Austin Carr's NCAA Tournament Records: You Can't Stop That

Michael CollinsAnalyst IMarch 16, 2009

Notre Dame’s Austin Carr owns the NCAA Tournament scoring record book.  Just call him The Man and be done with it—especially considering Austin did not benefit from a three point line.

"With that short three-point line in college, that's a lay-up. I would have loved to have played with that line," said Carr.  A remarkable thirty-eight years have passed with sharpshooters taking aim at his records.  The closest anyone has come since then is David Robinson’s 50 points against Michigan in 1987.   

Austin Carr's NCAA Tournament Records 

  •  Most Points in One Game – 61 versus Ohio, 1970
  •  Top Two Highest Scoring Averages for a Tournament – 52.7 points per game, 1970 and 41.7 points per game, 1971 (minimum three games). 
  •  All-Time Career Tournament Scoring Average – 41.3 over seven games (Bill Bradley is second, 33.7 over nine games.  Oscar Robertson’s 32.4 is third, over ten games.)
  • Three of the top five scoring games in NCAA Tournament history – 61 (Ohio), 52 (Kentucky), 52 (TCU).
  • Five of the top 12 scoring games in NCAA Tournament history  (No other player appears more than once in that top 12 list, including Bill Bradley, Oscar Robertson, David Robertson and Elvin Hayes).  link
  •  Most Field Goals Made in a Game – 25. (Ohio, 1970) 
  • Most Field Goals Attempted – 44 (Ohio, 1970)   

                             (Tournament Records link)

Ohio in 1970 had beaten Ohio State, Purdue and Indiana.  When asked in his post game press conference about how to stop Carr, Ohio University Coach Jim Snyder said simply, "deflate the ball." 

Observers from that Ohio game have analyzed the game and estimated that, with today’s three point line, Austin would have scored 70-75 points!!  In spite of a Notre Dame exit after three games in 1970, Carr was chosen as the NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.     

Comparisons to Today's Scorers

Jodie Meeks, Kentucky, has had three of the top scoring games in the regular season this year—45, 46, and 54 points.  Impressive, but not comparable to Carr’s achievements.  Converting Meek’s threes to two point shots, Meek’s scores would have been 38, 37, and 44 points according to 1970 rules. 

Austin Carr averaged 38.1 points his junior year and 37.9 points his senior year against a schedule that included perennial powerhouses UCLA, Kentucky, Marquette, West Virginia, Illinois, South Carolina, Villanova, Houston and Indiana.  

The best scorer over the course of this past season was Stephen Curry, who averaged 28.6 ppg.  Converting Curry's threes to two points, Curry would have averaged 24.8 ppg.

Rupp, Wooden on Carr

Notre Dame’s Carr nightly faced box and one or triangle and two defenses, specifically aimed to stop him.  During his senior year, Carr poured in 50 points in a 99-92 victory over No. 8 Kentucky in Louisville.

"We put five different players on Carr tonight, and he still scored 50 points," said Kentucky’s legendary coach Adolph Rupp. "It was an amazing performance."  (link)   

Carr was fluid, smooth, a pure shooter and as a 6’4”, 200 pound guard posed a difficult matchup.  He moved well without the ball, and had the endurance to play an entire game. 

Meehan, his point guard, described Carr:  “When Austin was on—which was most of the time—he was a shooting machine.  I could tell the minute Austin released the ball whether I could turn around and run back, I knew his stroke so well.”  (from Michael Coffey's, Echoes on the Hardwood)

Later that same year, Carr scored 46 points in Notre Dame's win over No. 1-ranked UCLA, 89-82—the most points anyone ever scored against a John Wooden-coached team.  Notre Dame controlled the game most of the way. 

Austin had two steals leading to breakaway layups in the final minutes.  According to Carr, “Coach John Wooden always played a man-to-man defense, which I liked. Four different players guarded me during that game and the final opponent was Sidney Wicks, who was an All-American and future star in the NBA.  In the closing minutes I took him to the basket and had a layup that clinched the game. I remember him looking at Wooden and saying, ‘I told you not to put me on him!’" (picture)

This loss would be UCLA’s last for 88 games - before Notre Dame won in 1974.  Wooden said of Carr’s performance, “"There is no one to compare with him man-to-man."  The Irish crowd was as raucous as in the old Fieldhouse and, afterwards, lifted Carr up to cut down the nets. 

More Achievements

CBS chose Austin Carr on their First Team All-Tournament Team with other legends Oscar Robertson, Bill Bradley, Bill Walton, Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley (Jerry West, Glen Rice, and Gail Goodrich were chosen Second Team guards).

Carr’s three year NCAA career scoring average (freshmen did not play varsity at that time) is 34.6 points per game, second in the record books only to Pete Maravich’s 44.2.  

Carr is proud that his points came by shooting better than 50% for his career—54 percent for his final 58 games, 10 percent higher than Maravich’s shooting percentage.

Street and Smith chose Carr as the 19th best college basketball player of their Top 100, fourth among pure guards.  ESPN chose Carr as the 22nd best collegiate player of all time. 

Coming to Notre Dame - The Fieldhouse 1967

A Washington, D.C.legend from his playground and Mackin High Schools days and a Parade All-American, Carr came to Notre Dame in 1967, part of the best recruiting class in Irish basketball history.

Collis Jones (St. John’s) and Sid Catlett, Jr. (DeMatha) came with Carr from D.C.  Jackie Meehan, Tom Sinnott, Jim Hinga and Big John Pleick joined the DC three. 

Football was king.  The Irish had won the national championship the year before Carr arrived.  A skinny, New Jersey kid named Joe Theismann was a freshman quarterback recruit. 

On Friday nights, students streamed into one end of Notre Dame’s Fieldhouse, built in 1898, for the football Pep Rally. Ara Parseghian and the Irish Guard led the team up wooden stairs to a wooden balcony while the Band played the Fight Song, reverberating off the walls and ceiling.  Students would stomp up a cloud of dust from the dirt floor and cheered so loudly that the old building would sway.  Alcohol may have been a factor. 

The other end of the Fieldhouse was Notre Dame’s home basketball games with a raised basketball floor, surrounded by students in an area resembling an old airplane hanger. (picture)

Notre Dame had more students, who got in free, than the Fieldhouse’s capacity (6,000).  The Irish crowds made the most of the echoes, shouting and waving white handkerchiefs behind the visitors’ backboard.  The noise could get deafening. 

The Varsity squad went to the NIT that year, finishing third.  Carr’s freshmen squad, however, had beaten the Varsity seven out of eight times in practice. 

The next year, the echoes of the Fieldhouse with its Pep Rallies, Austin’s swishes and Sid Catlett bouncing medicine balls off the backboards in darkened practices became part of Irish lore.

Carr, Catlett, Meehan, Jones and company joined the Varsity, opening the new basketball facilities of the Athletic and Convocation Center (ACC) against Wooden’s UCLA, featuring Lew Alcindor.     

What Mattered Most

"We all went there to try and start a basketball tradition—Collis and Sid and Jackie [Meehan] and Tom Sinnott and I," Carr said. "And it seems that we were successful in doing what we came there to do, except win a championship. I'd give up all the scoring I did to win a championship.”  (from: Echoes on the Hardwood, link above)

When asked if he was a Bill Bradley fan, Austin responded, “Oh, yeah. They played the game the way I was taught to play it—as a team. I loved watching him. I loved the way he played. He was a great spot shooter.”  (Sporting News, link) Many have said the same about how Austin Carr played the game. 

Carr said:  “Notre Dame certainly prepared me for life after college because it is such a national school with all nationalities represented. My experience at Notre Dame taught me to be responsible, but also to take pride in who and what you are. At Notre Dame I was around so many people who strove for greatness. When you are around successful people, it carries over to your own work ethic and self esteem.”  (link)

Carr and the Notre Dame basketball players were involved in a community outreach program in South Bend called Operation Reach.  This targeted children at risk of becoming involved in violence by mentoring them. 

"It gave us an opportunity to get involved with the community.  We did a lot of things with little kids.  We had basketball clinics at the different locations.  It was a good situation—something that really stuck with me."  (from Echoes of the Hardwood, above)

Carr has been involved in community work in Cleveland, Washington, D.C. and held an annual fund-raising tournament at Notre Dame.

If You Have to Ask....

Will anyone approach Austin Carr’s 61 points in one game, 52 point average for one tournament, or career tournament average of  41 points?  Ludicrous.  Carr was money.  You can’t stop that.