Two Southern Illinois natives who helped Evansville's 1965 men's basketball team to the Division II national title attended a reunion of the squad on Saturday.
Jerry Sloan, a McLeansboro native, and Herb Williams of Centralia were some of the players that attended a meet and greet with fans before Saturday's SIU-Evansville game. Sloan, Williams and the rest of the team in attendance at the Ford Center were introduced at halftime in front of an announced crowd of 5,521 fans.
It was the second-largest crowd of the season at the Ford Center, behind the 7,015 that showed up to see No. 13 Wichita State beat the Purple Aces 61-41. Saturday, SIU had no such luck, falling 75-66.
Sloan, the most valuable player of the tournament, averaged 17.6 points and 14.6 rebounds per game for the 29-0 Aces. He had 25 points and 25 rebounds in the national title game, an 85-82 overtime win over Walt Frazier, George McNeil, Joe Ramsey and the Salukis.
Sloan turned down a professional offer to play for the NBA's Baltimore Bullets his senior year to return to school. He ended up leading Evansville to its fourth national championship.
Williams scored seven points and grabbed 11 rebounds at the old Roberts Stadium, which has since been torn down.
Ramsey scored 24 for the Salukis, who finished 20-6. Frazier, then a sophomore, had 16 points and seven rebounds, and McNeil had 22 points and one rebound. Tied at 74 with a minute, 16 seconds to go, SIU held the basketball for the last shot of regulation. McNeil missed off the back of the iron to force overtime.
SIU lost three times that season to Evansville by a combined five points. The Aces beat the Salukis in Evansville 81-80, at SIU by the score of 68-67, and by three in the national title game.
After two wins at home over Concordia (71-70) and Central Michigan (90-62), SIU beat Washington (Missouri) 76-67 and North Dakota State 97-64 to reach the title game.
The Salukis, under coach Jack Hartman, lost in the NCAA College Division national title game the following season, 54-51, to Kentucky Weslyan. They finally won it all the next season, going 24-2 on the way to the NIT championship at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
618-351-5087 / On Twitter: @THefferman
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