What is the highest-scoring game in NCAA Tournament history?


Which programs come to mind when thinking about March Madness?

There’s John Wooden’s undefeated UCLA squads. Mike Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp created “Blue Bloods” at Duke and Kentucky, respectively. Bob Knight, Roy Williams and Jim Calhoun each won three titles apiece during their coaching careers.

Despite all of the combined championships, none of them were as good as Paul Westhead’s Loyola Marymount teams in one key aspect: putting up points.

For three straight seasons beginning in 1987, the Lions were far and away the highest-scoring team in the nation. Their average scoring output went from 110.3 points per game to 112.5 to 122.4 across the three seasons. In 1989-90, the team’s 122.4 points per game were 21.1 points more than the second-place program. It translated to wins, too, with the school going a combined 74-21 in the three-year span.

For as good as Loyola Marymount was at scoring the ball, the team was downright horrific on defense. The Lions gave up the most points in the nation each of those three seasons, again by a substantial margin. Westhead’s crew surrendered 108.1 points per game in 1989-90, 6.1 higher than the second-worst defense. The year before that, the Lions (107.3) allowed 11.1 more points per game than any other Division I team.

Put all of that together, and you get Loyola Marymount’s historic March Madness track record. The team played in the five highest-scoring NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament games of all time – all within three years. Here’s a breakdown of each of those shootouts:

1. 264 points: 1990 second round, No. 11 Loyola Marymount 149, No. 3 Michigan 115

Loyola Marymount blew the doors off of Michigan in the highest-scoring NCAA Tournament game in history.

The Lions took a 65-58 lead into halftime of their second round game before going ballistic in the second half. Loyola Marymount outscored Michigan a whopping 84-57 over the final 20 minutes on their way to the Sweet 16.

Jeff Fryer was the leading scorer with 41 points on 15-for-20 shooting, followed by Bo Kimble’s 37 points. Terrell Lowery posted 23 points off 17 shots from the bench, while Per Stumer (21) and Tom Peabody (14) also scored in double figures.

2. 234 points: 1988 first round, No. 10 Loyola Marymount 119, No. 7 Wyoming 115

Loyola Marymount got its first NCAA Tournament win in 27 years by outlasting Wyoming in the opening round of the 1988 tourney.

Kimble led the way with a game-high 29 points and four 3-pointers. Mike Yoest got 25 points on just nine field goal attempts, sinking 15 of 17 free throws. Hank Gathers (19), Fryer (17) and Mark Armstrong (15) chipped in, as well. 

Six players scored 10-plus points for Wyoming, but even a 63-point second half was not enough to get past Loyola Marymount.

3. 232 points: 1990 Elite Eight, No. 1 UNLV 131, No. 11 Loyola Marymount 101

Here are the games where the Lions’ defense cost them in March.

In fairness to Loyola Marymount, nobody was really a match for the 1989-90 UNLV squad. The Runnin’ Rebels steamrolled their way to a national title, and it came at Loyola Marymount’s expense in the Elite Eight. UNLV had its highest-scoring game of the season, with Larry Johnson, Greg Anthony, Stacey Augmon and Anderson Hunt combining for 104 points, enough to beat the Lions’ whole team.

Kimble and Fryer put up a fight, scoring 42 and 21 points, respectively. Lowery contributed 18 off the bench, but the rest of the Loyola Marymount roster combined for just 20 points as the team fell short of the Final Four.

4. 221 points: 1989 first round, No. 5 Arkansas 120, No. 12 Loyola Marymount 101

The Lions were one-and-done in the 1989 NCAA Tournament after the Arkansas Razorbacks went off for 120 points in their first round matchup.

Mario Credit led Arkansas with 34 points and 13 rebounds. Lenzie Howell also had an impressive game, earning a 27-point, 12-rebound double-double while hitting 10 of 11 field goal attempts.

Gathers scored a team-high 28 points for Loyola Marymount. Kimble and Fryer scored 24 points apiece, but they shot a combined 14-for-51 from the floor as Fryer went 5-for-22 from long range.

5. 220 points: 1988 second round, No. 2 North Carolina 123, No. 10 Loyola Marymount 97

After beating Wyoming in the first round of the 1988 tournament, Loyola Marymount was roughed up by North Carolina in its next game.

The Tar Heels outscored the Lions 65-40 in the first half on their way to a 26-point blowout. Ranzino Smith shined off the UNC bench, totaling 27 points and going 11-for-14 from the floor.

Like Smith, Fryer scored 27 points off the bench. Gathers was the Lions’ next-highest scorer with 17 points in the defeat.

Other high-scoring NCAA Tournament games

In total, 19 NCAA Tournament games have reached 200 total points. By comparison, Loyola Marymount was involved in 62 such shootouts from 1988-89 to 1990-91.

Here are the other March Madness contests that met that threshold, including another Loyola Marymount tournament game:

6. 216 points: 2005 second round, No. 7 West Virginia 111, No. 2 Wake Forest 105

7. 214 points: 1994 first round, No. 12 Tulsa 112, No. 5 UCLA 102

T-8. 207 points: 1992 Elite Eight, No. 1 Duke 104, No. 2 Kentucky 103

T-8. 207 points: 2007 first round, No. 5 Tennessee 121, No. 12 Long Beach State 86

T-10. 206 points: 1987 second round, No. 1 North Carolina 109, No. 9 Michigan 97

T-10. 206 points: 1998 Sweet 16, No. 1 Oklahoma 108, No. 5 Louisville 98

T-10. 206 points: 2002 second round, No. 8 UCLA 105, No. 1 Cincinnati 105

T-13. 205 points: 1989 second round, No. 1 Oklahoma 124, No. 9 Louisiana Tech 81

T-13. 205 points: 1994 second round, No. 1 Missouri 109, No. 9 Wisconsin 96

15. 204 points: 1992 second round, No. 2 Kentucky 106, No. 10 Iowa State 98

16. 203 points: 1990 first round, No. 11 Loyola Marymount 111, No. 10 Iowa State 98

17. 202 points: 2004 first round, No. 9 UAB 102, No. 8 Washington 100

T-18. 200 points: 1998 first round, No. 5 Iowa 102, No. 12 Florida State 98

T-18. 200 points: 2008 first round, No. 12 Western Kentucky 101, No. 5 Drake 99

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