Anniversary of Women's Hoops Championship

It was 30 years ago when UCLA won its only national championship in women's basketball. The team and the season were landmarks, and featured three future Basketball Hall of Famers. Members of the team will be honored this weekend...

It's the 30-year anniversary of UCLA's only women's basketball national championship.

On March 25th, 1978, UCLA defeated Maryland, 90-74, in Pauley Pavilion to win the championship.

Even though the AIAW championship doesn't count as one of UCLA's NCAA championships, players from that 1978 team will be honored at the UCLA/USC women's basketball game in Pauley Pavilion Sunday night.

The championship, and that season, was a very significant achievement for the UCLA Athletic Department, really putting UCLA on the map in terms of women's collegiate sports, and was a landmark event for women's sports in general.

It was the first time that women's basketball was the front-page sports new in the Los Angeles Times, and was covered like a major sporting event.

The championship game was the first women's basketball game ever televised nationally, taped by NBC Sportsworld and aired a day later (and because there weren't many VCRs back then, the tape of the game wasn't available for years).

The crowd of 9,351 for the championship game was the biggest crowd for a playoff game in any women's college sport to that point, and it held the record until the 1986 women's basketball final.

In terms of UCLA, it was a milestone. That season was the first for a UCLA women's team to go on a national regular season road trip, playing in Madison Square Garden against Delta State; at Maryland (UCLA lost the first game of a sold-out doubleheader) and to North Carolina State, playing in 5 games over ten days.  The loss to Maryland was last time time the team lost that season, winning its final 21 games of season.

It was the first year for coach Billie Moore, who had just coached the U.S. team to the silver medal in the 1976 Olympics.

It was the first time the UCLA women's basketball team had made it out of the AIAW Regionals. It did so by scoring 6 points in the final 1:47 of regulation against Long Beach State in the regional to send the game into overtime and win.

Four of the women from that team are in the UCLA women's basketball Hall of Fame, and three of them are in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

Ann Meyers, who received the first full-ride scholarship for a woman in college sports, was the star of the team and the best-known UCLA women's basketball player, having won the Honda-Broderick Cup, which goes to the collegiate women's national athlete of the year. She was the first four-time All-American women's basketball player in college history, and went on to be the first female to ever earn a contract from an NBA team (the Indiana Pacers). Meyers has been a fixture of the Los Angeles sports scene since and a prominent television sports journalist. Her #15 basketball jersey was one of the first four ever retired by UCLA. She was the first woman to ever be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Anita Ortega was one of the first African-American players, and is now the highest-ranking African-American female in the Los Angeles Polic Department.

Denise Curry was a three-time All-American, and went on to become the all-time leading scorer in UCLA history (male or female) and all-time leading women's rebounder. She scored double figures in every one of the 130 games in her UCLA career. She was an Olympic Gold Medalist in 1984. She is also in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Other players of note on the team were Rive Nestor, the starting center; Dianne Frierson, point guard; Denise Corlett, back-up center; amd Beth Moore, back-up point guard.

When they won the championship in 1978, the players were given simple watches with the tournament logo on it. On Sunday, the players from that team will be honored, finally, with championship rings, and a DVD of the championship game.


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