Wolf Pack basketball fans seemingly could sense history in the making at the University of Nevada gym up on north Virginia Street on the night of Feb. 16, 1962.
And the Wolf Pack wanted nothing more than to satisfy its faithful fans.
The Wolf Pack, though, had never scored 100 points in a game in its history which began in 1913. They didn’t even break 70 points until the 1942-43 season and 80 didn’t come until a decade later.
A hundred points? Remember, the 3-point shot in February 1962 was still more than two decades into the future. A hundred points in college basketball was something to talk about the next day at work or school.
The Pack had come close twice before, scoring 98 twice, against San Francisco State on Jan. 11, 1957 when Stan Summers scored a then school-record 48 points and against Eastern Oregon on Dec. 3, 1960 behind Craig Hall’s 30 points.
But this was an 8-14 Wolf Pack team. The most this team had scored in a game was 82. Nobody was expecting 100 points from the Pack on Feb. 16, 1962.
But, then again, it was a time of new beginnings and discovery in America. John Glenn was about to become the first astronaut to orbit the earth. He would do it four days later aboard Friendship 7. John Kennedy was in the White House and nine months earlier he told the nation he expected an American to walk on the face of the moon by the end of the decade.
So anything was possible in 1962, even 100 points in a Wolf Pack game.
Still, there was nothing to suggest that the evening of Feb. 16, 1962 was going to be the night.
The Pack, 5-3 in league play, was still fighting for a Far Western Conference title but at six games under. 500 overall the season hadn’t gone as planned. The Chico State Wildcats, the opponent that evening, was just 12-13 overall and 5-4 in league, with one of its victories coming in overtime against the Pack a month earlier.
All in all, it was just a typical mid-February evening in northern Nevada in 1962. Mother Nature had dropped three feet of snow in the Sierra the previous night. The leisure time options for northern Nevadans that night were to read the latest issues of Time magazine with Robert Kennedy on the cover or Life with Rock Hudson or stay home and watch the latest episodes of Rawhide, Route 66, Candid Camera, Twilight Zone or 77 Sunset Strip on television.
But those that did venture out into the cold winter night for a pair of games at the simply-named “gym on north Virginia Street” were rewarded with history.
Chico State, though, started the evening as if they wanted the crowd to regret their decision to pass on watching Clint Eastwood in Rawhide. The Wildcats, coached by Don Scott and featuring the 6-foot-5 Fred Obermiller and their “Four Fleas” (Wade Wall, Dick Stephens, Lou Black and Dick Dellagiacomo), jumped out to leads of 13-6 and 27-14 and still led 33-24 with five minutes to go in the first half. The Wildcats were executing their “running, firehouse brand of ball,” according to the Gazette, to perfection against the Pack.
“Chico started off like a well-polished machine, executing deceptive plays and hitting the hoop in dazzling fashion,” wrote the Nevada State Journal.
You can bet a few fans started to think, ‘If I leave now, I can get home by 10 p.m. to watch The Untouchables on Channel 8 or Twilight Zone on Channel 10.” The Pack, though, came back in an ending that would have made even Rod Serling proud.
Coach Jack Spencer’s Wolf Pack, led by the 5-foot-9 Craig Hall, labeled by the Gazette as a “sparkling little dynamo,” dominated the last five minutes of the first half. A bucket and free throw by Gene Simpson gave the Pack a 34-33 lead as “the gym rocked with noise from the frenzied fans,” the Journal wrote.
The Pack outscored the Wildcats 23-9 over the final five minutes of the half to lead 47-42 at halftime as Hall poured in 19 points.
Still, hardly anyone was thinking about 100 points. Not yet, at least.
That all changed in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
The Pack outscored Chico State 31-13 in those first 10 minutes to take a commanding 78-55 lead. Chico’s Obermiller had fouled out with the Pack up just 57-52 and, well, the Wildcats four fleas simply couldn’t stop the bigger Wolf Pack.
Suddenly, the Nevada gym on north Virginia Street seemed ready to make history. The crowd started calling out to the players to score 100 points.
“As the chance for 100 points loomed larger, the excitement grew,” wrote the Journal.
Chico, though, refused to play the role of Red Klotz and the Washington Generals to the Wolf Pack’s high-scoring Globetrotters. The Wildcats, trailing 89-73 with four minutes to go and still with a chance to win, went into a stall.
The crowd grew angry. So the Pack started to foul to give themselves enough time on the clock to reach 100. And then Chico grew angry.
“The Wolf Pack, incited by fans calling for 100 points, retaliated (for Chico’s stalling tactic) by repeated fouling,” the Journal wrote.
The Pack, ahead comfortably, fouled Chico State’s Wall six times in the last two minutes.
The Pack went up 95-78 with 1:48 to go and they continued to foul Chico players.
The Pack’s Bruce Fetzer scored with 28 seconds to play for the 96th and 97th points. A Dave Ricks free throw put the 98th point in the board a few seconds later as the Pack continued to foul Chico to save clock. Simpson then brought the crowd to its feet with a pair of free throws, scoring the 99th and 100th Pack points of the evening with 20 seconds to go.
By now, though, the game had turned very physical.
The Pack fouled Wall one final time with two seconds to go.
“The last time the Pack fouled Wall after reaching the three-figure mark tempers broke loose,” the Journal wrote.
The crowd came to the gym on north Virginia Street with the idea of watching a basketball game. They ended up seeing a pretty good boxing match.
Fetzer, a 6-8 senior, started to tangle with the 5-9 Wall.
“All of a sudden there were knots of wrestling, slugging athletes all over the place,” wrote the Journal. “Coaches and spectators tried to drag the combatants apart.”
When the punching and wrestling finally came to an end, Chico’s Dick Stephens “lay prostrate and bleeding on the floor and had to be carried to the dressing room,” the Gazette wrote. Stephens would be taken to the hospital that evening because it was feared he had a broken jaw.
There were still two seconds on the clock and Wall was still owed his free throws. Both teams, though, agreed to end the game right there and didn’t play those final two seconds.
The Pack had finally gotten its first game with 100 points in the 100-86 victory. Hall finished with 30 points (Chico’s Wall had 32), the Pack’s Bill Robinson had 23, Simpson had 20 and Stew Johnson of Nevada had 17.
The next day’s Nevada State Journal, though, didn’t focus on the first 100-point game in school history. The headline under a photo on the front page capturing the brawling players read, “Players in Fistic Melee.”
The Journal reported it was the highest combined score in a Far Western Conference game (186), the highest combined number of fouls (58 with 30 on the Pack) and “likely the most punches ever landed in a league basketball game.”
This February is the 50th anniversary of that landmark game.
It would be nearly three more years before the Pack would crack the 100-point barrier again, this time whipping Sacramento State 101-71 on Feb. 6, 1965 at the Virginia Street gym.
The Wolf Pack has reached 100 points in a game 67 times in its history.
The Wolf Pack would hit the 100-point mark eight times during Spencer’s 13-year era at Nevada through the 1971-72 season. Jim Padgett replaced Spencer starting in 1972-73 and his Pack teams would score 100 a dozen times in just four seasons. Jim Carey’s Wolf Pack scored 100 or more 10 times in his four years and Sonny Allen’s seven Pack teams would do it 10 times.
The all-time leader among Wolf Pack coaches in reaching 100 points is Lenny Stevens. Stevens, the first coach in Pack history to coach entirely in the 3-point shot era, saw his Pack teams do it 19 times, including a school-record nine times in the 1988-89 season alone. No other Pack team has ever done it more than four times in a single season.
The end of the Stevens era after the 1992-93 season also marked the end of the flurry of 100-point games in Pack basketball history. Spencer, Padgett, Carey, Allen and Stevens, starting with the first time in 1961-62, turned in 59 games of 100 points or more in 32 seasons, nearly an average of two a year.
The coaches after Stevens — Pat Foster, Trent Johnson, Mark Fox and David Carter — have done it just eight times over the past 19 years (including this year). It has happened just five times in the Johnson-Fox-Carter era. Carter’s teams, with three 100-point games (all three were with Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson in 2009-10), has done it more than Johnson and Fox combined (both did it just once each).