The Wolfpacker

March 2018

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 69 of 79

70 ■ THE WOLFPACKER BY TIM PEELER A half century later, the thing Dick Braucher remembers clearly about the most unusual game in ACC Tournament history is not the fact that he scored the decisive field goal or the game's final point at the free throw line. Sure, it was nice to beat No. 6 Duke in the 1968 semifinals that Friday evening at the Charlotte Coliseum. This was a team, after all, that had suffered through the only single-digit-win season (7-19 overall, 2-10 ACC, eighth-place finish) in Norm Sloan's coaching career the previous year, his first as the Wolfpack's head coach. They were facing a Blue Devils program that had been to the Final Four in 1963, '64 and '66, and had every reason to believe it could get there again. But first, they had to win the ACC Tourna- ment to capture the league's lone bid to the NCAA Tournament and that required getting by the stubborn Wolfpack to reach the finals. Nothing defined this unique game more than the unparalleled stubbornness of Sloan and Duke head coach Vic Bubas, a pair of In- diana natives and former NC State teammates under Everett Case who once battled for the same starting guard position. Bubas won that battle, causing Sloan to storm away from the team to play football his final year in school. Bubas also became Case's right-hand man as an assistant coach, while Sloan toiled away at Presbyterian, The Citadel and Florida to build his coaching résumé. But it was Sloan who eventually ended up in Case's chair as the head coach of the Wolfpack. Little of that mattered to Braucher, though. A first-team Parade High School All-Ameri- can guard from Kutztown, Pa. — along with New York's Lew Alcindor and Raleigh's Pete Maravich — Braucher was recruited by Case successor (and Pete's dad) Press Maravich, another Pennsylvania native who had made his way down south years before. Braucher was recruited with the notion he would be playing alongside "Pistol Pete." When the younger Maravich failed to make the ACC-required 800 on the SAT, both he and his dad took off for Louisiana State, leaving Braucher behind to play for Sloan, a coach who hadn't recruited him. On this day — March 8, 1968 — Braucher was in the backcourt with Eddie Biedenbach in the first ACC Tournament played at the Charlotte (now Bojangles') Coliseum. They had little to do with the action of this pre-shot clock contest since almost nothing happened the entire game. When NC State won the opening tap, Sloan spontaneously told senior small-handed cen- ter Bill Kretzer to hold the ball near midcourt until Duke All-American center Mike Lewis came out to guard him. The Wolfpack, av- eraging 74 points per game, were known as a run-and-gun team, and Bubas has always said his team couldn't keep up with Sloan's faster squad. Bubas told Lewis, who was a step slower than the undersized 6-6 Kretzer, to stay un- der the basket, and thus began a stalemate of wills. Kretzer and sophomore forward Vann Wil- liford — the player Sloan signed to Pete Mara- vich's vacated scholarship — played catch at between midcourt and the top of the free throw circle, never making an effort to penetrate the lane where Lewis, Joe Kennedy and Steve Vandenberg prowled for the Blue Devils. For minutes at a time, Kretzer dribbled by himself in the middle of the court. At first, he was cheered by the State fans and booed by everyone else. Then, the crowd settled into a confused silence. Both coaches stood on the sidelines with their arms folded, waiting on the other to do something. The game's referee sat down on the midcourt scorer's table. Play- ers from both teams stood in the lane talking about anything other than basketball. "What I remember more than anything else," Braucher said, "was that sometime in the first half, my chewing gum ran out of flavor, and I needed a new piece. "I was just standing there watching Kretz dribble. Nothing else was going on. So I walked over to one of our cheerleaders and asked her if she had any chewing gum. She did, so she dug it out of her purse and gave it to me during the middle of the game." Braucher had some explaining to do to his then-girlfriend and now wife of 49 years, the former Karen Wengert, who was listening to the game on the radio in Raleigh, and to his parents, who were listening in Pennsylvania. "They all wanted to know what in the world I was doing talking to a cheerleader in the middle of the game," recalled Braucher, who's been retired for 13 years after a 31-year career as the administrator at a public school for special needs children in Hamburg, Pa. To be honest, there wasn't much else to NC State's Joe Serdich (No. 44) battles for the ball against Duke in the 1968 ACC Tournament semifinal game that ended in a 12-10 victory for the Wolfpack. PHOTO COURTESY NC STATE MEDIA RELATIONS ■ PACK PAST Fifty Years Ago, NC State Won The Lowest- Scoring Game In ACC Tournament History

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