The casualty list of beaten favorites in one week was startling. While conference championships—and postseason tournament bids—awaited decision, Duke, Kansas State, USC, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Texas Tech, among others, fell with a disturbing thud. But Ohio U., the new Mid-American Conference champion, automatically moved into the NCAA while the NIT hungrily snatched up Miami (Fla.), Army and Dayton. The NCAA, too, began to fill its field for the small-college regional tournaments. Already picked: Cape Girardeau (Mo.) State, Fairfield (Conn.), South Carolina State, Southern Illinois, Wabash, Chicago, and Youngstown.
It seemed that at long last the jig was up for unbeaten Ohio State. For more than 36 minutes Iowa, patched up like an old inner tube after losing four regulars through academic deficiencies, had outrebounded, outshot and outhustled the supposedly invincible Buckeyes while 13,500 feet-stamping Hawkeye supporters howled for the kill at Iowa City. Don Nelson, Iowa's sharpshooting forward who scored 27 points, had been more than a match for OSU's superb Jerry Lucas, who scored 25. But Ohio State never lost its poise—or its great talent—even when it was behind 59-52 with 3:36 to go. The obstinate Buckeyes turned to their half-court press, pulled off four quick steals for 10 straight points, the last four by Larry Siegfried and sub Gary Gearhart, and subdued the Hawk-eyes 62-61. OSU's Fred Taylor, shaken by the close call, had only one simple explanation: "They just grabbed us off our feet."
Colorado, playing at Boulder, where it is dangerous as a cobra, almost brought off an improbable parlay. The Buffs surprised Kansas State with a bustling press in the first half to go ahead by 15 points, then fought off the surging Wildcats and knocked them out of the Big Eight lead, 81-80. But the same tactics didn't work against Kansas, the new leader. The tricky Jayhawks moved 6-foot-9 Wayne Hightower to the post, and he filled the baskets with 36 points and plucked off 21 rebounds as Kansas won easily, 90-62.
February 27, 1961
The Missouri Valley fight was strictly between Cincinnati and Bradley, but the streaking Bearcats held the upper hand. While Bradley tuned up on nonconference rivals Notre Dame, 84-81, and Houston, 90-74, and beat last-place North Texas State 105-70, Cincinnati pushed its record to 9-2 by beating Wichita 67-64 and Tulsa 81-52 and needed only one more win to clinch a tie. The top three:
1. OHIO STATE (20-0)
2. CINCINNATI (19-3)
3. BRADLEY (19-4)
While Atlantic Coast politicos split hairs in executive session (see page 41) strange things were happening on the basketball court. Duke, after losing to Wake Forest 103-89, was stripped of sophomore star Art Heyman for its remaining conference games. Then the Blue Devils lost to Maryland 76-71 without him and just did beat Navy 75-73 with him. Wake Forest, in turn, found Villanova's cautious offense too much and lost to the Wildcats 60-56. Meanwhile, North Carolina, playing without Guards Larry Brown and Don Walsh, beat North Carolina State 62-56, South Carolina 92-68 and Clemson 61-55 to assume first place.
Mississippi State was running into trouble in the SEC despite Coach Babe McCarthy's frantic improvisations. Kentucky, spurred on by Adolph Rupp's "feud" with McCarthy (and perhaps by the dead skunk which State students placed under the Wildcats' bench), beat the Maroons 68-62 at Starksville. Then, Florida, which had earlier beaten Auburn 78-60, squeezed past State 59-57 on Cliff Luyk's basket with four seconds left. Vanderbilt, upset by LSU's outside shooting, 65-61, came back to win over Tennessee 76-70 and, along with Florida, was only a game behind State.
West Virginia, marking time for the Southern Conference playoffs, used its stifling press to overtake Penn State 80-78 and Pitt 92-84. The top three:
1. NORTH CAROLINA (18-4)
2. WEST VIRGINIA (20-3)
3. DUKE (18-4)
Providence, aching for national recognition, thought it could be won by outrunning St. Bonaventure. But the quick Bonnies simply readjusted their own style, easygoing Tom Stith dazzled the Friars with his jumpers, reverse layups and floating hooks for 28 points, and St. Bonaventure won 95-79. Disillusioned, Providence went back to its deliberate attack and beat DePaul 81-77. However, DePaul very nearly made its eastern invasion a whopping success. Led by jumping-jack M. C. Thompson, the Blue Demons shot an astounding 68% in the first half and led St. Bonaventure by seven points. But the Bonnies recovered quickly and went on to win 78-69.
St. Joseph's enjoyed a most pleasant week among its Philadelphia neighbors. The Hawks coasted past Penn 88-73, then used Bill Hoy's clutch shooting to beat Temple 86-83 in overtime for the Mid-Atlantic lead. St. John's won over George Washington 98-80 and Niagara 84-64; Princeton whomped Columbia 99-69 and Cornell 79-57 to move comfortably ahead in the Ivy League; Rhode Island held off Maine 76-66 to clinch a tie for first in the Yankee Conference. The top three:
1. ST. BONAVENTURE (20-1)
2. ST. JOHN'S (15-4)
3. ST. JOSEPH'S (18-4)
Baskets were scarce when San Jose State and Santa Clara, the nation's two top defensive teams, met. Both defended passionately (Santa Clara with a zone and San Jose with a man-to-man) and shot sparingly for a total of 19 field goals (10 for Santa Clara, nine for San Jose). The Broncs won, 30-29 on Gene Shields' long hook shot at the buzzer. But St. Mary's pulled off the biggest surprise in the West Coast AC. The Gaels lured Loyola into their tiny Moraga gym, Tom Meschery put on some talented 23-point shooting, and they knocked the Lions out of first place, 92-61. Meanwhile, San Francisco beat San Jose at its own defensive game and edged the Spartans 40-39 to take the lead.
USC, ready to tighten its grip on the Big Five title, was brought up short at Seattle. Although shot out of its zone early and harassed almost constantly by Trojan Center John Rudometkin, who scored 25 points, Washington pecked away determinedly, even after 6-foot-8 Bill Hanson retreated to the bench with five fouls, and the Huskies upset USC 61-55. Now the Trojans are only one game ahead of challenging Washington and two in front of UCLA.
Skyline leader Utah, bogged down in lethargy, finally made it past Denver 67-62 and New Mexico 77-63 on the brilliant scoring (26 and 38 points) of Billy McGill. But Colorado State U. was still only a breath behind the Redskins. CSU played Coach Jim Williams' game of "hide the ball" to beat Utah State 64-60 and Brigham Young 65-58. The top three:
1. USC (16-4)
2. UTAH (17-5)
3. UCLA (14-6)
Things were back to a confused normalcy in the Southwest Conference. Texas Tech, which unexpectedly had emerged from the pack to take over the lead, was suddenly fighting for its life. While a noisy home crowd of 8,300, including the Texas A&M cadet corps, did its roaring best to disconcert the Red Raiders, 7-foot sophomore Lewis Quails pushed in eight field goals and deftly flicked away shots, Carroll Broussard lofted in 20 points worth of jumpers, and the Aggies upset Tech 74-71. Back home in hospitable Lubbock, Texas Tech was more efficient against eager Arkansas. Slick little Del Ray Mounts drove for 31 points, big Harold Hudgens plopped in 24 more from underneath, and the Red Raiders put down the pesky Hogs 87-81 to hold first place. But second-place Texas A&M was still hot on the trail. After some first-half muddling, the Aggies got together behind Broussard and Pat Stanley and beat Rice 65-58.
New Mexico State, intent on catching Arizona State in the Border Conference race, hounded the Sun Devils with a clinging man-to-man, held them even off the boards and beat them 70-67. The top three:
1. TEXAS TECH (11-8)
2. HOUSTON (15-8)
3. TEXAS A&M (13-7)