Everybody loves offense, and in the following games, offense was aplenty. Scoring was wonderfully abundant, and everybody received second helpings (and thirds, and fourths — you get the picture). When it comes to offense, these are March Madness basketball’s biggest wins.
So which big-time offensive explosions turned heads the most? We took a look at the best scoring outbursts in March Madness history and how profound the result was. Oh, and if you keep seeing Loyola Marymount mentioned, there’s a reason for it.
We ranked them:
Top NCAA Mens Hoops Scoring Outbursts
No. 1 LOYOLA MARYMOUNT
GAME RESULT: Loyola Marymount 149, Michigan 115
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?: No. 11 seed Loyola Marymount, a relative unknown to big-time NCAA tournament runs until the late 1980s, had become a big-time scoring monster. No. 3 seed Michigan found that out in the second round on March 18, 1990.
At 264 combined points, it is still the highest point total achieved. It’s not even close, as the next best combined effort is 234 points. But that’s not the only reason it is listed here at No. 1. First of all, it was a massive, emotional upset win for LMU.
LMU had lost its best player, Hank Gathers, as he collapsed on the court and died during the conference tournament. The basketball community mourned his death, and Gathers’ teammate and friend Bo Kimble shot his first free throw of every tournament game left-handed in honor of his fallen left-handed shooting friend.
Paul Westhead, the former L.A. Lakers head coach, was the architect of these high-scoring teams at LMU. He was the guy who brought in the prolific scoring duo of Gathers and Kimble. His 1989-90 team scored 100 points in all but four games in their incredible season, which ended 26-6 in the Elite Eight against eventual champion UNLV (see below). Even the Lions’ losses were classic. Against LSU in the regular season, the Lions put on a clinic. LMU played against Shaquille O’Neal and two other eventual NBA players and still posted 141 points.
No. 2 UNLV
GAME RESULT: UNLV 131, Loyola Marymount 101
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?: Two games after LMU destroyed No. 3 seed Michigan, the Lions reached the Elite Eight round and ran into the team atop the March Madness pre-tournament odds in UNLV. The Runnin’ Rebels happened to have a similar style of play to the Lions and were up 20 points at the half.
Four UNLV starters — Anderson Hunt, Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, and Greg Anthony — scored 20 or more points in the blowout win. Bo Kimble scored 42, but it was not enough to come even close to UNLV. An emotional 1990 season had come to an abrupt end, and it left some wondering what would have happened if Hank Gathers — LMU’s top player — had been a part of the game.
No. 3 TENNESSEE
GAME RESULT: Tennessee 121, Long Beach State 86
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?: When a No. 5 seed takes on a No. 12 seed in the first round, it is often considered a matchup ripe for a potential upset. That wasn’t the case when the No. 5 Volunteers blew away Long Beach State in 2007. Three players — Ramar Smith, Chris Lofton, and JaJuan Smith — hit the 20-point mark.
Two others for Tennessee hit double digits. The real explosion came in the second half when the Vols posted 64 points to run away with the game. The Vols were eliminated two games later in the Sweet 16.
No. 4 WEST VIRGINIA
GAME RESULT: West Virginia 111, Wake Forest 105
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?: This is the top game in NCAA Tournament history where two teams — neither being named Loyola Marymount — combined for more than 215 points. But what’s even more impressive than the score total is how the Mountaineers were the No. 7 seed and knocked out the No. 2-seeded Demon Deacons in 2005’s second round.
It was a premature exit for Wake Forest and an offensive explosion for WVU. Mike Gansey (29 points) and Tyrone Sally (21 points) led the way for WVU, outclassing future NBA star Chris Paul, who was held to 6-of-14 shooting from the field for Wake Forest.
No. 5 TULSA
GAME RESULT: Tulsa 112, UCLA 102
HOW DID IT HAPPEN?: No. 5 seed UCLA had four future NBA Draft picks in the starting lineup, yet it didn’t matter in this 1994 first-round matchup. The first half was all Tulsa, as the No. 12 seed outscored the Bruins 63-38.
It was Tulsa’s lone future draft pick Gary Collier who shone brightest, as he posted 34 points and hit four 3-pointers, along with 12-of-13 shooting from the free-throw line. Three UCLA players were drafted in 1995 — Ed O’Bannon, George Zidek, and Tyus Edney. Charles O’Bannon was drafted in 1997.
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Brian McLaughlin is a writer for BetMGM and co-host of BMac and Herd’s FCS Podcast. He has written for The Sporting News, headed up the PARADE Magazine High School All American teams, covered FCS college football for HERO Sports … and two NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournaments (2009 and 2010). Follow BMac on Twitter @BrianMacWriter.