Yale all-time moment No. 4: Beating Pistol Pete

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Yale is next by request of Ivy Player of the Year Justin Sears.

Yale made some history at the 1969 Rainbow Classic in Hawaii by defeating LSU in the championship game, 97-94.

LSU was anything but a pushover that year, led by senior Pete Maravich, who averaged 44.5 (!) points per game, still the highest scoring total in NCAA history. But Yale’s Jim Morgan (who turned in 21.3 points per contest that year himself) outscored Maravich head-to-head 35-34 on Dec. 30, 1969, giving the Elis the edge they needed. LSU went on to finish second in the SEC that season, making Yale’s victory even more impressive. Yale finished 11-13 (7-7 Ivy, good for fourth in the conference), but beating Pete Maravich (and having a player outscore him) validates any season.

10 thoughts on “Yale all-time moment No. 4: Beating Pistol Pete”

  1. What a great honor to be ranked in Yale All-time Basketball Moments. Beating LSU with Pistol Pete was a memorable experience. So proud of what our team was able to do.

    • Mr. Morgan, it’s a great honor to hear from you! Thanks very much for being the driving force behind such a special moment in Yale and Ivy basketball history.

      • Thanks, Mike. I sent this out to a number of my former teammates, and several responded with the same pride that I felt. By the way, in that same season, we beat Princeton to break a 16 game losing streak. Most of us felt that the Princeton victory was much more significant, even though it didn’t get the national attention of the Rainbow Classic. Princeton was a much better team than LSU. Geoff Petrie and John Hummer, both NBA 1st round selections, played on that team. I’m sure you remember how great the Ivy League was back in those days – we consistently had several teams (usually Penn, Columbia and Princeton) ranked in the top 20.
        Thanks again, Jim

        • I’m glad your teammates appreciated the post. Thanks for highlighting the Princeton victory too – it was obviously such a magic time for the Ivy League and such a great feat to defeat that Princeton squad. Thank you again.

          • I was in 5th grade and a huge college basketball fan when my brother Jim played at Yale. I can vividly remember the call Jim made to our parents letting us know that Yale won the Rainbow Classic and that he outscored Pete Maravich fan. I was a big Pete Maravich fan but of course an even bigger Jim Morgan fan. To hear that Jim outscored Pete Maravich was unbelievable. I had to tell someone so I called my best friend to tell him my brother Jim outscored Pete Maravich and he responded “Pete who.” Obviously not as big a college basketball fan as I was.

            By sheer coincidence my mother took me and my sister on trip to Yale to watch Jim play. It happened to be the weekend of the Princeton game that Jim mentioned. Hard to imagine that all took place 46 years ago. Jim was a great player and some of my fondest memories are of him playing high school and college basketball. Still think he could have played in the pros.

          • Hi Mr. Morgan, it’s an honor to hear from you as well! I can only imagine how it would feel for to have a brother outscore Pete Maravich and have the high school and collegiate career Jim had. Thanks so much for sharing such a special moment.

    • Jim
      Perhaps it’s 40 yrs too late but as a younger(!) at the time, aspiring b’baller in New Haven I thought to correspond. I have not forgotten the inspiration of your play! Size didn’t matter….relentless determination to compete made the difference.
      Hope all is well

  2. Ted,
    Thanks for your thoughtful note. How old were you at the time, where did you play, and what kind of b-ball career did you have. Hope it was satisfying. I follow Yale basketball pretty closely; attended about 10 games this year including Baylor and Duke in NCAA Regional. We organized a Basketball Players Reunion a few years ago, and 25 former players from 4 classes (’68, ’70, ’71, ’72) and Coach Joe Vancisin returned to New Haven. I’m sure you’d remember many of them. Best wishes to you, and if you’re ever at a game in New Haven look for me in the stands opposite the Yale bench. I’m usually with a couple of tall guys. Of course, as you mentioned, relative to me they were all pretty tall.
    Jim Morgan, Yale ’71

  3. Mr. Morgan,
    I followed your career hugely. Always sat behind Yale bench and couldn’t wait to watch you step onto court each and every evening. Coach V. did good job with the Eli’s
    My all time favorite game wa when Eli’s played Princeton and Brian Taylor at Payne Whitney. Exciting finish. Princeton came back from 17 down and won in the end.

  4. I was a freshman (now first year, I’m told) on the Yale basketball team at a time when freshman weren’t eligible to play varsity. I have many memories of of Jim Morgan, none less important than reading the SI account of his leading Yale to victory in that game in Hawaii, as reported in SI. At the time I was dreaming about playing ball at some Ivy school. Jim’s performance put Yale in the lead, and I did attend.

    All that said, my fondest memory of Jim Morgan, and there are several, relates to an exam period, when the varsity scrimmaged the freshmen. I was on the court, and Jim made a move that left me so turned around that I barely had enough time to see the ball go through the hoop. My freshman teammate, sitting at the time, Ned Jaruszewski, laughed his ass of, nothing I didn’t deserve. Ned was, to be fair, far quicker and far more skilled than I.

    Before that session ended, the reverse occurred. Jim Morgan humiliated Ned as badly as he had me. In the end, we both laughed and admitted our appreciation for Jim’s abilities.

    The thing that I remember most from watching Jim Morgan play is that his remarkable passes, after a remarkable dribble penetration of the defense, often found his teammate unprepared to catch the ball. That is just a small nod to how talented Jim Morgan was, and how much better he could have been had he been playing with those who could have helped to take advantage of his remarkable abilities.

    I have no doubt that Jim will be in Jacksonville tomorrow to relive his triumph of fifty years ago, and I hope his presence propels the Elis to yet another improbable win.

    College basketball is a great game, for a lot of reasons.


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