Just as it had last season, the SEC game between Kentucky and Georgia in Athens went down to the wire. And, just as they did last year, the Wildcats pulled out a victory. Kentucky beat Georgia 68-66 on Melvin Turpin's at-the-buzzer tip-in. The Wildcats had to overcome a seven-point deficit in the second half and a 28-point performance by the Bulldogs' Dominique Wilkins. "I felt Kentucky capitalized on our mistakes," said Wilkins. "We didn't do what we had to do late in the game and they did." The defeat was Georgia's second straight in the conference.
After both of Tennessee's starting guards, 6'3" Gary Carter and 6'2" Ed Littleton, flunked out of school following the fall quarter, the Vols were written off as contenders for the SEC title. But against previously unbeaten Alabama, Tennessee made 68.6% of its shots and forced the Crimson Tide into numerous bad shots and turnovers en route to an 88-67 victory. "You don't get a win like this very often," said Tennessee Coach Don DeVoe. "This makes coaching fun." The Vols were paced by Dale Ellis, who scored 27 points, and their new backcourt tandem of Michael Brooks and Tyrone Beaman, who combined for 21 points and eight assists and outplayed the Tide's heralded guards, Ennis Whatley and Mike Davis.
Minnesota was a big winner on one court and in another. In Minneapolis the Gophers routed Army 79-37 and Arizona 91-62 to win the last Pillsbury Classic. They have won the tournament all eight years it has been played. They then beat Long Beach State 75-67 as Randy Breuer and Trent Tucker combined for 47 points, and Breuer's tough defense held 49er Center Dino Gregory, who had a 22-point average coming into the game, to 14. But Minnesota got its biggest boost from U.S. District Judge Miles Lord. He issued a temporary restraining order that allowed Mark Hall, a three-year starter at guard, to rejoin the team on Monday. Aware that he would be ineligible this season because of grade deficiencies. Hall attended summer school to improve his average. Although he raised it enough to remain eligible, the university denied him admission to a degree-granting program, a requirement for participating in NCAA competition. Lord ruled that the school failed to follow proper procedures in evaluating Hall's application to enter such a program.
Two freshmen, 6'11" Forward Michael Payne and Guard Todd Berkenpas, helped Iowa defeat Drake 60-49. With seniors Kevin Boyle and Kenny Arnold in shooting slumps, Payne and Berkenpas, who scored 18 and 12 points, respectively, were game-savers. "I've always thought that most freshmen couldn't help you that much until they got experience," said Hawkeye Coach Lute Olson, "but we were lucky tonight that we had a freshman eligibility rule."
After DePaul beat Louisville 75-68, Blue Demon Forward Terry Cummings, who had scored a career-high 37 points, said, "I love to play the Louisvilles, but not every day. It may be in our best interest to play the Illinois States right now, because our young players need time to mature." Illinois State forced them to grow up faster than expected as De-Paul squandered an early 12-point lead and was up by only three, 42-39, before outscoring the Redbirds 25-17 in the final 14 minutes to win 74-58. Cummings, who averaged 24 points and 12.4 rebounds in the Blue Demons' first 10 games, got 24 points in this one. Two nights later he had 25 and a team-high 10 rebounds in a 55-46 victory over Northern Illinois. Against Penn State at home, Cummings scored only 14 points, but Forward Bernard Randolph had 17 in the first half and Teddy Grubbs added 12 in the second to lift DePaul to an 86-60 win.
Glenn Rivers and Michael Wilson combined for 50 points and held Loyola of Chicago's star guard, Darius Clemons, to four as Marquette whipped the Ramblers 81-69. In a Sun Belt Conference game Virginia Commonwealth gave its volatile coach, J.D. Barnett, his 100th career victory by edging archrival University of Alabama at Birmingham 55-54.
Houston's star Guard Robert Williams was having a horrendous Sugar Bowl tournament—he would end up shooting 25% from the field—so Cougar Coach Guy Lewis knew that against LSU in the final he would need a superlative performance from his 7-foot Nigerian import, Akeem (Jellybean) Olajuwon, if the Cougars were to leave New Orleans with the trophy. Jellybean delivered, scoring 20 points and blocking a shot with seven seconds to play that might have sent the game into overtime. Following the Cougars' 73-69 victory, Lewis said, "I'd sure like to come back to the Superdome for the Final Four."
Before Kentucky faced North Carolina in an early battle for the top spot in the polls, Dean Smith, the Tar Heels' ever-cautious coach, said he hoped the Wildcats' bruising strength wouldn't "blow us out." Instead, it was North Carolina that did the blowing away in an 82-69 defeat of Kentucky before 18,116 fans at New Jersey's Byrne Arena and a national TV audience. The Tar Heels' top performers were James Worthy, who had 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and Sam Perkins, who contributed 21 points and 11 rebounds. Asked what his club would have to do to beat North Carolina, 'Cats Coach Joe B. Hall said, "Shoot better, play defense better and rebound better." And have the services of 7-foot center Sam Bowie, who's still recovering from a fractured right tibia.
The turning point in the championship game of the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch tournament came with 7:30 to play and Virginia clinging to a 46-43 lead over previously unbeaten James Madison. When the Cavaliers' Ralph Sampson converted a lob pass into a two-handed stuff. Referee Phil Bova of the Big Ten charged him with a technical foul for hanging on to the rim. The call annoyed Sampson, so when Bova whistled another T 21 seconds later on Virginia Forward Craig Robinson for grabbing the rim on a breakaway dunk, Sampson was livid. "I don't know about the Big Ten, but those were ACC dunks," he said. No matter. James Madison made just one of the two technical-foul shots. The Dukes wouldn't score another point, as the Cavaliers pulled away to a 57-44 win. Sampson, the tournament MVP, finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Three nights later, in Charlottesville, he got 15 points and 14 rebounds as Virginia beat the Dukes again, 73-65. This time James Madison made three more field goals than the Cavaliers but was outscored 25-11 at the line. "You don't like to see any good team too often," said Virginia Coach Terry Holland, who probably took the words out of the mouths of the Dukes.
"I don't like a lot of things reporters say about me," said Georgetown's 7-foot freshman center, Patrick Ewing, in a Jan. 1 interview with The Washington Post. "They write things without really knowing me. They just write to have something to say." Those were his first words to the press following the embargo Hoya Coach John Thompson traditionally puts on media contact with his freshman players during their first semester in school. With the media restrictions still intact four days earlier at the Rochester (N.Y.) Classic—Thompson even refused to let the Georgetown sports information director stay at the team's hotel for fear the press would use him to gain introductions to Hoya players—Ewing gave reporters plenty to write about by scoring 20 points, getting 13 rebounds and blocking six shots as the Hoyas routed Niagara 77-49 to win the tournament for the third time. Ewing's domination at both ends of the floor earned him the respect, if not the admiration, of rival pivotmen. "I've never seen anything like it," said 6'9" Niagara Forward Mike Howse. "His agility was amazing. I couldn't do anything but just watch." However, Columbia's 6'6", 230-pound Tom Brecht did more than watch. In the first half of the Lions' semifinal game with Georgetown, Brecht and Ewing spent most of their time pushing and shoving each other and trading elbows. "I had to do something to take his mind off the game," said Brecht. Neither Brecht's muscle nor Columbia's slowdown worked as the Hoyas came out on top 38-26.
St. John's won the Holiday Festival in New York City for the fifth time, defeating Villanova 94-89 after nearly blowing a 17-point lead with 7:37 to go. The Redmen advanced to the final with a 76-75 victory over Kansas. In that game reserve Guard Kevin Williams, who scored all of his 12 points in the second half, got the deciding ones on a three-point play with 26 seconds remaining. Defending NCAA champion and tournament favorite Indiana lost 63-59 to Villanova and 71-61 to Kansas. Leading the Jayhawks against the Hoosiers was Forward David Magley, who scored a career-high 32 points.
The name of the event in Portland, Maine was the J.C. Best Tournament. The three teams in the field with favored Alabama—combined record: 4-15—didn't live up to the billing. The Crimson Tide got 24 points from 6'9" freshman Bobby Lee Hurt in an 84-62 defeat of Delaware in the first round and then rallied to beat Maine 77-61 in the finals.
In ACC play. North Carolina State defeated Clemson 75-59 as Wolfpack Guard Derek Whittenberg scored 18 points, and Wake Forest beat Georgia Tech 74-56.
Iowa used an aggressive 1-3-1 zone defense and a deliberate offense to defeat South Carolina 57-47. The Hawkeyes played without their leading scorer. Guard Bob Hansen (15.3 points per game), but Guard Steve Carfino and Forward Mark Gannon picked up the slack, putting in 15 points apiece.
Ordinarily, Mike Krzyzewski, Duke's second-year coach, is a disciple of the man-to-man defense favored by his mentor, Indiana's Bobby Knight. But against Louisville Krzyzewski tried a 2-3 zone similar to the one De-Paul had used in its 75-68 victory over the Cardinals on Dec. 26. "If I were Duke and saw the way we played against DePaul, I'd have used a zone, too," said Louisville Coach Denny Crum. Midway through the first half, Krzyzewski's strategy seemed to be paying off: The Blue Devils trailed by only four points. But the Cardinals then outscored Duke 27-2 to take a 54-27 lead at the half. Louisville, which was ahead by as many as 49 points in the second half, went on to win 99-61 as six Cardinals were in double figures.
Wichita State's 63-50 defeat of New Mexico State was the Shockers' fourth game in six days, and it showed. "We were mentally tired from the Hawaii [Rainbow Classic] trip and the 14-hour flight home," said Wichita State Coach Gene Smithson. "We were mentally low from the losses in Hawaii." In the first half the Shockers were unable to solve the Aggies' tight 1-2-2 zone and hit only 31.2% from the field. But after intermission Guard James Gibbs and Forward Mike Jones helped break the New Mexico State zone with long-range gunning, and Wichita State clamped a 3-2 zone of its own on the Aggies, forcing them into several bad shots.
Tulsa had a rough time with intrastate rival Oklahoma. Trailing 91-80 with 8:30 to play, the Golden Hurricane had to score 10 unanswered points and get a basket from Forward Steve Ballard at the buzzer to pull out a 98-96 win. Tulsa played without two starters. Forward David Brown, lost until late January with an injured right knee, and Guard Phil Spradling, who underwent an emergency appendectomy two days before the game. Hurricane Guard Paul Pressey, who entered the game with a 10-point average, finished with 31 points; five of his teammates also scored in double figures.
After routing nonconference opponent Kent State 91-49, previously undefeated Arkansas lost 79-74 to Texas Tech in the opening Southwest Conference game for both teams. To beat the Razorbacks for the first time since 1976, the Red Raiders had to overcome a 56-47 deficit with 11:41 remaining. The win gave surprising Tech a 9-2 record.
At the start of the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, Rice was considered the tournament patsy. After all, the Owls hadn't had a winning season in a decade, and they had been picked to finish eighth in the nine-team Southwest Conference. But when the Owls defeated Hawaii 69-59 to advance to the semifinals against undefeated and fourth-ranked San Francisco, a team that had beaten them by 16 points one week earlier, Rice Coach Tony Suitts said, "We just looked up and there was us and three undefeated Top 20 teams. That really got the guys sky high." The Owls didn't return to earth until they had won the tournament by shocking the Dons 78-66 and 20th-ranked North Carolina State 51-47. After his team had snapped the Wolfpack's nine-game winning streak, Suitts said, "We were so bad for so long that I don't know if the people back home will believe this."
The big gun for Rice was Forward Ricky Pierce, the tournament MVP. Pierce scored 40 points against Hawaii, 15 against San Francisco and 23 against N.C. State, including a left-handed baseline layup with four minutes left that gave the Owls the lead for good. "The baseline move was a work of art," said Wolfpack Coach Jim Valvano. Wichita State, which arrived in Honolulu ranked No. 3, lost two of three games. After a 70-67 defeat of Cal State-Fullerton, the Shockers lost 60-48 to N.C. State, 84-74 to USF.
In another big upset, Idaho won the Far West Classic in Portland, Ore. After beating Iowa State 88-68, the Vandals routed defending Pac-10 champ Oregon State 71-49. "If it hadn't been against my own club, I would have enjoyed the game immensely," said Beaver Coach Ralph Miller after watching Idaho's 2-3 zone disrupt Oregon State's fancy passing game. "The only bright spot for us was that the game got over." In the title round Idaho defeated Oregon 81-62. Ken Owens, the Vandals' point guard, who had a total of 69 points and 26 assists in three games, was named tournament MVP. Oregon State beat Portland 61-55 for third place and then routed Arizona State 74-43 to open the Pac-10 season.
After Penn State forced North Carolina into overtime before succumbing 56-50 in the first round of the Cable Car Classic in Santa Clara, Calif., Coach Dean Smith scolded his Tar Heels. Suitably chastised. North Carolina defeated Santa Clara 76-57 in the final. The Tar Heels played without Center Sam Perkins, who had twisted an ankle against the Nittany Lions. Forward James Worthy, who scored 19 points and had seven rebounds, and Guard Michael Jordan, who got 21 points, took up the slack.
With five seconds to play in the first half of the championship game of the Winston Tire Classic in Los Angeles, Missouri Forward Ricky Frazier was ejected for punching Southern Cal Forward Wayne Carlander in the eye. At that point Frazier had hit six of eight shots and grabbed four rebounds. Had he remained in the game the Tigers' margin of victory most certainly would have been greater than 65-58. "The score wasn't a true indicator of how they dominated," said Trojan Coach Stan Morrison. "It was our worst beating. We've improved in every game to date, except against Missouri."
After beating LSU 83-75 before 28,880 fans at the Superdome in New Orleans, UCLA returned home to rout Maryland 90-57. In that game Bruin Forward Slew Sanders got 23 points and 11 rebounds in only 24 minutes. The Bruins then visited Washington State, which defeated them 57-51 in triple overtime. "We let them beat us," said UCLA Coach Larry Farmer. "I thought we had matured enough as a team not to relax against anybody." The Bruins played the Cougars without Forward Cliff Pruitt, who quit the team earlier in the week and said he intended to transfer.
If you listen to Nevada-Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian, Sid Green, his 6'9" forward, bears a remarkable resemblance to the little girl with the curl. "If Sid has a good year, then we'll be good," says Tarkanian. "If Sid is great, then we'll be great. If Sid's just fair, I'm hoping we'll still be good." Against San Diego State, Green was great. He sank eight of 11 shots, finished with 22 points and had 13 rebounds as the Rebels won 77-71. Earlier, UNLV won its Holiday Classic by beating Texas A&M 83-76 in the final.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
RICKY PIERCE: Rice's 6'5" senior forward had a total of 78 points and 24 rebounds as the Owls stunned Hawaii, San Francisco and North Carolina State to win the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu.
SI TOP 20
1. N. CAROLINA (8-0)
2. VIRGINIA (11-0)
3. KENTUCKY (8-1)
4. TULSA (8-1)
6. SAN FRANCISCO (11-1)
7. IOWA (8-1)
8. MINNESOTA (8-1)
9. LOUISVILLE (7-2)
10. MISSOURI (9-0)
11. GEORGETOWN (11-2)
12. WICHITA STATE (9-2)
13. ARKANSAS (8-1)
14. ALABAMA (9-1)
15. HOUSTON (9-1)
16. ST. JOHN'S (N.Y.) (9-1)
17. IDAHO (11-0)
18. OREGON STATE (8-2)
19. N.C. STATE (10-1)
20. VILLANOVA (8-2)