Coach Babe McCarthy, a mere neophyte in the hostile SEC jungle, had one trick more up his sleeve than Kentucky's effusive Adolph Rupp and played it right (see page 50) as once-beaten Mississippi State tamed the Wildcats 66-58 at Starkville to take second place behind Auburn. State's zone kept Kentucky outside and brilliant Bailey Howell skillfully eluded Wildcat defenders to put up 27 points and snare 17 rebounds. Five nights later the talented Howell scored 43 points to help the Maroons humble Florida 105-68 at Gainesville, and even the partisan Gator fans were moved to give him a rousing ovation. Kentucky found solace in Chicago, where it bounced back to beat Notre Dame 71-52.
While all the shooting was going on in Starkville, unbeaten Auburn was doing plenty of its own at home. The Tigers toyed with Florida 93-71 and shifted from its usual shuffle to a fast break to whomp confused LSU 115-67 and run their undefeated string to 29. But Auburn was not yet out of the woods. The sharpshooting Tigers, only a smidgen ahead of Mississippi State in the SEC standings, still had to prove that they, too, could bell the Cats when they face Kentucky at Lexington next Saturday.
North Carolina State picked up ground in the ACC, suppressing Duke 80-72 and beating Maryland 53-37, but the Wolfpack gained little comfort from North Carolina's activities. The Tar Heels parlayed a magnificent second-half defensive effort by Sophomore Doug Moe, who cooled off Wake Forest's George Ritchie, into a 75-66 victory over the Deacons at Winston-Salem after flaring tempers blossomed into a small-scale riot. Then, North Carolina moved on to Chicago to trim Loyola 76-57.
West Virginia, upset by NYU in New York (see EAST), returned to the usually homier confines of the Southern Conference but found Richmond in no mood to be taken and barely squeezed by the Spiders 64-62 for its 45th consecutive league triumph. Earlier Virginia Tech bombed Richmond 104-66 to tighten its grip on second place as sparkling Sophomore Bob Ayersman scored 47 points.
Perhaps the week's most responsive player was Davis and Elkins' Paul Wilcox. Finding his small-college scoring lead threatened, Wilcox took matters into his own capable hands and piled up 70 points to hoist his total for 18 games to 632 and his average to 35.1, as his team clubbed Glenville 116-90.
NYU, suddenly getting NIT fever, lured unsuspecting West Virginia into Madison Square Garden and proceeded to teach the mountain boys the facts of life in the big city. With Cal Ramsey, a Violet who never quite bloomed before, rebounding and scoring (30 points) like a pro, NYU's great outside shooting and board control beat the West Virginia zone press and forced the game into overtime, where the New Yorkers won it 72-70. Army, beaten by Notre Dame 76-60 in the Irish's first visit to West Point since 1931, also fell before rejuvenated NYU 80-66.
Villanova and St. John's, the first two teams to accept NIT bids, enjoyed mixed success. Villanova moved safely past St. Francis (Pa.) 80-69 and Canisius 57-48, but St. John's bowed to neighboring Fordham 79-77 in overtime. St. Bonaventure slipped past St. Francis (Pa.) 72-68 to avenge its only loss and whipped Detroit 85-64; St. Joseph's defeated Penn 80-77 and Wake Forest 76-67; Manhattan outscored Syracuse 71-53 and Canisius 76-67.
Dartmouth and Princeton, still unbeaten in the Ivy League, moved inexorably toward their showdown games Feb. 21 and 27. Fast-breaking Dartmouth ran Harvard into the boards to win 71-50 and fought off Yale 76-72; Princeton had no trouble beating Columbia 86-71 and Cornell 70-52. But Columbia made the biggest news. After 17 straight defeats, the Lions finally found their claws and upset Penn 87-77.
Idle Cincinnati was an interested bystander as St. Louis and Bradley began a two-game series for second place in the Missouri Valley. The bigger Billikens, beaten only by Kentucky and Cincinnati, made the most of bulky, 6-foot-8-inch Bob Ferry's rebounding and scoring to knock over the slick Braves 72-53 at home, then outclassed Drake 64-46 to stretch their winning streak to 14.
Methodical Michigan State, minding its manners while the rest of the pretenders took turns stumbling, held off Michigan 103-91 and moved nearer the Big Ten title. Indiana's free-wheeling sophs did their faltering against Illinois and lost 89-83, but came back to edge Minnesota 62-57; Purdue was done in by tailender Wisconsin 91-86 and just squeaked by Northwestern 65-63 in overtime.
Kansas State shook off Kansas 82-72 and Oklahoma State 60-49 and was almost home free in the Big Eight. However, the week's kudos went to last-place Missouri, which upset Oklahoma State 51-44 and second-place Colorado 85-80. Independent Marquette's bubble burst in mid-air after 15 straight when little Howie Carl pitched in 31 points to give DePaul an 89-80 victory and Louisville downed the Hilltoppers 68-55.
TCU, two full games in front of the pack, prepared to scoop up all the marbles in the SWC. Baylor and Texas Tech faded badly and only SMU's defending champions, who perked up to nudge Baylor 54-50 and Rice 60-57, remained to challenge the Frogs. Meanwhile, TCU carried on, flushing out Texas A&M 80-61 and Arkansas 76-71. Oklahoma City, the area's top independent, couldn't cope with Georgia Tech's free-throw accuracy, fell to the Engineers 71-65 in triple overtime.
The men were beginning to be separated from the boys in the PCC. Defense-minded California put the boot to Oregon 83-55 (see left) and UCLA 64-51 and warily peered over its shoulder at Washington and Stanford. The Huskies out-hustled Oregon State 75-59 to remain hot on the heels of the Bears; Stanford, enjoying another weekend in its cracker-box gym, bounced UCLA 69-61 and Oregon 64-53 to take third place.
Utah jolted Montana 83-71, and its Skyline lead looked even better after Colorado State shocked second-place Denver 60-52. St. Mary's clobbered COP 63-47 to race downhill toward the West Coast crown; Idaho State split with Colorado State College, losing 84-81 and winning 73-61, and neared its seventh straight Rocky Mountain title.