The Seattle University basketball team trailed 79-60 with eight-plus minutes remaining and things looked extra bleak at Civic Auditorium. The nationally ranked Chieftains had played lethargic against Portland to that point, and paid for it with the huge deficit. They were headed for their worst defeat of an otherwise superlative season.
Elgin Baylor, however, wouldn't allow it. On Jan. 30, 1958, the All-America forward single-handedly pulled this game from the depths in spectacular fashion, scoring a school-record 60 points -- 20 over the final 7:15 -- to rescue a 94-91 victory.
SU would reach the Final Four and the NCAA championship game and supply countless unforgettable moments. But for some players, this performance topped them all.
"I'll never forget that game," Chieftains guard "Sweet" Charlie Brown said. "I remember it more than any other. We just kept putting the ball on Elgin and he was hotter than a two-dollar bill. I can't remember him missing a shot."
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 20th in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
While his teammates had an off game, Baylor was amazingly efficient throughout. He connected on 24 of 34 field-goal attempts, sank 12 of 15 free throws and grabbed 14 rebounds. He had 37 points in the second half alone.
"Elgin went wild," SU teammate Jon-Lee Kootnekoff said. "He was unstoppable. He was in midair and he would fake with his left hand, bring the ball behind his back, then he faked right, spun and put the ball in. I said, 'Wow, I'm watching the best basketball player in the world and I've got a free ticket.' "
What Baylor did at the end was sheer will. With SU trailing by eight at the game's final two-minute mark, Baylor hit a corner jumper to pull his team within 89-83. Brown knocked down two free throws with 1:52 to make it 89-85. Baylor tipped in a shot with 1:30 left to pull SU within 89-87.
"My one intention was to do what [coach John] Castellani wanted all the time: Get the ball to Elgin," Brown said. "The guy was going to take us to the promised land."
Baylor sent a roar through the crowd when he stole the inbounds pass and tipped in another miss to tie the game at 89. With 43 seconds left, Baylor scored again to put the Chieftains ahead 91-89. With 11 seconds remaining and the game tied, he was fouled while shooting and coolly dropped in two free throws for the game-winning points and a 93-91 lead. Teammate Jerry Frizzell finished off the comeback with a free throw with three seconds to go.
For everyone, it was an unforgettable night, watching an unstoppable Baylor pull his team from certain defeat and score at will, and sharing in it as best they could.
"When Elgin had 58 points, I can tell you who threw to him to get 60," SU forward Bill Wall said. "It was me."
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