After a confusing start, the race in the Big Ten began to clear up a little as Michigan State emerged as a convincing front-runner. When the conference competition began early this month, Indiana looked as if it would make a surprising run at the championship, with Michigan and Purdue also contending. The young Spartans were supposed to be a year away. Well, Indiana was 2-4 in the Big Ten after losing to the Boilermakers 77-67 last week, while Michigan State stood alone atop the standings with a 6-0 record. The Spartans defeated Purdue 60-51. with freshman Earvin Johnson hitting eight straight one-and-one free throws in the final 2:06. Johnson finished with 21 points. 12 rebounds and five assists. Johnson also controlled the tempo for the Spartans, handling himself with such aplomb that the Boilermakers' Fred Schaus, who coached Jerry West at West Virginia, was moved to call Johnson "the finest freshman I've ever seen." When the Spartans were struggling against Iowa. Coach Jud Heathcote brought in another freshman. Guard Mike Brkovich, who promptly nailed three 20-foot jumpers that propelled MSU to a 68-58 victory.
Still another newcomer stole the spotlight in Michigan's game against Wisconsin. The Wolverines trailed 48-46 when freshman swingman Mike McGee took over, scoring Michigan's next 14 points and finishing the game with 26 on 11 of 16 shooting. "He's quick, isn't he?" Michigan Coach John Orr asked rhetorically. Reporters found out just how quick McGee is when he executed a neat fastbreak out of the locker room. "If I get the pub. I get the pub," McGee said as he disappeared into the night. "It doesn't make much difference to me."
Minnesota, out of the race for a postseason tournament bid because it is on NCAA probation, won twice, defeating Illinois 70-66 and Wisconsin 61-51. Gopher Center Mychal Thompson had 49 points in those games and left a houseful of pro scouts drooling. "I don't think there is any doubt he is the best player in the country," said Illinois Coach Lou Henson after Thompson had scored 27 points against the Illini.
January 30, 1978
Top-ranked Kentucky knocked off what may have been its only serious challenger for supremacy in the SEC. After routing Mississippi 76-56, the Wildcats faced the SEC's second-place team, Mississippi State, on the Bulldogs' court. And to give State another edge, Kentucky star Jack Givens was weakened by a cold. But Givens' 13 points in the final 8:20 of the first half were nothing to sneeze at, and the Wildcats established a school shooting record for the game by hitting on 25 of 37 shots, or 67.6%. "They have no weaknesses," said Mississippi State Coach Ron Greene after the 75-65 Kentucky win.
Notre Dame and UCLA has become one of the best rivalries in college basketball, and last week's game was typical. UCLA's James Wilkes missed the first shot of a one-and-one free-throw situation with four seconds left, and Notre Dame hung on for a 75-73 victory.
Earlier the Irish barely squeaked by Villanova 70-69 when Duck Williams hit a pair of foul shots with 11 seconds remaining. The Wildcats had a chance to win the game by doing what they do best—shoot free throws. Villanova was leading the NCAA in foul shooting with a .787 team percentage, and in the final 38 seconds at South Bend the Wildcats managed to get Whitey Rigsby (84%) and Reggie Robinson (79%) to the line for a total of four foul shots. Only one of them went in.
John Long scored 56 points for Detroit in wins over Bowling Green (84-79) and St. Peter's (87-77). The Titans are now 15-1.
2. MARQUETTE (14-1)
3. MICHIGAN ST. (14-1)
Just as Indiana State was beginning to look like it was for real—12-0 at the start of the week and a No. 4 ranking in the Associated Press poll—along came the Rubber Band Man to cut the Sycamores down. Rubber Band Man is what teammates call Southern Illinois' sophomore guard, Wayne Abrams, who was full of snap during the Salukis' 79-76 upset of Indiana State. Abrams hit nine of 10 shots and four of five free throws, handed out five assists and ran SIU's four-corner offense late in the game.
The rest of the week was a bummer for the Sycamores, too. What had promised to be an exciting shootout between Bradley's Roger Phegley, the No. 3 scorer in Division I, and State's high-flying Larry Bird, the nation's No. 4 scorer, never materialized. Phegley was on the sidelines with a sprained wrist as the Sycamores stumbled by the Braves 73-67, with Bird getting 35 points. After Illinois State ended Indiana State's dismal week with an 81-76 defeat, Redbird Forward Billy Lewis applied the coup de gr‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¢ce. "They just rely on Bird," said Lewis, who scored 25 points. "Without him they aren't much. I expected them to be better."
Louisville trailed Southwestern Louisiana by as many as 10 points in the first half, but Darrell Griffith came on to pour in 25 points—including six of Louisville's last 13—to give the Cardinals a 78-75 victory. They then lost to Florida State 70-66 as Mickey Dillard pumped in 24 points.
Arkansas, whose alleged lack of depth had been a source of hope for Southwest Conference rivals, showed it may not have bench problems after all. In an 84-68 victory over Texas A&M, starters Sidney Moncrief, Marvin Delph and Steve Schall got into early foul trouble, so the subs chipped in with 19 points. The Razorbacks almost lost Moncrief for the entire game when he was caught flattening A&M's Jarvis Williams with an elbow in the first half. While Moncrief was cooling off on the bench, senior Point Guard Ron Brewer was taking over. "Basketball is not a game for fighting," said Brewer. "That was one reason Sidney didn't have his good game; he was so mad. It was my job to get the team back to playing basketball. I felt I had to take control of the game." Which was exactly what Brewer did, scoring a career-high 29 points. He also hit two critical jump shots and a free throw during a run of nine points that gave the Hogs a 43-35 victory over Texas Christian.
When Kansas State and Coach Jack Hart-man arrived at Allen Field House at the University of Kansas, Jayhawk fans greeted them with the old Ray Charles number, Hit The Road Jack. Kansas fans also tossed frankfurters at the Wildcats' unabashed Curtis Redding when he was introduced before the game. Redding proved he could cut the mustard by scoring 12 points in the first half, but that was not enough as the Jayhawks eked out a 56-52 win. Kansas also defeated Iowa State 100-82. Kansas State shot 27% against Oklahoma State in the second half and still won 62-59.
Wichita State beat road-weary Nevada, Las Vegas 87-83 as 6'5" Forward Cheese Johnson scored 29 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. "We're just traveling all over hell making people happy," said Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian. The loss to the Shockers marked the first time in 16 years that a Tarkanian-coached team has dropped three games in a row.
2. KANSAS (15-2)
3. ILLINOIS ST. (16-2)
In a showdown for the No. 1 spot in New England, Providence, which came into the game with a 13-1 record, left no doubt that it deserved to rank ahead of Holy Cross, which was 11-1. The Friars used a choking 2-3 zone defense to shut down Crusader Forward Chris Potter (10 points), to hold star Guard Ron Perry to a modest 18 points and to keep the Crusaders to their lowest point total of the season in a 90-64 victory. Providence Coach Dave Gavitt credited 6'9" freshman Rich Hunger with being "the difference between a six-pointer and what it turned out to be." Hunger, who is from St. Laurent, Quebec, is not accustomed to having a lot of people watch him play, but the crowd of 12,150 at Providence Civic Center did not seem to bother him as he blocked five shots. He got assistance on offense from Dwight Williams and Bruce Campbell, who combined for 42 points. Three days later the Friars were nearly booed out of the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New Haven when they went into a stall with six minutes to play and a 45-43 advantage over Connecticut. UConn, which had been held scoreless for nearly six minutes at the game's outset by Providence's zone, was frozen out by a score of 57-47. It was the second time the Huskies were left out in the cold. Three days earlier UConn's arena in Hartford collapsed (page 20).
Syracuse squandered all but two points of a 16-point second-half lead against La Salle, but hung on for a 106-96 win.
North Carolina and N.C. State got down to basketball after a couple of preliminary student body skirmishes in which the head of the Wolfpack's mascot was kidnapped and served up on a tray, St. John the Baptist-style, before the game, and in which State loyalists struck back with some well-chosen words spray-painted on the walls of Carmichael Auditorium in Chapel Hill. North Carolina won the game 69-64 as 6'11" Geff Crompton, the Tar Heels' dieting 300-pound center (he weighed 325 at the start of the season), scored five points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked four shots. "When the big fella plays like that," said Guard Phil Ford, "he's outta sight. He looked like Kareem Crompton." Ford scored 24 points against the Wolfpack and 23 more against Maryland in a convincing 85-71 victory for the Heels. He is now No. 2 on Carolina's alltime scoring list and should pass leader Lennie Rosenbluth's total of 2,045 this week.
Elsewhere in the ACC, Duke defeated Wake Forest 81-72, despite blowing most of a 16-point lead in the second half. "In the ACC you can go from the mountain top to the poorhouse in a hurry," said Duke Coach Bill Foster. Duke stayed rich by beating non-conference opponent La Salle 91-81.
2. NORTH CAROLINA (15-2)
3. DUKE (14-3)
The hottest thing in New Mexico these days is not the jalape‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¬±o pepper, but the University of New Mexico team coached by Norm Ellenberger, who soon will be nicknamed Abnormal Norm if he does not watch his step. The Lobos have whipped up on just about everybody they have played and are the only major college team scoring more than 100 points a game. Yet New Mexico considers defense the cornerstone of its game. "Our defense makes our offense," says Guard Russell Saunders.
Last week Las Vegas and Texas-El Paso put a small dent in that 104.7 average, but they did not hurt the Lobos in the loss column. Before the Vegas game, Ellenberger dispatched a Rolls-Royce to meet UNLV Coach Jerry Tarkanian at the Albuquerque airport, but the hospitality ended there. Before a home crowd of 19,044, the Lobos defeated Las Vegas 89-76. Tarkanian, whose thin bench was made thinner when starting Guard Willard Govain quit the team, has been forced to play his starters the whole way in most games. Tarkanian said his weary team's nickname should be changed from the Runnin' Rebels to "Walkin' Rebels." New Mexico had no such problems, with 6'8" forward Willie Howard in reserve. Before an 84-57 victory over UTEP, Ellenberger obtained a search warrant signed by an Albuquerque judge to serve on El Paso Coach Don Haskins. "You know how Haskins will try to hide the basketball," said Ellenberger, "and when he goes into that delay game, I'm going to whip out the search warrant." New Mexico never needed it, hitting 52% of its shots. Howard came off the bench to score 23 points.
Brigham Young won a pair of close games, defeating Arizona State 96-89 and Arizona 87-86. State outscored BYU from the field by 10 points, but the Cougars hit 34 of 40 free throws. Against Arizona, freshman Guard Danny Ainge put BYU up by three points with four seconds left by hitting the front end of a one-and-one foul situation and then purposely missing the second, so Arizona would not have time for an out-of-bounds play. Utah also beat both Arizona and Arizona State, handling ASU 84-69 and the Wildcats 101-92. Arizona Coach Fred Snow-den ordered his team to foul when they fell behind, but the scheme backfired as Utah hit 31 of 35 from the line.
1. UCLA (13-2)
2. NEW MEX. (13-2)
3. SAN FRANCISCO (13-4)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
DANNY AINGE: In two wins last week, the 6'4½" BYU freshman guard, who is the WAC's No. 2 scorer (22.6), hit 23 of 38 from the field and 16 of 17 from the foul line for 62 points. He also had 10 rebounds and 12 assists.