UB Bees' bombastic basketball


WATCHING the NCAA basketball tournament, Glimpses is impressed with the wonderful athleticism of these young men. Guys like Michigan's Juwan Howard appear at times to be suspended in air. It's the best ballet on television.

But it isn't particularly high-scoring. With a few exceptions, such as Missouri's 98-88 overtime win over Syracuse and Arkansas' 103-84 trouncing of Tulsa, the tournament games seldom see scores in the 90s. Last weekend, in fact, Duke got in the Final Four with winning scores of 59 over Marquette and 69 over Purdue.

They should have been around the Monumental City in the mid-1950s, when the University of Baltimore had a team that regularly won games with scores over 100. It ran up 131 points beating Bridge water, 141 against Lynchburg. In the first half of the 1954 season, a Sun sports writer declared that UB had "the scoringest college basketball team in the country." Seven games into the season, the team was averaging well over 100 points.

The UB Super Bees had varsity basketball teams from 1939 through 1983, and they didn't have a gym to call their own! In the early years, the games were low-scoring. In 1939, for example, the Bees stunned powerhouse Catholic University, 46-40.

In 1940, they humbled the University of Delaware, 54-28. In 1941, there was a heartbreaking loss to mighty Seton Hall, 45-44. (UB athletic director B. Herbert Brown Jr. protested the game. He charged that Seton Hall had six men on the floor when it scored the winning basket. The protest failed.)

In 1941, the Bees were invited to what was then called the "National Intercollegiate Basketball Championship" in Kansas City. They won the first game against the University of Omaha, 52-35, but were eliminated by Appalachian State, 48-36.

UB became a member of the NCAA Division II and the Mason-Dixon Conference in 1948, and by the early '50s it was running up huge scores, even by today's standards. "It was firehouse basketball," explained Bees coach Al Barthelme. "It cleanses a man's soul of its angers, fattens his ego, helps him sleep. The Bees liked to run, which is the big thing in firehouse basketball." A firehouse team like the Bees of '54 wastes little time in the transition game. That way, there's more time for shooting, which means more baskets.

"I went all the way from the lowest scoring, more careful team to the wildest, fastest kind there is. I read some books, I showed the players how to pass, how to run, how to shoot, gave them a few patterns and let them go."

In two other games that year, the Bees scored 109 in beating Catholic U and 119 against Kings College. The scorekeeper in pTC the latter game, according to one account, "was worn out."

After UB became a public university in 1975, its athletic teams became members of NCAA's Division I. But athletics proved too costly, and UB decided to eliminate all varsity athletics in 1983. That didn't eliminate the memory of some proud seasons, though, especially 1954's "scoringest team in the country."

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