With holiday tournament jousting behind them, the nation's college basketball teams tucked away the tinsel and hoopla for another day and got down to the risky business of conference warfare. Some, like Cincinnati, were nursing bruises after unexpected setbacks, while others, like North Carolina State and St. John's, were riding cloud-high.
Resourceful North Carolina State emerged from the Dixie Classic as the team to beat in the Atlantic Coast Conference. After barely squeaking by bumptious Louisville 67-61 in overtime, the Wolf-pack set a double-teaming trap for Cincinnati's Oscar Robertson, snapped it closed by having Dan Englehardt hawk "The Big O" from the front while John Richter brought up the rear and tamed the unbeaten Bearcats 69-60. Next came undefeated Michigan State, a 75-58 winner over North Carolina, but Coach Ev Case had still another defensive ace up his sleeve, combining a zone with Lou Pucillo's shotmaking to beat the Spartans 70-61 for the title. Meanwhile, North Carolina, pointing for a Jan. 14 showdown with the Wolfpack, came back to edge Cincinnati 90-88 and thump Notre Dame 69-54 on national TV.
Kentucky, never quite looking great but almost always adequate, ran over Navy 82-69, squirmed past Illinois 76-75 before 18,274 at Louisville—largest crowd ever to see a regular-season game in the South—and eased by Georgia Tech 72-62 to run its undefeated string to 11. But Coach Adolph Rupp was already worrying about Auburn, a band of fast-breaking country boys who owned the nation's longest winning streak—19 straight. The Tigers beat Florida State 69-62, then persuaded travel-weary Mississippi State to play its running game and rewarded the Maroons with their first loss, 97-66, in an SEC opener. Moaned State's Coach Babe McCarthy: "We just don't play like that. We couldn't handle their shuffle. I guess somebody can, but I'm not the man to think up a way. They just whipped our fanny."
January 12, 1959
West Virginia, ahead of the pack in the Southern Conference, rebounded from two stunning defeats to beat Tennessee 76-72 and Yale 80-72.
New Yorkers, quick to praise visiting heroes, drooled over one of their own after Tony Jackson (see right), a limber-legged, 6-foot 3-inch sophomore, scored 33 points and picked off 22 rebounds to lead St. John's to a 90-79 victory over St. Joseph's (Pa.) in the Holiday Festival final, and then helped the Redmen hold off Temple 81-76.
Unbeaten St. Francis (Pa.) plucked the brass ring in the Carrousel Classic at Charlotte, N.C., holding on grimly in the face of a gallant Fordham rally to win 74-71. The Rams found things no easier back home in the East, losing to Connecticut 74-63. Dartmouth, a 72-69 winner over Canisius in the Queen City tournament, was thumped by Holy Cross 83-66.
The Big Ten, long a jungle for favorites, got off the mark in its usual unpredictable fashion. Purdue was the first to feel the wrath of an underdog, losing to Michigan 82-75, while Michigan State and Illinois just did manage to survive. A jump shot by State's Horace Walker squelched Indiana 79-77; Illinois' Lou Landt pilfered a throw-in and scored to beat Ohio State 81-80. Northwestern held on long enough to edge rallying Iowa 80-77, and Minnesota drubbed Wisconsin 79-66.
Kansas State established itself as the class of the Big Eight, beating Colorado 67-66 when bustling Bob Boozer took charge in the closing minutes. Bradley was still unbeaten after eight games and Marquette outscored Detroit 75-66 for its 10th win in 11 games.
Once-beaten Texas A&M, bubbled up by a 61-45 victory over TCU for its first Southwest Conference tournament title, got off on the right foot in league competition, taking a 65-63 cliffhanger from SMU on Wayne Lawrence's basket with three seconds to play. TCU, with broad-beamed H. E. Kirchner (6-10,240 pounds) throwing his weight around for 20 points, had an easy time disposing of Baylor 72-62, while Rice, which had previously beaten Texas by 21 points, fell to the Longhorns 61-58 and Arkansas upset Texas Tech 61-57.
For all of 24 hours California appeared to be perched in the catbird seat in the PCC. The Bears, using a pressing defense, had Washington's high-firing stars wobbling, and 6-foot 9-inch Darryll Imhoff took charge of the backboards to shock the favored Huskies 54-43. But the next night California met a defense every bit as good as its own and an offense just a mite better and lost to Oregon 59-57. USC had better luck, defeating Oregon 65-56 and Oregon State 49-41 to take the league lead. UCLA beat Idaho 62-53 and lost to Washington State 71-54; Stanford downed Washington State 59-40 and bowed to Idaho 36-31.
HOW THE MAJOR HOLIDAY TOURNAMENTS ENDED
Holiday Festival, New York: St. John's 90—St. Joseph's (Pa.) 79
Queen City, Buffalo: Dartmouth 72—Canisius 69
Providence (R.I.) Invitational: Providence 67—Boston College 60
Blue Grass, Louisville: North Carolina 78—Northwestern 64
Kentucky Invitational, Lexington, Ky.: Kentucky 97—W. Virginia 91
Dixie Classic, Raleigh, N.C.: N. Carolina St. 70—Michigan St. 61
Gator Bowl, Jacksonville: LSU 69—Mississippi 55
Sugar Bowl, New Orleans: Mississippi St. 73—Memphis St. 55
Carrousel Classic, Charlotte, N.C.: St. Francis (Pa.) 74—Fordham 71
Hurricane Invitational, Miami: Miami (Ohio) 89—Miami (Fla.) 87
Birmingham (Ala.) Classic: Auburn 79—Alabama 60
Richmond (Va.) Invitational: Penn St. 61—Richmond 54
All-America City, Owensboro, Ky.: Ohio U. 80—Utah St. 72
All-College, Oklahoma City: Oklahoma City 75—Duquesne 59
Big Eight, Kansas City: Kansas St. 67—Colorado 66
Hoosier Classic, Indianapolis: Purdue 74—Notre Dame 59
Motor City, Detroit: Michigan 93—Detroit 68
Southwest Conference, Houston: Texas A&M 61—TCU 45
Far West Classic, Corvallis, Ore.: Oregon St. 72—Iowa 71
California Winter Classic, Santa Maria: Kent St. 91—Hawaii 75