It was holiday tournament time and many of the nation's major college teams packed up their considerable talents and headed off for foreign parts in search of gold and, in some instances, prestige. There were surprises, but California and Cincinnati, among others, returned home in fine fettle, noisy acclaim still ringing happily in receptive ears.
The Los Angeles Classic, a new and flossy tournament, had the best attraction—a rematch between NCAA Champion California and runner-up West Virginia. The stage was set after Cal trounced Illinois 62-48 and squeezed by USC 65-61 in overtime, and West Virginia, led by Jerry West, the agile performer who does most things better than other people, beat Stanford 66-47 and UCLA 87-73. Once again, California's shrewd Pete Newell, the most astute defensive strategist in the business, had the answer. He slowed down the breaking Mountaineers with a clinging man-to-man which gave West Virginia only 39 shots at the basket. While Darrall Imhoff, the biggest Bear, and 6-foot 4-inch Bill McClintock controlled the boards, Ballhawk Tandy Gillis played West nose-to-nose, held him to one field goal and eight points as Cal won 65-45.
For a few shocking moments, hustling Iowa (a surprise 80-75 winner over NYU in the semifinal) had unbeaten Cincinnati on the run in the Holiday Festival final at New York. With Ron Zagar and Mike Heitman, a pair of speedy little backcourt geniuses, driving through the loose Bearcat defense, and 6-foot 7-inch Don Nelson rolling off the pivot, the vigilant Hawk-eyes surged to a 28-17 lead midway in the first half. But then Oscar Robertson took over. Poker-faced and as graceful as ever, he jumped, drove, twisted and rebounded magnificently, finished with 50 points and a new Festival record and pulled Cincinnati to a 96-83 victory. But even with all the superlatives that were heaped upon Cincinnati's amazing Wizard of Aahs, there were enough left over for St. Bonaventure's Tom Stith and St. Joseph's Bob McNeill. Stith piled up 48 points in a 96-86 consolation win over Manhattan, added 42 more to help the Bonnies whip St. John's 95-78. McNeill, a cunning playmaker, dazzled the fans with his deft behind-the-back passes, matchless dribbling and unerring shots as St. Joe's lost to Cincinnati 86-77 in the semifinal, ran over NYU 78-65 to take third place.
January 11, 1960
The Dixie Classic began and ended with an upset. Duke wrapped up Utah's fast break in a tight one-three-one zone, hemmed in Billy (The Hill) McGill and whomped the visiting Redskins 63-52. However, the Blue Devils couldn't solve North Carolina's zone combinations and lost 75-53 in the semifinal. Meanwhile, Preacher Bones McKinney, gesticulating, grimacing and suffering, whipped his Wake Forest sophomores into the proper frenzy, and they beat Holy Cross 80-71 and Dayton 61-50. In the final, the Deacons tormented North Carolina with a 7½-minute stall before Billy Packer, a talented 5-foot 10-inch sophomore, cut loose for 17 points as Wake Forest surprised the Tar Heels 53-50.
Indiana's fast-moving Hoosiers scooted past Maryland 72-63 and then caught Louisville lagging and trounced the hometowners 90-71 for the Blue Grass title. And Western Kentucky's towel-tossing Ed Diddle satisfied his sweet tooth in the Sugar Bowl, where his Hilltoppers beat Mississippi State 61-50 and Tulane 71-67, presenting him with his 699th and 700th victories (see page 31).
Iowa State, figured to be no better than an also-ran in the Big Eight, had the rest of the conference agonizingly reappraising their chances after the Cyclones bumped Kansas State 74-73, Colorado 55-41 and Kansas 83-70 in the preseason tournament at Kansas City.
Utah State, preparing to bid for Skyline honors, used its springy front line of Jerry Schofield, Cornell Green and Tyler Wilbon to snatch rebounds while 5-foot 10-inch Max Perry popped in field goals and ran through the All-College field at Oklahoma City. The iron-legged Aggies outscored Niagara 75-65, Wichita 75-68 and host Oklahoma City 75-59.
A slender, intense, almond-eyed youngster with a skillful fallaway jump shot, Carroll Broussard served warning that Texas A&M is a serious contender for the Southwest Conference title. The handy sophomore led the unbeaten Aggies past TCU 72-61 and Texas 84-74 and then dropped in a 22-footer with 13 seconds to play to beat SMU 58-55 in the final.
Other tournament finals: Queen City—Canisius 80, Wisconsin 65; Providence Invitational—Providence 83, Georgetown 55; Keystone—Temple 65, Penn 53; Hurricane—Miami 87, Xavier (Ohio) 69; Richmond Invitational—South Carolina 86, Lafayette 85; Gator Bowl—Georgia 69, Florida State 66; Poinsettia—The Citadel 77, Furman 73; Motor City—Detroit 92, Western Michigan 72; West Coast AC—Loyola of Los Angeles 70, Santa Clara 60; Far West Classic—Oregon State 60, Oregon 56.
While NYU and St. John's retired to lick their Holiday Festival wounds, St. Joseph's leaped right back into the arena to beat Manhattan 82-76. The precocious Hawks blew a 16-point lead, but John Egan and slick Bob McNeill supplied the late lift.
Villanova continued unbeaten, turning back Boston College 81-67 for its seventh straight with the help of 32 points by sophomore Hubie White. Holy Cross took a crack at the Ivies and outlasted Dartmouth 82-77 as soph sharpshooter John Foley and Tim Shea each scored 25 points. But Temple was unable to handle George Washington's pint-sized John Feldman, who accounted for 27 points, and bowed to the Colonials 101-65. The top three:
1. ST. JOSEPH'S (8-2)
2. NYU (6-2)
3. VILLANOVA (7-0)
Kentucky's Adolph Rupp has had few cheering moments this season but, for a couple of hours last week, he enjoyed himself immensely. The crafty old Baron shifted Bill Lickert to backcourt, sent Lickert and Bennie Coffman driving off a double pivot for 55 points between them, tightened up his defenses, and the Wildcats upset Ohio State 96-93. However, not even Rupp could figure out a way to handle the Buckeyes' Jerry Lucas (see page 34), who scored 34 points and properly awed 13,000 basketball-wise Lexingtonians with his graceful, fluid accuracy.
But none of Rupp's wiles could help when Georgia Tech came to town to open the Southeastern Conference race. Aware that the Wildcats had them beat off the boards, the resourceful Yellow Jackets attacked deliberately to make every shot count (Roger Kaiser and Dave Denton split 36 points), harassed Kentucky into bumbling errors with a hawking, collapsing defense and won 62-54.
In other SEC openers, Auburn beat defending champion Mississippi State 64-48 for the Maroons' first home loss in 35 games; Tennessee outran Vanderbilt 72-60; Mississippi beat Alabama 86-77; Tulane edged Georgia 76-74; Florida defeated LSU 73-63.
North Carolina, still trying to find itself, sagged in each half, but Captain Harvey Salz picked up the Tar Heels with 21 clutch points and boosted them to a 75-65 victory over Notre Dame. The top three:
1. WEST VIRGINIA (10-1)
2. GEORGIA TECH (9-1)
3. WAKE FOREST (7-2)
The Big Ten race was barely under way, and already co-favorite Indiana and dark horse Iowa were stooping to pick up the pieces. Purdue's sophomores, especially Terry Dischinger, came of age unbelievably fast to tumble Indiana 79-76. Minnesota, one of the least likely to succeed in the Big Ten, slugged Iowa 70-61. Meanwhile, back at Madison, Michigan State rolled over Wisconsin 91-79. But the Spartans are headed for trouble. No. 2 Scorer Art Gowans and Guard Jim Bechinski lost the battle of the books and will sit out the rest of the season.
Bradley lured St. Louis into its comfy Peoria gym and hit the Billikens with a fistful of baskets to bring them down 86-64 in a vital Missouri Valley game. Chet (The Jet) Walker had the hottest hands, pushing in 21 points for the Braves. Cincinnati returned home to give the neighbors an eyeful and managed to beat Dayton's ball control game 70-63, thanks to Oscar Robertson's 32 points.
DePaul, sailing serenely along with eight straight, ran smack into rough-tough Louisville, failed to rally in time and lost 75-74. The top three:
1. CINCINNATI (10-0)
2. BRADLEY (8-1)
3. OHIO STATE (7-2)
While the hurly-burly Southwest Conference prepared for heavy firing, Arizona State's Border contenders warmed up their shooting arms with victories over Santa Barbara 77-57 and Abilene Christian 102-83. The top three:
1. TEXAS A&M (8-0)
2. SMU (7-3)
3. OKLAHOMA CITY (8-3)
USC's Trojans, who almost turned the trick in the Los Angeles Classic, finally caught up to California and snapped the trap shut on the prideful Bears 65-57, thus ending the nation's longest winning streak at 25. Correctly figuring he had to restrain Cal's Darrall Imhoff off the offensive boards, Trojan Coach Forrest Two-good got the job done with Sophomore Ken Stanley and Jim Hanna while John Werhas scored 14 points.
Idaho State, which seems to thrive on adversity, hardly missed a step when Playmaker Alan Morris and Coach Johnny Evans parted over training rules. The Bengals pushed over Colorado State 58-51 and Wyoming 68-58 in their own invitational round-robin. The top three:
1. CALIFORNIA (9-1)
2. UTAH (10-1)
3. USC (8-3)