In 1971, the United States made the third successful manned moon landing and Disney World opened to the public for the first time. Meanwhile, in Columbia, South Carolina, a college basketball team put together one of the best seasons in school history.
Led by seventh-year head coach Frank McGuire, the 1970-71 South Carolina men's basketball team finished with a 20-4 record in the regular season, beating five ranked teams along the way. The team made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament and finished the season ranked No. 6 in the nation.
"It was an exciting year, not without a lot of incidents that occurred that year," former guard Dennis Powell said. "We were on everybody's list to try and knock off ... We were always on top of our game, we never hesitated one bit. That was an extraordinarily talented group and there was never any issues with anybody."
Following an upset loss to Maryland earlier in the season, the two teams faced off once more in the opening round of the ACC Tournament. That time, the Gamecocks took care of business against the Terrapins, winning 71-63.
In a rematch of the 1970 ACC championship game, the Gamecocks defeated North Carolina State by a score of 69-56 in the second round of the 1971 tournament. With the win, they advanced to the championship round on March 13, 1971, where they took on a North Carolina team coached by future Hall of Famer Dean Smith.
With time running out and the Gamecocks down 51-50 against North Carolina, a jump ball was called between guard Kevin Joyce, who was 6-foot-3, and 6-foot-10 UNC center Lee Dedmon.
Despite the 7-inch difference, Joyce out-jumped Dedmon and was able to tip the ball to center Tom Owens under the basket, resulting in a game-winning layup. South Carolina defeated UNC 52-51, clinching the ACC title and advancing to its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
"Kevin jumped center for our high school team, so I knew when the play was going down, I knew he had a chance of doing it because he could really get up," former guard Bobby Carver said.
The season would come to an abrupt end in the first round as South Carolina lost to Penn 79-64. With dreams of an NCAA championship gone, the team faced Fordham in a consolation game two days later, losing 100-90.
Despite an early exit, the Gamecocks finished the season as the No. 6 ranked team in the country with a 23-6 record.
Even 50 years later, the players from the championship squad still have a tight-knit relationship.
"I've stayed in touch with those guys and time flies so fast, and you remember so much about those times because it was such an important time in all of our lives," Carver said.
John Ribock, who was a forward on the 1971 team, said his former teammates are "all happy" and they trade stories about the glory days.
"I guess we're bound by the disappointment of not winning," Ribock said. "We have that connection of, not that we're a bunch of losers, but we didn't finish what we started to do."
Due to COVID-19, a celebration for the team's 50th anniversary was held virtually, with a video tribute at halftime of the South Carolina vs. Ole Miss game on Feb. 13. In 2022, the team will be honored in-person at the program's annual Legends Weekend.
"I thought that team was one of the best teams that I've played on," Joyce said. "It was definitely, I think, the best team at the University of South Carolina."