A Shot Clock Isn't Needed If They Play

What is U.S. International? Where is U.S. International?

Why does it play basketball? Why does it play basketball the way it plays basketball? Does anybody who plays basketball there know how to do anything other than shoot a basketball?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Evidently, U.S. International is a school of some kind. A college. Could be a military academy, for all I know. Or a scientific institute. Maybe it's a place where Air Force pilots learn to become astronauts. Maybe it's a place for cadets. Maybe it's a place for space cadets.

U.S. International. Hmmm. What's so international about it? Is it located abroad? Does its basketball schedule include the Sorbonne? Does it play both Notre Dames, in Indiana and France? Does U.S. International ever play anybody dangerous? Does it schedule games between embassy bombings?

Who attends U.S. International? U.S. kids who want to study internationally? Or foreigners who want to see America? Does U.S. International have a football team? Do U.S. International's cheerleaders get sore throats? Gimme an I. Gimme an N. Gimme a T. Oh, hell, spell it yourself.

What are U.S. International's teams called? Wildcats? Spartans? The Diplomatic Couriers? Go on, name some of their alumni. Oliver North? Robert Ludlum? That dude who flew his airplane into Red Square?

What's with this place?

The reason I ask is, U.S. International is making a name for itself in college basketball circles.

USIU, as I've seen it referred to, is afraid of nobody. It is willing to play the very best. Name the opponent, name the time, name the place, and U.S. International will be there, wearing short pants.

There's only one catch.

U.S. International does not play defense.

You've heard of that version of girls' basketball played in Iowa where the guards never cross half-court? Well, U.S. International's boys should schedule these girls. It could be the game of the century--final score: U.S. International 201, Our Lady of Perpetual Offense 199.

When it comes to defense, U.S. International's motto is: "What? Us run way down there ?" There are statues in Central Park with more movement. U.S. International's players would make easy targets for pigeons flying overhead. Herman Munster had faster footwork. Their idea of a full-court press is a courtside table occupied by media people.

Let me tell you a little something about U.S. International, America's Opponent.

Last season, the Denver Nuggets of the college level took part in a little tussle against Loyola Marymount. Now, if you know anything about Loyola Marymount, you know this is a team that scores so many points, it has been suspected of secretly using a third basket.

Well, sir, U.S. International went out and pumped 150 points through the hoops.

Losing by only 31.

That's right, good old USIU--the University of Shoot It Up!--gave up 181 points in a 40-minute basketball game. Loyola's players had to be immediately treated by doctors for basketball elbow. They couldn't lift their arms for a week. They absolutely riddled U.S. International's patented 5-0-0 zone defense.

Naturally, this effort went into the NCAA's record book. U.S. International established a standard for standing around. As soon as NCAA officials brought their tape measure to make sure the baskets weren't seven feet high, they declared U.S. International the winner and new champion in the category of Most Points Allowed by What Is Presumably a College Basketball Team.

This record seemed unbreakable. But they just didn't know our boys at U.S. International.

A week ago today, Coach Gary Zarecky's zany gang booked passage to beautiful Norman, Okla., home of the highly ranked Oklahoma Sooners, who placed second to Kansas in the 1988 NCAA finals.

Oklahoma's players were waiting with open arms, which was more than could be said for U.S. International's.

The Sooners scored 97 points.

Then, they went into the locker room for halftime.

That's right--halftime.

Think about this for a minute: U.S. International surrendered 97 points in 20 minutes. I've seen more defense played in H-O-R-S-E contests. I've seen more defense from college bands . I've seen more defense from Red Klotz and the Washington Generals, when they played the Harlem Globetrotters. I've seen more defense in empty gyms.

Oklahoma even got off four three-point shots, bidding for 100. Amazing. Fifty years ago, in the first NCAA championship game, the final score was 46-33. As recently as 1980, it was 59-54. Has somebody approved a four-point shot I haven't heard about?

Eventually, the Sooners won, 173-101. U.S. International buckled down to preserve Loyola Marymount's scoring record. Either that, or Oklahoma only sent three players back out from the locker room.

"That wasn't us tonight; believe me, it wasn't," Zarecky said later.

He was right. The real U.S. International almost always holds teams under 95 at halftime.

Check out this team's next game, if you can ever find out where it is. U.S. International has truly become America's Opponent. You'll be able to recognize its players, even without a scorecard. They'll be the ones taking the ball out of bounds.

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