"Having a good time is what the game's all about," says Wake Forest Forward Rod Griffin, who was not enjoying himself early in the season. Now he is bubbling over, and he credits Frank Johnson, a freshman guard, for the change. "Frank wakes up with a smile," Griffin says. "He is always smiling on the court, and now I'm doing it, too. It seems to make the whole team looser and more confident." Cheering the Deacons even further—and solidifying their Atlantic Coast Conference lead—were their sixth and seventh straight road wins, 89-80 at Duke and 80-72 at Virginia. Griffin, whose mother used to flip him alley-oop passes in the backyard, had hoped to go to North Carolina. But the Tar Heels did not recruit him. So Griffin went to Wake Forest, where he nurtures his pet superstition—eating a bowl of lime sherbet the night before each game. With lime sherbet under his belt and a smile on his face, Griffin tossed in 28 points against the Blue Devils and 17 against the Cavaliers.
Helping to give the Deacons the inside track on the ACC title was a 60-59 Clemson victory over North Carolina State, in which Kenny Carr of the Wolfpack saw the light, but to no avail. That light, a 40-watt red bulb behind the goal at the Littlejohn Coliseum, flashes on when time runs out. In the waning seconds against the Tigers, Carr got off a final shot. It went through the net. But, as Carr put it, "I saw the light. I knew it was no good." Often there is much controversy about whether such last-ditch shots beat the buzzer, but in Clemson there was nary a complaint, thanks to the red light. In a pair of double-headers against outsiders, State beat Furman 98-91 and Georgia Tech 81-71, while North Carolina downed the Yellow Jackets 98-74 and the Paladins 88-71.
Holy Cross (18-2) won three times with a proliferation of points by its "P Shooters," Guard Ronnie Perry Jr. and Forward Chris Potter. Perry had 88 points and Potter 66 as the Crusaders beat New Hampshire 89-78, Colgate 114-82 and St. Peter's 90-88. In the process, Perry sank all 18 of his foul shots, running his streak to 40.
February 14, 1977
Columbia, off to its best Ivy start since the league was formalized 23 seasons ago, held on to first place by drubbing Dartmouth 84-61 and Harvard 92-74. That left the Lions with a 6-0 Ivy mark and a one-game edge over Princeton and Penn. The Tigers subdued Yale 56-42 and, with Frank Sowinski netting 26 points, stopped Brown 70-52. Penn barely got past the same teams. Tim Smith scored 11 points in overtime as the Quakers downed the Bruins 69-59, and Penn needed two extra periods to hold off the Bulldogs 77-74.
There were lots of other squeakers, topped off by Pittsburgh's 65-64 shocker over Cincinnati. Larry Harris of the Panthers picked up the last of his 31 points on a 22-foot shot at the final buzzer. That offset the efforts of Bob Miller of the Bearcats, who had 24 points, including seven dunks, and 13 rebounds. After defeating St. Bonaventure 82-75, Providence labored past Rhode Island 67-66. Nevada-Las Vegas outgunned Rutgers 89-88 when Robert Smith canned a 22-foot jumper with 10 seconds left.
St. John's (15-5) jolted Georgetown 82-66 and felled Niagara 72-66. Army (16-4) got 28 points from Matt Brown to dump Seton Hall 76-73. The Cadets have already assured themselves of their first winning season since 1969-70. A sign of the times: the Army women's team beat Trenton State 55-53.
1. WAKE FOREST (18-2)
2. PROV. (18-3)
3. N. CAROLINA (15-4)
After playing at Auburn for the last time, Tennessee senior Ernie Grunfeld summed up his four trips to Auburn: "Two wins, two losses and a bunch of firecrackers some students threw at our rooms last year. We chased them. They ran. The funny thing was, they got to their car and it wouldn't start." Stalled, too, were the Tigers, who lost 93-83 as Grunfeld had 19 points and Bernard King contributed 24. The Volunteers also whipped Georgia 106-82 to retain their Southeastern conference lead.
A new light was cast upon Kentucky, which dealt Vanderbilt its worst setback in 30 years, 113-73. In previous games at Rupp Arena the Wildcats had not shot well. But this time they were 54.9% marksmen, perhaps because the lights were softened in the outer reaches of the huge arena. Mike Phillips, Jack Givens and Rick Robey teamed up for 63 Wildcat points. Kentucky also beat Mississippi State 92-85. Alabama drubbed Vanderbilt 98-82, but had to go into overtime to defeat LSU 77-70. T. R. Dunn scored eight points in the extra period to ignite the Tide.
Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Miami of Ohio were tied for first in the Mid-American race. The Huskies beat Ball State 83-77, the Broncos nipped Eastern Michigan 56-53 and the Redskins split, outlasting Northern 99-91 in two overtimes and dropping a 72-68 decision to Toledo.
Conjuring up visions of Newberry (S.C.) College, one might suspect the team is in a league with Woolworth and Kresge. But even though the Indians travel aboard a bus rented from the local Boy Scouts and even though they seldom practice more than 45 minutes a day, they are clearly no five-and-dime squad. What they are is No. 1 in the NAIA rankings. And undefeated. By beating Presbyterian 83-77 and Lander 62-50, Newberry brought its record to 24-0.
Leading the Indians is Coach Nield Gordon, who has more transfers than a cross-town bus driver. Scott Conant, a 6'10" center who is a 63% shooter and averages 17.7 points and 15.2 rebounds, started for Clemson. Other transplants are Guards Bobby Edwards (12.5 points), who attended South Carolina, and Joe Chatman (10.2), late of Southeastern JC. Former Seminole JC Guard Dave Hampton came to Newberry to visit a girl friend, stopped by the gym, got a tryout and is now the team's best defensive guard. From Anderson JC came the Creamer twins, 6'9" Ronnie and 6'10" Don, who have a combined 15.4 scoring average. The only upperclassman who is not a transfer student is Forward Bobby Griffin of nearby Whitmore, S.C, who leads the club with an 18.4 scoring average.
Gordon, who teamed with Frank Selvy at Furman to form the highest-scoring duo in the country in 1952-53, is in his 14th year at Newberry. Last season his Indians were 30-5 and got to the NAIA quarterfinals. Although he had to replace three starters, Gordon came up with more transfers and has kept on winning. He insists he has no ambitions to move to the big-college ranks, no desire to give up bus rides for jet flights or to replace "fun" practices with grueling sessions. Applauding his decision not to become a transfer himself are Newberry fans, who pack 1,200-seat McLean Gym for home games.
Another small-college coach having a high old time is Gene (Torchy) Clark of Florida Tech. His star player for several years was his son Mike, who set a Tech one-game scoring record of 43 points. Now that Mike has graduated, another of Torchy's sons, Bo, has caught fire. Bo had 51 points against Eckerd College and set an NCAA single-game high for this season with 70 in a 135-83 romp over Florida Memorial. Clark got his 70 by hitting on 33 of 47 field-goal tries and on all four of his free throws. Said Memorial Coach A. C. Robinson, "Maybe if we'd broke his arm...maybe if we'd broke both his arms, he wouldn't have scored but 50."
1. TENNESSEE (16-3)
2. KENTUCKY (16-2)
3. MICHIGAN (17-2)
"What kind of strategy could you possibly discuss when you're six points ahead and there's two seconds left?" asked Memphis State Coach Wayne Yates after an 88-82 loss at Cincinnati. "I called the time-out because he'd been a jackass," was the blunt retort from Bearcat Coach Gale Catlett. "He was up and down all night hollering at the officials." Another Metro Conference loss for State was less galling, first-place Louisville romping 111-92.
"I'd get a hernia if I shot from that far out," said Bradley Coach Joe Stowell, a 107-106 loser to Nevada-Las Vegas and its long-range bombers. Shooting from closer in, Bradley's Roger Phegley led all scorers with 46 points. For the Rebels, who had played just four away games all season, it was the start of a road trip that exposed their weaknesses. "They don't play defense," said Billy Lewis of Illinois State two nights later, after his 21 points helped end the Rebels' 14-game victory string 88-84. Indeed, Vegas' press was so ineffective that Coach Jerry Tarkanian abandoned it for the first time in two years. Illinois State then lost to Indiana State 100-84 as Larry Bird flicked in 40 points. For the Sycamores it was sweet revenge. A week earlier, on the day they had moved into the top 20 of a major poll for the first time since 1971, the Redbirds had beaten them 70-64.
"I would've loved to have finished with five players on the floor," said Houston Coach Guy Lewis, following an 82-80 loss to Arkansas. After Otis Birdsong, the top Cougar scorer with 22 points, had fouled out with 15 seconds to go, the Razorbacks converted one of their free throws and time ran out while Lewis was still looking for a substitute. Arkansas' Three Basketeers—Sidney Moncrief, Marvin Delph and Ron Brewer—combined for 61 points as the Razorbacks took a 3½-game lead over Houston in the Southwest Conference.
For Oklahoma's Al Beal, a 6'10" freshman, the first five minutes against Missouri were a nightmare; he committed three turnovers and had an easy layup blocked. From there on, however, Beal played like a dream, blocking two shots, pulling down a game-high 11 rebounds and scoring nine points. Moreover, he sank the clinching basket with 13 seconds left as the Sooners won 66-63 and tied the Tigers for the Big Eight lead. Three days later, Missouri was alone at the top, pummeling Oklahoma State 97-75 behind Kim Anderson's 35 points while Oklahoma lost to Kansas 91-81.
Wichita State moved into a tie for first in the Valley Conference, downing Drake 75-65 and slipping past Southern Illinois 91-90 in double overtime. Co-leader West Texas State beat Drake 90-87.
Once-beaten Detroit stretched its winning streak to 17 games, stopping Eastern Michigan 87-82 and Xavier of Ohio 85-76. Another high-scoring independent, North Texas State, improved its record to 16-3 by polishing off Samford 90-72, Houston Baptist 96-80 and Lamar 99-90.
1. LOUISVILLE (17-2)
2. ARKANSAS (19-1)
3. CINCINNATI (16-3)
"The shock that blitz crumbled us," said Washington Coach Marv Harshman after a 75-65 loss at UCLA. Leading 61-59, the Bruins went to their zone press and scored eight points in 39 seconds, turning three consecutive steals into baskets. UCLA then strengthened its Pac-8 lead by knocking off Washington State 72-59. "We like our zone press," said Coach Gene Bartow, whose Bruins began the week with a 103-89 win over Tennessee in Atlanta's Omni, site of the NCAA finals.
San Francisco survived assorted vicissitudes to defeat St. Mary's 103-77 and Nevada-Reno 98-81. With playmaker Chubby Cox out with a sprained ankle and with Bill Cartwright drawing three early fouls, the Dons were vulnerable against Reno. But Marlon Redmond, who mysteriously left the team for two days in midweek, pumped in 28 points and Winford Boynes added 22 to keep the Dons unbeaten.
By shutting off BYU's inside power and limiting its three big men to 12 points, Utah rolled to an 81-61 win. Ute Guard Jeff Jonas put on a floor show: four steals, nine rebounds, 10 points and 16 assists. Utah thus stayed a game ahead of Arizona and New Mexico in the Western AC. Bob Elliott had 28 points as Arizona bopped Arizona State 99-83. The Lobos earned a share of second place by beating Colorado State 73-64 and Wyoming 93-78.
Stan Mayhew tossed in 31 points as Weber State ended Idaho State's 12-game winning streak 80-73 to tie the Bengals for first place in the Big Sky Conference.
1. SAN FRANCISCO (23-0)
2. UCLA (17-2)
3. ARIZONA (16-3)