Elgin Baylor didn't feel well. He had a higher-than-normal temperature. He was a slow starter once his Seattle University basketball team tipped off.
Yet on Jan. 15, 1958, the All-America forward was properly resuscitated and he left the Montana State Bobcats in far worse condition, scoring a then-school record 53 points in a 108-83 victory at Civic Auditorium.
"I think I've got the flu," Baylor said, looking drawn after stepping out of a shower. Everyone should be so sick: That night, he dropped in 22 of a school-record 41 shots, made 9 of 15 free throws and pulled down a game-high 22 rebounds.
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 12th in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
Baylor, who averaged 32.5 points per game that season, was a scoring machine. His 53-point output followed a 48-pointer against Portland and came two weeks before he got loose against Portland and set the school record that now exists -- 60. He was an unselfish player who stepped up when needed, endearing himself to his teammates, but he could really cut loose.
"He was just a natural basketball player, just a genius on the court," SU guard Francis Saunders said. "He could see the game before it developed. He could see everything with his peripheral vision. He was, without a doubt, in an older time, the best basketball player who played."
Montana State found this out. The Bobcats led early as Baylor got his bearings, the last time at 14-13. However, the SU forward found a rhythm and rattled off 20 points in the opening half as the then-Chieftains took a 50-33 halftime lead.
As Baylor's point total continued to climb at a noticeable rate in the next half, the crowd of 4,156 got into it, shouting, whistling and stomping its feet in appreciation.
Baylor's two free throws supplied SU with its biggest lead at 102-76. Near the end he did something rare for him: With the fans on their feet and screaming their appreciation, he dunked the ball hard.
The senior was well enough to play all 40 minutes. While the other starters sat down, Baylor was encouraged by his coach, John Castellani, to stay on the floor and see how many points he could score. Teammates also spurred him on in these outbursts.
"I always kid him when I see him, 'That if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have scored as many points;' I always fed him," SU guard Don Piasecki said. "You couldn't help but be amazed by what this guy could accomplish and did accomplish."
Montana State, which had won 10 of 14 games when it ran into the prolific Baylor, walked away impressed by the new-age player.
"Baylor's fantastic," Bobcats coach Dobbie Lambert said. "He certainly has a variety of shots. Some I've never seen before."
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