A cross country trip during the season after Oregon won a national title in its most recent appearance in what is now known as the Final Four included a stop in the Quad-Cities.
Then known as the Webfeet, Oregon defeated Augustana in a game at Moline’s Wharton Field House on Dec. 27, 1939, the last in a series of games against Midwestern teams the team played on its way back to Eugene, Oregon following a game that season against Long Island at Madison Square Garden.
According to a report written by long-time Quad-City journalist Forrest Kilmer in the Davenport Democrat and Leader, a predecessor of today’s Quad-City Times, the Oregon team had unusual size for the era.
“In an effort to confuse the Oregon guards, coach Shorty Almquist of the Vikings switched his forwards to guard positions and visa versa, but the surprise failed to annoy the travelers,’’ Kilmer wrote in a game story detailing how Oregon’s size and speed allowed the team to pull away from an 18-10 halftime lead to win 57-22.
For Oregon, the game followed losses at Purdue, DePaul and what is now known as Western Illinois and Kilmer noted the team’s determination and style of play impressed the crowd.
“Flashing the brand of basketball which is typical of the Pacific coast conference — the one-handed push shot — the national champs repeatedly drew gasps of breath from the fans with their spectacular shooting,’’ Kilmer wrote.
“Seldom did the westerners use the back board to arch their shots against. They would come to a deep stop, take aim, draw one arm back and swish.’’
A crowd of around 3,000 paid 50 cents apiece for tickets to the game, part of a doubleheader which began with a high school game between Moline and Cedar Rapids Franklin.
John O’Donnell, the sports editor of the Democrat and Leader, pointed out that the game marked the first time a national championship team had played one of the local college teams.
“To Augustana College will fall the tough job of trying to hang a defeat on a team which averages 6 feet 2 and which plays nothing but the cream of the crop,’’ O’Donnell wrote. “That’s a job.’’
O’Donnell not only wrote about the game. A highly-regarded referee of the era, he also officiated it.
Willard Anderson scored the game’s first basket — two of his team high five points — to give Augustana a 2-0 lead before Oregon scored five straight to open a lead which held.
John Dick and Matt Pavalunas, two of the leaders of Oregon’s national championship team, scored in double figures in the game as did Hank Anderson.