With holiday tournaments over, most of the nation's major-college teams got down to more provincial business, the battle for conference championships. One team, Auburn, lost its undefeated standing in its very first Southeastern Conference game, but Bradley (12-0), Ohio State (10-0) and Vanderbilt (10-0)—along with independents Louisville (13-0) and DePaul (9-0)—were still unbeaten.
It was already apparent that there were a flock of contenders for the Southeastern Conference title. In 15 straight games Auburn had confounded opponents with its cautious, shuffling offense. The Tigers moved the ball dexterously, played for the good shot and usually made it. But last Saturday, convinced that ball control was the only way to beat Auburn, Mississippi State Coach Babe McCarthy shrewdly sent his team into a frustrating stall. He put agile 6-foot-6 Jerry Graves (who scored 24 points) on the high post, and the Maroons ended the Tigers' 36-game home-winning streak 56-48.
Kentucky, in a rare departure from Coach Adolph Rupp's standpat basketball philosophy, used a new approach to whip Georgia Tech 89-79. Not even The Baron was able to dream up a way to stop Tech's deft Roger Kaiser, who scored 38 points, but the Wildcats destroyed the Jackets' pesky zone press with a 3-2 offense which left shooting room in the corners. With this accomplished, Billy Ray Lickert, Ned Jennings and Paul Newman shot over the harried defenders for a total of 62 points as Rupp chortled gleefully on the sidelines. Vanderbilt, too, was looking more and more like a full-fledged challenger after a 68-66 victory over Tennessee.
Wake Forest easily defeated Clemson 81-59 and Virginia 88-61 to lead the Atlantic Coast Conference, but the Deacons were worrying about Duke and North Carolina. The Blue Devils, with sophomore Art Heyman scoring 28 points, rallied to overhaul Navy 78-63, then beat North Carolina State 81-67 as Heyman got 27 more. Meanwhile, North Carolina had its troubles against Notre Dame. Behind 70-64 with three minutes to play, the Tar Heels barely made it past the Irish, 73-71, on Jim Hudock's last-second tap-in.
Big Chris Smith picked off 26 rebounds and scored 19 points as Virginia Tech beat The Citadel 73-63 (before losing to Alabama 74-56) to take the Southern Conference lead. But West Virginia wasn't far behind. The Mountaineers, led by sophomore Jim McCormick and Rod Thorn, perked up their fast break to run down VMI 87-72 and Furman 105-90.
Louisville, on the verge of losing for the first time, finally slipped past Eastern Kentucky 70-69 on Ron Rubenstein's corner shot in the final second. However, the Cardinals had things easier in Milwaukee, where Marquette couldn't cope with John Turner's shooting and succumbed 84-63. The top three:
1. LOUISVILLE (13-0)
2. NORTH CAROLINA (8-2)
3. DUKE (11-1)
Coach Joe Lapchick, hardly a stoic, was particularly upset as he watched his St. John's team flounder against Temple's zone defense, miss easy shots and give up the ball to the smaller Owls. But, finally, the Redmen began to throw their height around, and Temple found it too much to overcome. Six-foot-9 LeRoy Ellis and 6-foot-5 Tony Jackson each scored 27 points, and St. John's won 81-60. St. Bonaventure experienced some of the same difficulty against little Belmont Abbey. The Bonnies stumbled and bumbled for a while, but a super second-half performance by graceful Tom Stith (who scored 35 points in all) enabled them to win 75-63 for their 96th straight at their home court in Olean. A 32-point splurge by sophomore Fred Crawford then helped them beat Duquesne 89-78.
Despite Temple's loss to St. John's, things were bright in the Philadelphia area. Villanova surprised strong Detroit 81-69 on the sure shooting of Hubie White and Jim Huggard, who scored 55 points between them, and then trounced Muhlenberg 74-53. St. Joseph's, back in winning form, recovered neatly from a late letdown to beat Seton Hall 72-71 in overtime and NYU 71-64. LaSalle, led by Bill Raftery's 25 points, outscored Miami (Fla.) 88-74.
There was considerable stirring in the usually reserved Ivy League. Columbia's Archie Oldham, disheartened by his players' lack of "proper response and enthusiasm for my coaching," resigned abruptly and was replaced by Assistant Ken Hunter. Princeton's "response," however, was excellent. The Tigers defeated Columbia 76-66 and Cornell 64-57. The top three:
1. ST. JOHN'S (9-1)
2. ST. BONAVENTURE (11-1)
3. VILLANOVA (8-3)
It is going to be a rough winter for the Big Ten. Ohio State is just too much. Led by All-America Jerry Lucas and hustling Larry Siegfried, State was devastating as it overwhelmed Illinois 91-65. When he wasn't sweeping the boards, Lucas pushed in 14 of his 17 field goal attempts; he added seven fouls for 35 points before he retired with 10 minutes to go. Indiana, given the best chance to overthrow the marvelous Buckeyes, had little trouble beating Michigan 81-70 as 6-foot-11 Walt Bellamy scored 23 points. Surprising Iowa hounded Minnesota to distraction and whipped the Gophers 71-46. Terry Dischinger, the core of Purdue's hopes, had one of his finest games against Northwestern. He scored 41 points and the Boilermakers won 79-64.
In the Big Eight Kansas State took advantage of Oklahoma State's mistakes, got off to an 11-1 lead, bolstered it with Mike Wroblewski's 10-point flurry late in the first half and beat the Cowboys 69-58. Kansas, left dangling by an Oklahoma hot streak in the first six minutes, pecked away at the Sooners and finally beat them 58-55 when Guard Jerry Gardner threw in two field goals in the last two minutes.
Bradley, which rarely loses at Peoria, stretched its home streak to 45 with victories over Wichita 64-61, and Tulsa 76-66 as Chet Walker scored 46 points. The Braves almost didn't make it against Wichita; the Shockers had Bradley on the run until Mack Herndon and sophomore Tim Robinson combined for five points to pull the Braves ahead. Two nights later Wichita handed St. Louis its first Missouri Valley loss 70-61.
DePaul, with little playmaker Howie Carl scoring 42 points, polished off Western Ontario 55-50 and Dayton 75-64 to remain unbeaten. The top three:
1. OHIO STATE (10-0)
2. BRADLEY (12-0)
3. IOWA (9-1)
Everybody was beating everybody else in the Southwest Conference. Texas A&M won as expected, over TCU 82-69 and Baylor 75-61, but Texas, with aggressive rebounding and Donnie Lasiter's shooting, upset Arkansas 68-58. Then TCU caught the Longhorns by surprise, carried them through four overtime periods and eventually beat them 95-94 on Coyle Winborn's shot. TCU Coach Buster Brannon's strategy was simple: "I just prayed."
Just to complicate matters, Texas Tech also was making threatening gestures. Little Del Ray Mounts broke a late SMU stall with a jump shot and a layup and the Red Raiders overtook the Mustangs 70-68. Rice was next and Tech routed the Owls 78-45, while Arkansas came back to edge SMU 76-74. The top three:
1. TEXAS A&M (7-3)
2. ARKANSAS (7-3)
3. TEXAS (7-5)
UCLA, pestered by Washington's pressing defense, sank a miserable 16.4% of its shots and lost to the Huskies, whose Bill Hanson scored 17 points, 58-45. But the next night sophomore Ron Lawson piled up 16 points, sagged to help hold Hanson to 11 and UCLA won 62-58. In Berkeley, USC broke away from California's bear-hug defense, fed the ball to big John Rudometkin and beat Cal twice, 57-50 and 65-57.
Utah State, plagued all season by illness, inertia and finally ineligibility (Center Charley Walker and sub Forward Joe Gozdziak were set down last week), tried desperately to stay with Utah and its fancy-shooting Billy McGill. But Billy flipped in 29 points, snared 17 rebounds and Utah whipped the Aggies 85-70. The top three:
1. USC (10-2)
2. UCLA (8-3)
3. UTAH (8-4)