There was no stopping Glen Rice during the 1989 NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The sweet-shooting 6-foot-7 senior scored a staggering 18.4 points in the Michigan Wolverines’ six games, including 31 in the championship tilt against Seton Hall. Not surprisingly, Rice blew away the competition when it came time to name the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player. Broadcasters, opponents and NBA scouts were all smitten with Rice, nobody could seem to stop talking about him.
Entering his junior season, Rice was known in hoops circles as a promising talent, but his name was by no means a fixture of nightly sports broadcasts outside of Ann Arbor. During a trip to Alaska for a tournament in 1987, though, Rice allegedly caught the eye of a young female sportscaster who would eventually make a bid for just the sort of power it would take to enact that law that coach Arrow would mention.
According to a controversial new book, The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor had a one-night stand with Rice (although the New York Daily News, thought it was with Jerry Rice) while he was in Alaska in 1987.
Although Palin’s husband casts doubts on the veracity of the entire book, the alleged romantic rendezvous surely makes Rice’s on-court performance in the 1987 Great Alaska Shootout a bit more interesting to look back on.
The tournament was the first action of the 1987-88 regular season and Rice scored 22 points and brought down six rebounds in Michigan’s first-round win over Miami (Fla.). The Wolverines would lose their second game to an Arizona hoopcats squad led by Sean Elliott, but Rice played 39 minutes and dropped 27 in the third-place game against Alabama-Birmingham. Rice made two clutch three-pointers in the final minutes to help Michigan win, 78-76, and would be named to the all-tournament team.
Considering he was coming off a sophomore campaign where he averaged 16.9 points per game, there’s no doubt that those were, at the time, eye-popping performances for him. Of course, knowing that he would average 22.1 per during his junior year and dominate March Madness as a senior makes the improvement seem part of a larger, long upswing.
A few months after Michigan visited Alaska, Palin, who was Sarah Heath back then, found herself calling some Michigan basketball highlights on the local news. She was reading along to clips from the Wolverines’ loss to Purde in the 1988 Big 10 Championship. Rice and his 11 points, nine rebounds, two steals and one assist in a team-high 38 minutes are not mentioned.
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