Unbeaten teams, the rarest species of birds in college basketball, were almost extinct after a hectic week of basket-hustling across the nation. Kentucky was the most prominent to fall, crashing down before Vanderbilt, but the Wildcats were joined by Bradley, St. Francis (Pa.), Villanova and Boston University. Of all the major teams, only Auburn (10-0) and St. Bonaventure (8-0) were still undefeated at week's end.
The biggest shocker of all took place in Nashville, where Vanderbilt, scrunching along in a so-so season, upset Kentucky 75-66. Bustling to a 14-point half-time lead on the shooting of Jim Henry and substitute Warren Fiser, Vandy harried Kentucky with a tight man-to-man defense and eventually forced the pressing Wildcats to foul, as unhappy Coach Adolph Rupp grimaced on the sidelines. When it was all over, Henry had 29 points, Vanderbilt had its most glowing SEC victory, and Acting Coach Roy Skinner (see right), filling in for Bob Polk, who is recovering from a heart attack, had his greatest thrill. Explained Skinner: "My boys went out there like it wasn't even Kentucky on the floor." The momentum carried Vanderbilt past Mississippi 79-74. LSU Coach Jay McCreary, who had earlier observed, "Kentucky can be had," found he couldn't get them. Rupp shook up his Wildcats, teamed veteran Johnny Cox with four sophomores and gained a 76-61 triumph over LSU before a national TV audience.
With Kentucky slipping from the SEC lead, Auburn kept the nation's longest winning streak—21 straight—alive, shuffling past Mississippi 60-47 and Florida 63-54 to move into first place. Mississippi State, recovering neatly from its loss to Auburn, had too much Bailey Howell and outscored Alabama 81-64 and Georgia Tech 75-67. Tulane, hardly considered a title threat, raised an eyebrow or two by slapping down favored Tennessee 65-45 as Dickie O'Brien beat the Vol zone defense for 23 points.
January 19, 1959
North Carolina State and North Carolina, building up to their payoff battle in the ACC, continued to win. State held off Virginia 73-68 and Duke 67-60, while the Tar Heels, sticking to their 1-3-1 zone even when Wake Forest went into a deep freeze, made their shots pay off for a 44-34 victory.
West Virginia, which has made the Southern Conference its private hunting preserve, rolled over Furman 100-66 for its 41st straight league win, then gave the East a look at graceful Jerry West, who scored 32 points in an 89-81 overtime win over Penn State and 23 more to help throttle Canisius 77-66. However, there were some signs that West Virginia's rule may yet be threatened. Young but talented Virginia Tech, led by Bob Ayersman's 34 points, handled George Washington's veterans 86-81 and were still undefeated in conference play. In the Ohio Valley Conference, Tennessee Tech was upset by Murray State 69-61 after downing Western Kentucky 81-73.
Loaded down with unbeaten teams as the week began, the East suddenly found itself with only one after fast-breaking George Washington outran Boston University 78-69, Youngstown shattered St. Francis (Pa.) 87-78, and hot-handed St. Joseph's ended Villanova's dream 82-70. Only St. Bonaventure escaped, and the Bonnies had to overcome big city jitters before beating Iona 68-54 in New York's Madison Square Garden.
St. John's, rated the best in the East, had its hands full with George Washington but rallied to overhaul the Colonials 86-85 when Tony Jackson and Alan Seiden calmly converted four foul shots in the closing minute. Holy Cross began to find itself, romping over Rhode Island 102-62 and ending the seven-game winning streak of Connecticut's Yankee Conference leaders, 74-50. Fordham came out of its slump to trim LIU 86-52 and Army 80-69, while NYU added to Boston University's woes by whomping the Terriers 80-56. Pitt's Don Hennon was as brilliant as ever but he couldn't do it alone; the Panthers succumbed to St. Louis 79-62, Temple 86-63 and Syracuse 70-60.
Dartmouth and Princeton, as expected, were running neck and neck among the Ivies. The Indians had some terrifying moments before edging Yale 52-51 but came back to trounce Columbia 69-40 and Cornell 77-58. Princeton, looking every inch the contender, got super performances from Jim Brangan, Artie Klein and the Belz twins, Herm and Carl, to breeze by Penn 72-57, Yale 71-55 and Brown 66-44.
The helter-skelter Big Ten was its usual jumbled self. Indiana's Hoosiers took their cue from 6-foot 10-inch Walt Bellamy's rebounding, lowered the boom on Purdue 77-69 and tamed title-favorite Northwestern 76-69. Michigan State, upset by Iowa 80-68, found Johnny Green back in form and used his 33 points and last-minute tip-in to nudge Illinois 97-96. After Northwestern snapped Michigan's six-game winning streak 83-78, the Wolverines rebounded to take Ohio State 78-74.
Cincinnati earned its Missouri Valley leadership the hard way, fighting through two overtime periods to hand Bradley its first loss, 85-84, and smacking down pretender Houston 62-54. As usual, Oscar Robertson was the target for rigged defenses. He managed to elude Bradley for 28 points, but Houston's Gary Phillips hound-dogged the Bearcat star and held him to 13 points, the lowest total of his college career.
Kansas State, with Bob Boozer showing the way, knocked over Iowa State 59-56 and Colorado 89-58 as the Big Eight went into action. Kent State, surprisingly enough, was at the head of the Mid-American standings after its shifty zone defense tied up Toledo 58-29 and Ohio University 73-58. Marquette, race-horsing over Loyola 70-59 and Air Force 67-46 for 10 in a row, was still the class of the midwest independents.
The Pacific Coast Conference, where the best offense is a good defense, found itself with at least five teams in contention. USC dropped its guard once, lost to Oregon State 61-53, and quickly found California sharing first place. The Bears made their advance at the expense of Washington 55-44, as Jack Grout and Darryl Imhoff shadowed the Huskies' Bruno Boin and Doug Smart into near desperation. The deadlock continued when California toyed with Idaho 64-39 and USC bounced back to outscore Washington State 73-67 in overtime. But Oregon State, which gave Coach Slats Gill his 500th victory in 31 years of coaching, Stanford and UCLA were all breathing down the necks of the co-leaders, and the campaign was just beginning to heat up.
St. Mary's, even without ailing Tom Meschery, firmly established itself as the team to beat in the West Coast Athletic Conference, bumping Loyola 50-41 and Pepperdine 74-64. Up north, independent Portland and Seattle split two games, Portland winning the first 70-67, while Seattle took the second 69-62.
In the Skyline Conference, it was clear that Utah and Brigham Young would be fighting it out for the title. Utah State's hopes of nuzzling into the picture were buried by Utah 82-71, and Brigham Young routed Montana 82-59. But all was not lost for New Mexico, which rocked Wyoming 59-56 for its first conference victory in two seasons.
TCU, big, strong and bench-deep, ate high on the hog—and steer—to grab command in the Southwest Conference. Tremendous rebounding by H. E. Kirchner and Ronny Stevenson muscled TCU past Arkansas' Razorbacks 52-45 and Texas' Longhorns 86-78 and all the way to the top. SMU, winner over Texas 73-55 and Texas Tech 73-59, and Arkansas, which made Rice's Owls blink 72-61, went into a tie for second place. Texas A&M faltered twice, losing to Rice 70-65 and Baylor 56-49, to drift down into a five-way tie for fourth.
Arizona State opened its bid to repeat in the Border Conference by out-scrambling Hardin-Simmons 80-78 in double overtime but had early company at the top. Texas Western converted its foul-line accuracy into a 63-57 victory over New Mexico State, and West Texas State won its first game of the year, jumping on Arizona, the other conference weakling, 90-76. Independent Oklahoma City punished West Texas State 90-63 but lost to Memphis State 66-61 after piling up nine straight.
THE NATION'S BEST
1. North Carolina State (11-1)
2. Kentucky (12-1)
3. North Carolina (9-1)
1. St. John's (10-1)
2. St. Joseph's (9-2)
3. Villanova (9-1)
1. Kansas State (11-1)
2. Cincinnati (8-2)
3. Northwestern (9-2)
1. TCU (10-2)
2. Oklahoma City (10-2)
3. Texas A&M (9-3)
1. California (9-3)
2. St. Mary's (8-4)
3. Portland (10-2)