The preliminaries were over in the NCAA and the winners were off to Raleigh, Lexington, Wichita and Albuquerque for the Regionals (page 26).
Loyola of Chicago's George Ireland acted like a man whistling in a graveyard before his team met Houston in the Midwest playoff in Salt Lake City. He said things like "Our players are all hopped up" and "We'll start pressing them when they leave the dressing room." But Ireland's little men were no match for Elvin Hayes and his big friends. The Cougars easily broke Loyola's press with overhead passes and Hayes made 20 of 28 shots, scored 49 points and grabbed 27 rebounds as Houston won 94-76.
New Mexico State earned the dubious pleasure of meeting UCLA in the West Regionals. But the Aggies had to come from behind to beat Weber State 68-57, also in Salt Lake City. With 10 minutes to go, Weber had a three-point lead. Then Jimmy Collins scored seven straight points and New Mexico State went on to win. "We might get some momentum going in Albuquerque's snake pit," mused Aggie Coach Lou Henson hopefully.
March 18, 1968
Marquette, breezing along with a nine-point lead early in the second half on the rebounding and scoring of husky George Thompson (he had 33 points), suddenly found itself in a dogfight with Bowling Green in the Mideast eliminations at Kent, Ohio. Two long shots by Jimmy Burke in the last 90 seconds pulled the Warriors through, 72-71. East Tennessee, which had beaten Murray State 79-75 in the Ohio Valley playoff, surprised Florida State 76-69.
In the East, at Kingston, R.I., Boston College figured it had a chance to take unbeaten St. Bonaventure with a furious man-to-man press and a fast break. But 6'11" Bob Lanier and Billy Butler were too much for the Eagles. Between them, they scored 66 points and took down 26 rebounds, and the Bonnies won 102-93.
Columbia, in the tournament for the first time in 17 years, celebrated by whipping La Salle 83-69 in College Park, Md. The well-coached Lions never deviated from their game plan against La Salle's zone defenses. They worked the ball around 7' Dave New-mark on a high post, overloaded one side and hit the free man—either Heyward Dotson, Jim McMillian or Roger Walaszek—on the other side. It was effective and Dot-son had his best game ever, scoring 32 points on short jumpers, drives and layups.
Davidson, however, had its hands full with St. John's. The Redmen, attacking patiently and defending well, led 68-67 with 5:14 to go. Then Rudy Bogad fouled out. Mike Maloy, Davidson's good 6'7" sophomore, dropped in two layups, and St. John's fell apart. Davidson stole the ball five times, 6'6" Doug Cook scored six points in the last minute, and the Wildcats won 79-70.
New York's NIT, meanwhile, had a 16-team field ready to go. The tournament opens Thursday night in Madison Square Garden with St. Peter's (22-2) playing Marshall (17-7) and Duke (21-5) meeting Oklahoma City (20-6). Other first-round pairings: Friday night—Temple (19-8) vs. Kansas (19-7) and Villanova (18-8) vs. Wyoming (18-8); Saturday afternoon—Army (20-4) vs. Notre Dame (18-8) and LIU (21-1) vs. Bradley (19-8); Saturday night—Fordham (18-7) vs. Duquesne (18-6) and Dayton (17-9) vs. West Virginia (19-8).
1. ST. BONAVENTURE (23-0)
2. COLUMBIA (22-4)
3. ARMY (20-4)
An hour before the Ivy League playoff, the neutral St. John's gym was jumping. The Columbia and Princeton bands took turns tootling up a storm, and there was a festive air all around. But once the game began it was Columbia's party. Coach Jack Rohan started Newmark, who had missed four games with a severely sprained ankle, and that did wonders for the Lions. Newmark fought the Tigers' big men on the boards and, more important, used his bulk to set picks for his more agile teammates. With 14 minutes to go, Princeton was out of it. McMillian, faking the Tigers' John Hummer out of his shoes, scored 37 points, Walaszek had 20, Dotson 19 and Columbia won 92-74 for its first Ivy title since 1951. "I just kept hoping for the game to end," said Rohan, "and thinking how sweet it is."
It was a time for old rivalries in New York's Garden. NYU ended Rutgers' seven-game winning streak 56-49, while Fordham beat Manhattan 72-66. But the Rams had to break a 62-62 tie with 2½ minutes to play to win. With six seconds to go, Fordham Coach Johnny Bach was so happy he lit up a victory cigar—and he doesn't smoke.
All the other tournament-bound teams won, too. St. Bonaventure got a scare but managed to outlast Fairfield 70-69 in overtime. Villanova beat Seton Hall 80-66, while Duquesne outscored St. Francis of Loretto, Pa. 109-103. St. Peter's clobbered Fairleigh Dickinson 106-80 to win New York's Met Conference championship.
Niagara's flashy little Calvin Murphy, who may not be back next year—there are rumors he will transfer—finished the season with a flourish against Canisius. He scored 41 points (his average for the year: 38.2) as Niagara won 96-84.
1. NORTH CAROLINA (25-3)
2. KENTUCKY (21-4)
3. DAVIDSON (23-4)
Everything was going along famously in the Atlantic Coast tournament in Charlotte. The favorites all won in the first round, and the prospect was North Carolina against Duke, a perfect matchup, in the final. Then North Carolina State's Norm Sloan wrecked the act. He threw a stall at Duke and, while Bill Kretzer and Eddie Biedenbach calmly played catch, the Blue Devils stubbornly sat in their zone. Duke led 4-2 at the half and 8-6 with 16 minutes to go. For the next 13:45, the Wolfpack held the ball without taking a shot and, at one point, bored Radiocaster Bill Currie, "The Mouth of the South," advised his listeners, "This is as thrilling as artificial insemination." Eventually, Duke lost 12-10, and even Coach Vic Bubas had to admit he had made a grievous error in not telling his team to go after the ball. "I've made some good decisions this year," said Bubas, "but I guess this wasn't one of them." Right.
Nobody, however, was about to hold the ball against North Carolina. South Carolina, which has been known to stall on occasion, decided to run with the Tar Heels and almost had them for a second time. Carolina had to go into overtime to take the Gamecocks 82-79 as Larry Miller got 24 points and Dick Grubar 20. North Carolina State was next, and this time Sloan played it straight, knowing that NC's aggressive press would not permit a stall. But the Tar Heels embarrassed themselves in the first half, stumbling to a mere 31-26 lead. Miller and Charlie Scott finally got Carolina's fast break going and the Tar Heels won easily 87-50 to get into the NCAA tournament.
1. LOUISVILLE (20-6)
2. MARQUETTE (22-5)
3. KANSAS STATE (19-7)
It appeared to be all over for Ohio State in the Big Ten race, though the Bucks beat Illinois 67-64 in their last game. Iowa had trounced Minnesota 91-72 to hold half a game lead, and all the Hawks had to do was beat seventh-place Michigan Saturday at home and they were in. But OSU Coach Fred Taylor, speaking at the school's annual Appreciation Dinner, remembered that four years earlier, in similar circumstances, the Bucks had backed into a tie when Purdue upset Michigan. "I sent Coach Ray Eddy a varsity 'O' for that one," recalled Taylor. "I'll send one to Dave Strack, too, if he can win." So Strack's Michigan team surprised Iowa 71-70 to give Ohio State a tie for the title and force a playoff Tuesday at neutral Purdue for a place in the NCAA Mideast Regionals. Presumably, Strack will get his "O."
Kansas State earned the Big Eight championship the hard way. Even after his Wildcats edged Iowa State 63-61 on Gene Williams' tip-in with two seconds to go to clinch a tie, Coach Tex Winter worried. "We're feeling the pressure," he said. "We can't go out there and play with abandon." He was right. Against Oklahoma State, K-State hit just two of its first 18 shots and had to stall out the last 2:20 to win 49-47. Runner-up Kansas, an NIT selection, finished strong. The Jayhawks took Oklahoma 85-80 in overtime and Iowa State 91-58.
Louisville's last game was a cakewalk. The Cards battered Bellarmine 107-58 as Westley Unseld scored 30 points. After the game, a 220-pound, 14-tier (one for each Missouri Valley win) cake was hauled out in Freedom Hall and 12,535 fans feasted.
1. HOUSTON (29-0)
2. NEW MEXICO STATE (22-5)
3. OKLAHOMA CITY (20-6)
Historical note: Houston, with Elvin Hayes scoring 39 points and grabbing 21 rebounds, murdered West Texas State 107-76 to complete its first unbeaten season. "I'm glad it's all over," sighed Coach Guy Lewis.
So was Texas at El Paso's Don Haskins, but for another reason. His undersized UTEPs muddled through their ninth loss, 67-51 to Seattle, and then Haskins told his players to have some fun and keep it "loosey-goosey" against Arizona State. Nate Archibald, a skinny little sophomore guard, got 22 points and the Miners ended a disappointing 14-9 season with an 85-81 win. "I'm leaving in the morning to comb the junior colleges for good, big boys," promised Haskins. "We're goin' after 'em."
1. UCLA (25-1)
2. NEW MEXICO (23-3)
3. SANTA CLARA (22-3)
UCLA was not exactly devastating against crosstown rival USC in its final game, but the Bruins did not have to be to win. The Trojans, who had lost 15 in a row to UCLA in five years, tried to slow down the pace, and that is about all they accomplished. Lew Alcindor, who had 23 points, rattled in nine straight at the start of the second half and UCLA won 72-64. There was some consolation for USC's Bob Boyd. "They never blitzed us," he said proudly.
The West Coast AC showdown was a struggle for a half, with Santa Clara ahead of Loyola only 35-29. Then the Broncos, led by the Ogden boys, Bud and Ralph, went on a 17-4 tear in the next 10 minutes, and it was all over for the Lions. Santa Clara coasted home, 77-62.