South Carolina takes on Seton Hall in the Under Armour Reunion Doubleheader at Madison Square Garden on Monday, and it will be a “reunion” of sorts for the matchup. The only other time these two teams met, the game was also played in The Garden, but none of the current players on the South Carolina and Seton Hall rosters were born. It was Jan. 26, 1974, and the Gamecocks prevailed 75-74 on the heroics of Gamecock great Mike Dunleavy in the waning seconds.
Dunleavy, who is currently coaching at Tulane, was a sophomore at the time. He scored 24 points, including a pair of free throws with seven seconds remaining to put the Gamecocks on top for good.
“Before I shot the basketball, I always said ‘up and in,'” Dunleavy recalled. “I tried to give myself positive visuals and positive thoughts to get the ball up in the air and that gives me a better chance of putting the ball in the hole. I always tried to stay positive and not think about the situation.”
Dunleavy hit 12 of 13 foul shots that day. His routine and ability to hit 80 percent of his free throws in his college career were cemented by a strict summer training regimen where he sprinted full court layups, shooting free throws in between during his “rest.”
“I would shoot four layups and then my rest was 10 free throws,” Dunleavy said. “I’d get the full rest if I made 10 in a row, but if I missed the first one, then I had to run. I’d go four, six, eight, 10 and 12 times up and down the court. So if you miss that first free throw right after you ran 12, then you have to run again right away. That’s more pressure than anybody standing there yelling can possibly put on you. I was pushing myself. The only rule was that I had to run as hard as I could. That was the best way I could think of putting pressure on myself to make free throws.”
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Hall of Famer Alex English had 20 points for the Gamecocks in that win against Seton Hall, and while he laughs about not remembering too many details about the game, playing in one of the hallowed basketball arenas is a great memory itself.
“Madison Square Garden was the center of the basketball world,” English said. “It was a great time to be up there. Coach [Frank] McGuire knew so many people. It’s funny, I don’t remember as much about the game itself, but it was just a great time to be there playing basketball.”
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A native of Brooklyn, Dunleavy had grown up going to New York Knicks games at Madison Square Garden, so getting a chance to take the floor was a dream come true.
“It was big time for me,” Dunleavy said. “I never played there in high school. I used to dream about it. Coach McGuire liked to play in New York City a bunch. We played in the Holiday Festival up there almost every year it seemed. Playing in front of all my family and all of my friends, it was big. I just remember we had our dress uniforms on when we walked in. I remember wearing my black blazer and carrying my bag, and we’re thinking, ‘This is where it’s at right here!'”
With its rich history of hosting premier college and professional basketball games, in addition to professional hockey and numerous entertainment acts, the South Carolina basketball team is thrilled to be a part of the history at Madison Square Garden.
“When you went to New York, you did everything first class,” Dunleavy said. “It was a great time to be a part of South Carolina basketball.”
South Carolina has made other trips to Madison Square Garden and found success, most recently when the Gamecocks won their second straight NIT Championship in 2006. As South Carolina enters the arena where Ali battled Frazier in the “Fight of the Century” and John Lennon made his final concert appearance, the Gamecocks hope they can create their own memories of playing in “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”