Inquisitive New Yorkers—some 18,239 of them—who filled Madison Square Garden to watch Cincinnati and its marvelous Oscar Robertson in the Holiday Festival weren't disappointed. Little St. Bona-venture, far from the homey Olean (N.Y.) Armory where it has won 89 straight, tried desperately to bell the marauding Bearcats but merely succeeded in muzzling them for a half, finally bowed 96-56. The Bonnies, led by hustling Sam Stith, crowded the Cincinnati middle for a while, but Robertson, with substantial help from talented pro-type Playmaker Ralph Davis and Sophomore Paul Hogue, a strong-bodied 6-foot 9-inch rebounder, stuffed the basket to overflowing in the last eight minutes and finished with 47 points for a new Festival record.
In other first-round games Dartmouth spun in and out of a zone, sag and press to slow down unbeaten NYU, but still the Violets won 78-68; Iowa, making the most of moving blocks and aggressive ball-handling by pint-sized Guards Ron Zagar and Mike Heitman, defeated jittery St. John's 91-84; St. Joseph's, down 10 points midway in the second half, sufficiently confused Manhattan with a sniping, pressing zone to overhaul the usually meticulous Jaspers 84-70.
Providence came off three defeats by Bradley, St. Louis and St. John's to sneak past touring Santa Clara 62-60. However, the Californians returned home reasonably satisfied after beating St. Bonaventure 69-48 and Connecticut 54-47. Canisius edged Pitt 89-82 and Wisconsin trounced Boston College 95-82 in the Queen City tournament. The top three:
January 4, 1960
1. NYU (6-0)
2. ST. JOSEPH'S (6-1)
3. LA SALLE (6-0)
Georgia Tech's Yellow Jackets buzzed into Dallas with high hopes and a 13-game winning streak only to discover that SMU was not impressed by either. The Mustangs shrewdly gave up the outside to Roger Kaiser (who scored 25 points), protected the inside with careful zealousness and left it up to showboating Max Williams (20 points) and Rebounder Steve Strange (19 points) to outshoot and outdefend Tech. They did, and SMU won 80-71. Next night, Georgia Tech Coach John (Whack) Hyder changed his strategy. He moved ball-handling whiz Dave Denton to the high post, and it paid off with a 63-60 victory over Texas Tech.
Texas A&M and Texas were idle, but TCU managed to throw a scare into Oklahoma City before the speedy Chiefs let loose with a 25-point burst in the last 8½ minutes to win 74-63. The top three:
1. SMU (5-2)
2. OKLAHOMA CITY (6-2)
3. TEXAS A&M (5-0)
Things were fairly quiet in the South. West Virginia, with impressive victories over St. Louis (87-86) and Kentucky (79-70) and the Kentucky Invitational trophy safely tucked away in its treasure chest, headed west to try its luck in Los Angeles, while Kentucky, Georgia Tech and North Carolina sadly nursed their bruises. However, things were looking up for Duke after the Blue Devils beat Navy 76-71 in the Birmingham Classic final.
Kentucky perked up a bit to outlast tenacious Temple 97-92 as veteran Bill Lickert pulled out of his slump to score 27 points. But the Wildcats had all kinds of trouble containing Bill (Pickles) Kennedy, who sifted through the Kentucky defenses for 29 points. With Ohio State and Georgia Tech in the immediate offing, Coach Adolph Rupp put his finger squarely on Kentucky's sore spot. "We just don't have that big and dangerous man," moaned The Baron. "We don't have anybody to go get 'em."
Mississippi's unbeaten string came to an abrupt end in the Wautauga Invitational at Johnson City, Tenn., where little East Tennessee State shocked the Rebs 79-60. But State's dream of success was shortlived. Virginia Tech, with Chris Smith commanding the boards and scoring 20 points, whomped The Buccaneers 74-56 in the final.
Louisville, beaten by Cincinnati 97-74, recovered sufficiently to trounce Alabama 84-54 and then was forced to a semifreeze to hold off rallying Wittenberg 59-46. The top three:
1. WEST VIRGINIA (8-0)
2. GEORGIA TECH (7-1)
3. DUKE (4-1)
Two coaches with a single objective—Ohio State's Fred Taylor and Utah's milk-guzzling Jack Gardner—matched fast breaks and precocious sophomores for 40 thunderous minutes. When it was all over, the faster Utes had tumbled the Buckeyes 97-92 and the sophs wound up in a Mexican standoff: 32 points and 17 rebounds for Ohio State's 6-foot 8-inch Jerry Lucas; 31 points and 17 rebounds for Utah's 6-foot 9-inch Billy (The Hill) McGill. Utah then took apart College of Pacific 72-58.
Brigham Young also cut itself a slice of fun, upsetting Michigan State 79-75 on Gary Earnest's two free throws and layup in the last 34 seconds. But BYU couldn't stand up to Ohio State and Lucas. The final score: 91 79. California guarded Michigan State half to death, overwhelmed the Spartans with hulking Darrall Imhoff and beat them 71-60 for its 22nd straight. The top three:
1. CALIFORNIA (6-0)
2. UTAH (8-0)
3. SANTA CLARA (7-2)
While Big Tenners Ohio State and Michigan State were getting their lumps in the West, Indiana was making time at home. The fast-breaking Hoosiers, taking their cue from Cornerman Frank Radovich and Boardsweeper Walt Bellamy, ran down Butler 91-85 and Notre Dame 71-60 to win the Hoosier Classic at Indianapolis.
Iowa (see THE EAST) and Illinois, too, were showing signs of life. The ball-hawking Illini gained prestige by dumping Marquette 89-77 and added to it with a 60-57 win over deliberate Oklahoma.
Cincinnati drubbed Missouri Valley foe Bradley 86-71 before taking off for New York, but the Bearcats will have to reckon with a St. Louis team that is beginning to show more than Center Bob Nordmann's muscles. The Billikens found a sparkplug guard in Sophomore George Latinovich and came out of the Kentucky Invitational with a 68-52 victory over North Carolina. Back home they beat Kansas 66-59 and Creighton 84-66. The top three:
1. CINCINNATI (7-0)
2. OHIO STATE (7-1)
3. ST. LOUIS (8-2)