On hallowed ground at Madison Square Garden, the innocent homecoming turned into an unexpected milestone, a serious affirmation and more fun than any college basketball fan could reasonably expect to have, all rolled into one.
On Dec. 23, 1952, Seattle University and NYU attacked the basket with a fury before a surprised and mesmerized crowd of 12,752, and they didn't stop scoring until becoming the first college teams to break the 100-point barrier in the same game, with the Chieftains emerging with an electrifying 102-101 victory.
SU's O'Brien twins, who grew up in nearby South Amboy, N.J., were at their best in front of all of their friends and relatives. Point guard Eddie O'Brien, normally the set-up guy, came up with a career-high 33 points, four more than his brother, Johnny, a center who was annually one of the nation's leading scorers. Afterward, the brothers posed for a photo while holding a ball with their collective 62-point total painted on it.
Nobody in media-minded, trend-watching New York saw any of this coming.
"That put a stamp of approval on Seattle U basketball in the East," Johnny O'Brien said.
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 16th in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
Seattle U players were hardly prepared to do wondrous things. Snowy weather had prevented them from flying into the Big Apple, forcing them to ride trains and busses on the last leg into the city. They had to push the bus to get it going.
They didn't have a scouting report prepared for NYU either. "[Al] Brightman said, 'Let them worry about us,' " Johnny 'Brien said.
The Chieftains, who used only six players, led the entire way until the four-minute mark, appearing to tire some. NYU tied things at 91, and then the Violets pulled ahead 95-94 and 97-96. Johnny O'Brien's basket put SU ahead for good at 98-97, and Eddie secured things with two free throws with eight seconds left for a 102-99 advantage.
When the buzzer sounded, the crowd climbed to its feet and supplied a long and loud ovation, rightfully entertained by the scoring fest. The media guys were equally appreciative, and did their cheering in print.
"The fabulous O'Brien boys, a couple of kids who are so fast they were born 12 minutes apart, led Seattle University to a board-burning," Dick Young of the New York Daily News wrote.
"The Shrimps of Seattle have done it again. The O'Brien twins and their Seattle mates earned some of the greatest cheers ever heard in the Garden," David Eisenberg of the New York Journal-American opined.
And finally Leonard Lewis of the New York Daily Mirror had the following under his byline: "Here's a tip to the FBI: The country's two maddest triggermen, the O'Brien twins, are still in this vicinity."
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