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Kuester's Big Night

Interesting read from Lee Pace at The Ram's Club.

John Keuster, often "lost" among the bigger names on the 1977 team, comes to the rescue in the ACC Championship.

Ford had already been hit with three charging calls in the game (one of them eliciting a technical foul in protest from coach Dean Smith), and he picked up his fifth foul on a collision with defender Billy Langloh.

That put Kuester in the prism to lead the offense and direct a mishmash lineup of Tar Heels.

“I looked down our bench and saw LaGarde and Davis and then Ford,” Smith said. “But we had John Kuester. He got lost sometimes with all the so-called stars we had. But he was a star in his own right.”

Kuester took the leadership reins those last six minutes. He defended Virginia point guard Bobby Stokes. He directed the Tar Heel offense. He made four free throws down the stretch. When the Heels inched ahead with 3:20 to play, you could be sure they would be going to the Four Corners delay, and soon after they went to the spread, Kuester hit O’Koren with a back-door layup.

The Virginia threat was averted (even with O’Koren fouling out in the last two minutes), and the Heels went on to a 75-69 win and eventual berth in the Final Four (they lost to Marquette in the title game). Kuester was named ACC Tournament MVP for his late-game heroics.

“John was just great,” Ford said. “He is starting to get some of the credit he deserves.”

“We all just kept our poise,” Kuester said. “Even without Tommy and Walter and then Phil and Mike, everyone kept their poise.”

1977 is widely regarded as one of the most heartbreaking ends of any UNC season, possibly ever.  That being said, based on the injuries they suffered and if this one game is an indication, what kind of "luck" they were dealing with, it is amazing the Heels even found themselves in position to win the national title.  A credit to the players for their gritty, gutty efforts.  Also credit to Dean Smith who basically found a way to make lemonade out of lemons.