Teams that serve as the hosts for all those holiday "classics" often win the tournaments, but it was nine years between wins for co-host Oregon State in its backyard event, the Far West Classic. The Beavers reached the finals by drubbing Idaho 100-59 as Ray Blume set a Classic record with 11 assists, and then whipping Brigham Young 86-71 as MVP Steve Johnson hit on 17 of 19 field-goal tries and had 38 points. That set up a showdown with unbeaten Clemson, which had defeated Texas Tech 79-68 and North Carolina-Charlotte 85-65. Oregon State made good on 15 of 22 second-half shots and, after forging a 65-65 tie, sealed a 72-67 victory by converting seven free throws in the last 43 seconds.
Four other host teams did not fare as well. New Mexico had to settle for second place in its Lobo Invitational after losing to Utah State 117-83. Brian Jackson of the Aggies, who scored 50 points in two games, was the MVP. But the top scorer, with 57 points, was one of the the nation's highest-scoring sophomores, New Mexico's Kenny Page.
Cutting down the nets after the Las Vegas Holiday Classic were Weber State's Wildcats, who earned that honor with some clutch shooting. After blowing a 14-point lead against Michigan State in the opening round, the Wildcats pulled out a 63-61 win when Bruce Collins' layup barely beat the final buzzer. In the finals, Weber State got a basket from Richard Smith with six seconds left to defeat Nevada-Las Vegas 79-78.
January 7, 1980
Eight days after its football team won the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, Indiana's basketball squad took the Cabrillo Classic there. And the Hoosiers did it without leading scorer Mike Woodson, who underwent surgery for a ruptured disc, and two other players, including starting Guard Randy Wittman, who were on crutches. Indiana, however, did have Isiah Thomas, a superb freshman. With the score 68-68 in a first-round game against Tennessee, Thomas drove from midcourt and put in a decisive underhanded layup with one second remaining. Opposing the Hoosiers in the title game was Brown, which had beaten San Diego State 71-64. MVP Thomas, who had 20 points in the Hoosiers' first outing, had 11 points, six rebounds and five assists as Indiana beat the Bruins 61-52.
Hawaii was one of two surprise teams at its Rainbow Classic. The Rainbows rallied from 16 points back in the second half to knock off Nevada-Reno 105-101 in overtime in the first round as Thomas Louden hit on 13 of 14 shots. Hawaii then made it to the finals by beating Nebraska 67-55. It was there that Illinois, the other unexpected finalist, put an end to Hawaii's hopes 94-82. In earlier games, the Fighting Illini defeated Army 75-48 and Louisville 77-64.
UCLA opened its Pac-10 schedule with two lopsided victories. After walloping California 73-59, the Bruins beat Stanford 92-60.
1. OREGON STATE (11-1)
2. UCLA (7-2)
3. BRIGHAM YOUNG (9-3)
Last Thursday, Oklahoma freshman Guard Bo Overton awoke and found that the tires had been stolen off his car. That night Overton stole the show against Western Michigan during the first round of the granddaddy of all in-season tournaments, Oklahoma City's 44-year-old All-College. Overton hit his final seven field-goal attempts and had a team-high 16 points as the Sooners defeated the Broncos 72-60. Overton wasn't the whole show for Oklahoma; the Sooners set a school record with .653 marksmanship in that game and duplicated that figure the next time out while beating Wyoming 70-56. Terry Stotts led Oklahoma against the Cowboys by making all 10 of his shots and scoring 22 points. In the title game, Oklahoma shot .635 and got 24 points and 10 rebounds from Steve Bajema to beat Louisiana Tech 80-70.
In a matchup of rebuilding teams, Memphis State showed that its program has a solid foundation by upsetting Arkansas 74-67. When the Razorbacks cut a 14-point halftime deficit to four late in the game, the Tigers made nine straight foul shots to pull away.
1. MISSOURI (10-0)
2. VIRGINIA TECH (6-1)
3. LOUISVILLE (7-2)
How rabid are Kentucky basketball fans? Well, 10,000 of them showed up just to see the Wildcats take shooting practice on Saturday morning. Neither their numbers nor their enthusiastic cheers were out of the ordinary, at least not by Kentucky standards. "We're going to need you tonight more than we've ever needed you," Coach Joe Hall told the crowd. He wasn't kidding; his team was to face unbeaten Notre Dame without the services of three players. Two freshmen, 7'1" Sam Bowie and team-assists leader Dirk Minniefield, had been suspended for the game for violating training rules, and starting Guard Dwight Anderson had left the squad for "personal reasons."
As expected, the capacity crowd of 16,613 in Louisville's Freedom Hall did its part to spur on the Wildcats. What was unexpected was the help Hall got from his bench. The Irish, hoping to wear down the Kentucky guards, pressed right from the start. But even when the Wildcats brought on their subs—at one stage, Kentucky had a walk-on and three freshmen on the floor—they had no trouble with the Irish press, mainly because senior Guard Kyle Macy took charge. He pumped in 21 points and committed only one turnover as Kentucky won 86-80.
Mississippi and Louisiana State added to the SEC's prestige. Ole Miss, which has sent eight football teams to the Sugar Bowl, sent its basketball squad there for the first time and pulled off a pair of upsets to win the title. MVP John Stroud of the Rebels had 28 points in a 71-66 win over Michigan. Then, with the Rebels scoring 16 layups and with Stroud getting 32 points, Ole Miss handed Virginia Tech its first loss, 70-66. LSU bombed Boston University 92-72 and Delaware 92-64 as Rudy Macklin and DeWayne Scales each scored 51 points.
Several Big Ten teams did well, too. Minnesota took its sixth straight Pillsbury Classic by bumping off Rutgers 98-59 and Texas A&M 69-63. Purdue's Joe Barry Carroll had 23 points during an 82-58 romp over Tulsa, Ohio State whipped Northwestern State (La.) 71-46, and Iowa stopped Drake 77-66 in a battle between wounded undefeateds. The Hawkeyes' alltime leading scorer, Ronnie Lester, missed the game because of strained knee ligaments that will sideline him for several weeks. Three other Iowa starters were also ailing, but freshman Bob Hansen took over at point guard for Lester and scored 14 points. Another freshman, Mark Gannon, who wore a brace to protect his injured left thumb, had 15 points and 11 rebounds. And Vince Brookins, who was averaging eight points a game, came through with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Drake had to play without Forward Eric Sampson, lost for the season after breaking a leg during practice. On top of that, Lewis Lloyd of the Bulldogs, who went into the game as one of the nation's leading scorers with a 31.9 average, was held to 20 points.
When it was announced that the MVP of the Chicagoland Classic was DePaul sophomore Mark Aguirre, he grabbed the microphone and said, "I don't deserve it, and I'm giving it to Terry Cummings." Teammate Cummings, a 6'9" freshman, had 31 points and 20 rebounds in a 92-83 victory over Loyola of Chicago in the finals. As for Aguirre, he had 50 points in two games and 25 more as the Blue Demons took a non-tournament game from Bradley 68-61.
"The first 26 minutes was the best basketball I've had a team play," said Jacksonville's Tates Locke, now in his 13th season as a coach. At the end of those 26 minutes, the Dolphins led Duquesne 50-28 and they went on to win 73-54. Unbeaten Jacksonville also took the Gator Bowl title, stopping William & Mary 58-43 and Florida 61-55.
Marquette was stunned by Rhode Island 64-57 in the Milwaukee Classic finale.
1. KENTUCKY (11-1)
2. OHIO STATE (7-1)
3. LSU (8-0)
Duke's Mike Gminski and Gene Banks carried the Blue Devils to first place in the Iron Duke Classic. The day before the tournament, all the Duke players were required to see All Pro, a motivational film. "That helped us remember what we had to go through to get where we are [the team is ranked No. 1 in both the AP and UPI polls] and what we have to do to stay there and improve," Banks said. He was further impressed by something that tennis pro Virginia Wade mentioned in the film. "She said an athlete tends to get into an everyday routine in his sport and sometimes forgets how good he's supposed to be," Banks said. "I'm happy I was able to get back in the groove." Playing his best ball of the season, Banks had 28 points as Duke beat Vermont 92-67 in the opening round. Gminski, too, had some nifty numbers that night: 23 points, 17 rebounds, eight blocked shots and five assists. Cincinnati, which had knocked off South Carolina 69-62 in the first round, held Duke to a 71-71 standoff in regulation time of the championship matchup. That was it for the Bearcats, though, as Gminski scored nine points in OT and Duke won 87-75. Gminski finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds, while Banks had 21 points and 12 rebounds.
Virginia's Ralph Sampson was another player who claimed that he had "got in the groove." Sampson put all his talents together in the second half against Virginia Commonwealth in the first round of the Richmond Times-Dispatch tournament. The Cavaliers, who trailed 42-40 at halftime, won 89-72 as Sampson sank eight of 10 shots, had seven rebounds and blocked five shots in the final 20 minutes. The 7'4" freshman continued his dominance during a 79-58 rout of previously unbeaten Old Dominion in the tournament finale, coming through with 22 rebounds, 15 points and 10 blocked shots.
A freshman also led St. John's to victory. He was 6'6" David Russell, who became the Holiday Festival MVP by coming off the bench to score 10 points, get seven rebounds and propel the Redmen past Boston College 78-70 to earn the tournament title. In the opening round, St. John's beat Lafayette 68-58, and the Eagles upset Georgetown 75-74 in overtime.
Marty Headd of Syracuse, who shaved his pate before the season, put on a hair-raising performance during the Rochester (N.Y.) Classic, hitting four straight bombs at the start of the second half of the title game against Villanova. That, plus 11 assists by Eddie Moss and 24 points by Louis Orr, enabled the Orangemen to beat the Wildcats 92-84.
Four of the top 10 women's teams in the country went at it during the Manufacturers Hanover Christmas Classic in New York. Top-ranked Old Dominion was a 66-58 opening-round victor over ninth-ranked Maryland, and No. 4 Louisiana Tech got 28 points from Pain Kelly and 13 assists from Julie White to beat No. 7 Rutgers 89-83 in overtime. The Lady Techsters then avenged their loss in last season's AIAW title game by defeating the Lady Monarchs 59-57 as Kelly and Janice Mulford each scored 15 points. Nancy Lieberman and Inge Nissen, who had 18 points apiece in their first-round game, each had 14 against Tech.
1. DUKE (10-0)
2. NORTH CAROLINA (5-1)
3. ST. JOHN'S (8-1)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
STEVE JOHNSON: Oregon State's 6'10½" junior center sank 34 of 43 field-goal attempts (he's shooting .782 for the season), scored 76 points and grabbed 19 rebounds as the Beavers took the Far West Classic in Portland.