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Record of 61 points still stands for Carr

Austin Carr played for Notre Dame in an era when prolific scorers dominated college basketball.

LSU’s Pete Maravich was scoring 40 a night and still No. 1 on the points list. Niagara’s Calvin Murphy, Purdue’s Rick Mount and St. Bonaventure’s Bob Lanier, along with Carr, were others putting up eye-popping numbers.

It wasn’t until Carr scored a still-standing NCAA Tournament-record 61 points against Ohio in the first round in 1970 that, in his mind, he started to separate himself.

“At the time it gave me a different status in the basketball world,” he told The Associated Press this week. “It gave me an opportunity to be put on the radar, to be in the top three or four players in the draft. A whole lot of things happened because of that.”

Carr averaged 34.6 points over 74 college games, a figure that still ranks No. 2 behind Maravich’s 44.4. In the 1971 NBA draft, Carr was taken No. 1 overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Carr played nine of his 11 pro seasons with the Cavs and averaged better than 15 points a game, a figure that would have been higher had it not been for injuries. Now 72, he’s the team’s television analyst and director of community and business development.

Carr said he didn’t expect his single-game tournament scoring record to last so long. At the same time, he laments the magnitude of the accomplishment has faded over 50 years, perhaps because he never made it past a regional semifinal when he played for the Irish.

“It’s there but it doesn’t really ring a lot of bells until this time of year because people don’t talk about it,” he said. “Recently, I’m starting to hear more about it as a record that might not be broken. So that’s starting to travel around. But the one thing about this generation, we don’t really worry too much about the past. They’re more about the future. I’ve just resigned myself to that.”

Notre Dame, like most teams back then, relied heavily on one or two players to carry the scoring load. Carr was comfortable shooting from anywhere on the floor, and point guard Jack Meehan was adept at feeding him the ball.

Carr’s 61-point game really wasn’t out of character. He averaged 41.3 points over seven NCAA games from 1968-71, including games of 52, 52, 47 and 45 points.

Film of the game against Ohio showed nine of his baskets came from behind what would have been today’s 3-point arc, meaning he would have scored 70 in this era.

The game in Dayton, Ohio, didn’t begin well for Carr. Ohio’s John Canine, the man he was assigned to guard, made his first six shots. Assistant coach Gene Sullivan approached Carr on the bench and said, “Are you going to play defense tonight or let this guy kill you?”

That moment changed the game. Canine cooled off and Carr went on a tear. The junior shooting guard was 25 of 44 from the field and 11 of 14 from the line, and the Irish won 112-82.

During Carr’s career, Notre Dame made three straight NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time in school history.

“It helped put a football school on the basketball map, and that’s what I really enjoyed about that whole time at Notre Dame,” Carr said. “To give it some type of a basketball reputation, I was really proud of that.”

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