtime, the only championship game to have ever done so[2], leading many pundits to call it one of, if not the best college basketball game of all time.[3][4][5]



Wilt Chamberlain was the high scorer with 23 points and eventual 1957 Tournament MOP.

Even though the Tar Heels were undefeated and ranked number 1 in the nation, Kansas entered the game as a 3-point favorite, mostly because playing in Kansas City was a virtual home game.[6]

The Tar Heels were coming off another 3-overtime game in the Final Four, a 74-70 victory over Michigan State[7] Kansas had defeated San Francisco 80-56 in their Final Four game.

Game summary


First half

The Tar Heels started the game with a psychological ploy, as Frank MacGuire sent the 5'11 Tommy Kearns out to face the 7'0 Wilt Chamberlain for the jump ball, while dropping the rest of his team back to the bucket to set up their zone defense.

"I wanted to show them the zone we were going to use," McGuire later said. "And I wanted to show how ridiculous it is to have anybody jump against Chamberlain. I told some of the photographers to be ready for that picture. It should have been a good one."[7]

The Tar Heels triple teamed Chamberlain for nearly the entire game, forcing the Jayhawks to rely on their somewhat poor outside shooters.[3] North Carolina took an early 19-7 lead before Kansas would close the gap slightly and at the end of the first half North Carolina led 29-22.

Second half

The Jayhawks regrouped in the second half and took a 36-35 lead 9 minutes into the half.[8] The Tar Heels got a late free throw from Kearns to send the game to overtime. The Jayhawks outscored the Tar Heels 24-17 in the half.

First and second overtime

Scored slowed dramatically in the overtime periods, as each time stalled their offense and held the ball (the shot clock was not used in college basketball at the time). In the first overtime, each team scored just a single basket and neither team scored in the second.[3]

"A team with Wilt scores 2 points in 10 minutes, it’s almost unimaginable. We stayed back and let them shoot from outside. They just couldn’t hit one."[9]
Lennie Rosenbluth

Third overtime

In the third and final overtime, the Jayhawks' Gene Elstun hit one of two free throws with 31 seconds left to give Kansas a 53-52 lead. The Tar Heels got the ball back and Kearns drove the lane, only to be blocked by Chamberlain, however Quigg recovered the ball and was fouled while shooting. Quigg hit both free throws to give UNC the 54-53 lead with seconds to go. Loneski attempted a lob to Chamberlain, only to have it knocked down by Quigg and gave the Tar Heels the victory.[3]

Post game

It was assumed by many that Chamberlain would be unbeatable at the college level and the championship loss, followed by missing the tournament the next year prompted him to leave college and join the Harlem Globetrotters.

"Wilt unfairly got the loser label attached to him after that game. He was supposed to go to Kansas, win three national championships, and move on. Ten years later, (Lew) Alcindor went to UCLA and did it. ... And now we're being honored like we're some sort of legends or something for a one-point win in triple overtime. The difference between losing and winning is extraordinary. It really is."
Tommy Kearns

Iconic North Carolina coach Dean Smith, who had coached three of the Jayhawks Seniors during his time at Kansas, was said to have been devastated by the Kansas loss.[10]

Box score

Possibly the most surprising stat from the game was that the Tar Heels out rebounded the Chamberlain led Jayhawks by a mark of 42-28.[11]

North Carolina

Brennan, Pete 4-8 3-7 11 3 11
Cunningham, Bob 0-3 0-1 5 4 0
Kearns, Tommy 4-8 3-7 1 4 11
Lotz, Danny 0-0 0-0 2 0 0
Rosenbluth, Lennie 8-15 4-4 5 5 20
Quigg, Joe 4-10 2-3 9 4 10
Young, Bob 1-1 0-0 3 1 2
Totals 21-45 (.467) 12-22 (.545) 42 21 54


Billings, Bob 0-0 0-0 0 2 0
Chamberlain, Wilt 6-13 11-16 14 3 23
Elstun, Gene 4-12 3-6 4 2 11
Johnson, Lew 0-1 2-2 0 1 2
King, Maurice 3-12 5-6 4 4 11
Loneski, Ron 0-5 2-3 3 2 2
Parker, John 2-4 0-0 0 0 4
Total 15-47 (.319) 23-33 (.697) 28 14 53


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