A Seattle University basketball team built around forward Elgin Baylor, but otherwise underappreciated, made everyone in the country sit up and take notice when it pulled a Final Four stunner, demolishing NCAA Tournament favorite Kansas State 73-51 in Louisville, Ky.
On March 21, 1958, the Chieftains easily toyed with a great team in the semifinals. They earned an unlikely spot in the title game opposite Kentucky. Unconvinced before, coaches and fans braced themselves for a Cinderella ending.
Unfortunately, the clock struck 12 on Seattle U. More to the point, an accidental Kansas State elbow found its way into Baylor's rib cage, robbing him of his mobility and likely preventing the Chieftains from claiming the championship.
Late in the second half of the Final Four semis, Baylor went up for a shot and caught a sharp blow to the left ribs from a wheeling Bob Boozer, a play all sides concluded was unintentional and costly.
"It was the worst pain I ever felt," said Baylor, who was nowhere near his dominant self the following night in the title game against Kentucky, an 84-72 loss.
With Seattle U returning to full Division I championship eligibility for the first time in 33 years -- when the Redhawks host Washington in a women's soccer match at Championship Field on Aug. 17 -- this is the 31st in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
Baylor knew his injury was bad. The attending doctors said he likely had suffered a bruise or contusion. Years later, at the Mayo Clinic, a doctor told him the truth: He had fractured his ribs.
"I asked if they could give me a shot or anything," Baylor said. "They just taped me up and I could hardly breathe. I wasn't the same."
Against Kansas State, Baylor and his teammates ran a bigger, slower team out of contention, an outcome almost no one had conceived. They used their quickness to control the boards, 56-33. They put the pressure on and didn't let go.
SU built a 37-32 advantage by halftime and came back out and went for the throat. The Chieftains were up 47-35 at the 16:48 mark, 59-40 with seven minutes to go. They were in total control.
Baylor didn't shoot particularly well, hitting just 9 of 21 shots, but he finished with a game-high 23 points and 22 rebounds and helped limit Boozer, a fellow All-America selection, to 15 points. Disaster struck late in the game.
"I saw him wince," Brown said. "When he was wincing, he was bent over, holding his side. I saw it in the Kentucky game, too, when he was bumped. He didn't want to show it, but he was hurt."
Baylor had stayed in a little too long in a game that was long decided. It was hard to pull back when everything was going your way at the Final Four. The unthinkable happened. The other unthinkable didn't happen.
"We felt we could beat Kentucky," SU coach John Castellani said. ""We felt confident. We were playing so well. We never anticipated Elgin not being 100 percent."
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