The University of Nevada, Las Vegas remained the nation's only unbeaten major college team, but it had to struggle at home against two lower-echelon PCAA opponents. The Rebels were sluggish in an 85-79 victory over last-place UC-Santa Barbara. "It was one of those nights," said UNLV Guard Jeff Collins. "It's hard to get up for UC-Santa Barbara. That's been our problem. We're playing teams that aren't supposed to beat us."
One of those teams, UC-Irvine, almost did upset UNLV the next night. After freshman Eldridge Hudson sank a pair of free throws with 15 seconds remaining to give the Rebels a two-point lead, Irvine's George Turner missed a three-point attempt that left UNLV with a shaky 70-68 win. Vegas Center Sid Green had 47 points and 22 rebounds in the two games.
When asked why UCLA has so much trouble getting started against its opponents. Bruin Coach Larry Farmer said, "Maybe this is the kind of team that has to have its back against the wall or be threatened before it responds." He may be right. With Washington State leading 85-84 with 1:03 left in overtime, the Bruins were in danger of losing to the Cougars in Pauley Pavilion for the first time. But Bruin Forward Kenny Fields, who scored nine of his 26 points in OT, hit a turnaround jumper with 52 seconds left to put UCLA ahead 86-85, and then converted a three-point play with 16 seconds left to give the Bruins an 89-87 victory. On Saturday, UCLA, again paced by Fields who had 22 points, extended its lead over the second-place Cougars to 1½ games by whipping Washington 84-65, while Southern Cal was upsetting Washington State 56-49.
After Tulane upset Memphis State 58-56 to snap the Tigers' 29-game homecourt winning streak, Memphis State Coach Dana Kirk dourly said, "You're supposed to smile a lot when you win and smile a little when you lose. But I can't find much to smile about."
Kirk could thank the Green Wave's Paul Thompson and John Williams for that. Thompson, a senior forward, and Williams, a sophomore center, combined for 31 points and 14 rebounds. Williams held the Tigers' Keith Lee, who had scored at a 28.6 clip in his three previous games, to 14. Memphis State had a miserable 43.1% shooting percentage. "Our players missed shots they haven't missed in two years," Kirk said.
Kirk and the Tigers had reason for joy earlier in the week, when Memphis beat Virginia Tech 73-64 to avenge the Tigers' first defeat of the season. Lee had 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots. After Metro Conference leader Louisville won a 79-73 victory at Cincinnati, it hosted another flock of Cardinals from Lamar and walloped the Southland Conference leaders 85-60. Playing before their parents, Thomas and Shirley, Rodney and Scooter McCray combined to score 27 points and grab 20 rebounds.
Three Missouri Valley Conference games took unusual twists for Illinois State. The Redbirds won 56-55 at Bradley by intentionally allowing an easy basket. With three seconds to go, the Braves needed a three-point field goal to tie the game, but upon Abounding the ball from under their own basket, Barney Mines instinctively passed to a wide-open Roosevelt Davison for a harmless two-point layup as the buzzer sounded.
"I knew they couldn't beat us inside," said Illinois State Center Rick Lamb. "I figured they'd throw it outside and go for three. What they did was stupid, because there was no way they could win from there."
Three nights later, against Drake, the Red-birds, who had been successful on only one of 14 three-point attempts this season, hit four in a row—three of them by Guard Brad Duncan—in a 65-59 comeback victory. "I'm afraid these close games are going to catch up with us," said Lamb, and he was right. New Mexico State handed the Redbirds their worst loss at home in four years, 66-50.
Wichita State Coach Gene Smithson was so upset with the play of his leading scorer, Antoine Carr, at Indiana State that he benched him for eight minutes in the first half and ripped into him at halftime when the Shockers were leading 42-41. Whereupon Carr kicked into overdrive in the second half, scoring 22 of his game-high 28 points as the Shockers won 89-81. "Even the best of cars stall sometimes," said Antoine, pun obviously intended. Wichita State then defeated New Mexico State 101-80, as reserve Forward Karl Papke had career highs in both scoring (26) and rebounding (14). The Shockers then got 26 points from Aubrey Sherrod in an 85-63 rout of West Texas State. Wichita State Forward Xavier McDaniel, the nation's top rebounder, had 64 points and 51 rebounds in the three games.
After Missouri struggled past Colorado 68-65 in double overtime. Tiger Coach Norm Stewart groused, "We wallowed around like a hog in the mud. I thought the best thing we did was persevere and win the ballgame." The Tigers did that by hitting 24 of 37 free throws, compared to Colorado's 13 of 15. Steve Stipanovich and Jon Sundvold combined for 40 points, Sundvold icing the victory by hitting a pair of foul shots with one second left. Stipanovich added 21 points and 12 rebounds in Mizzou's 82-50 rout of Kansas State, the most one-sided outcome in the 171-game history of the series. "This was the most enjoyable game we've had here," Stewart told a broadcaster later. "When you've got that big a lead, even you or I can play."
Freshman sensation Wayman Tisdale scored 23 points in Oklahoma's 60-59 loss at Nebraska, and then exploded for 46 points, hitting 17 of 23 from the field and 12 of 15 from the foul line in a 102-74 rout of Iowa State.
After Houston ripped visiting Baylor 86-69, Cougar Forward Clyde Drexler said, "I got tired of being down. It was my turn to take some shots." Drexler, who had scored just 14 points in Cougar victories over Arkansas and Rice, had told Coach Guy Lewis that he was due for a big night. He delivered, scoring 29 points and getting 12 rebounds. Seven-. foot Akeem Olajuwon had only eight points but grabbed eight rebounds and blocked nine shots. "I just wish some Baptist missionary in Nigeria had told me about him first," moaned Baylor Coach Jim Haller afterward. The Cougars stretched their Southwest Conference record to 9-0 with an 86-66 thrashing of Texas A&M in College Station. Second-place Arkansas, led by Darrell Walker's 14 points and seven rebounds, burned Rice in Fayetteville for the 18th straight time, 70-43.
Pittsburgh Guard Billy Culbertson knew that if the Panthers were to have a chance in their game against Big East leader St. John's, they would need a virtuoso performance from Center Andre Williams. Williams had been in a six-game scoring slump so woeful that many observers, even Pitt Coach Roy Chipman, questioned whether Williams was ready for the Big East's big-time competition. So on the day of the game, Culbertson began his psych job. "I kept telling him he was no good," said Culbertson. "I told him he had to drive and shoot." Culbertson's reverse psychology worked: Williams hit seven of 10 from the field and a perfect 10 of 10 from the line to lead Pitt to a 72-71 upset of St. John's.
The loss temporarily knocked the Redmen out of first place in the Big East, but they regained the lead with an 82-57 rout of Seton Hall at home. "I looked at the films of the loss to Pitt, and it just seemed that every move we made, we were one step behind them," said St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca. "I don't know if that's mental or physical, but tonight we weren't a step behind anybody."
Villanova Forward Eddie Pinckney is called E-Z Ed by his teammates, but he was anything but easy on Georgetown. Pinckney scored 27 points, got 22 rebounds and blocked three shots in leading the Wildcats to a 68-67 comeback win. "This is my finest hour as a player," said Pinckney, "and I'm going to enjoy it." He triggered the win by hitting a pair of foul shots with eight seconds left and blocking a baseline jumper by the Hoyas' Michael Jackson at the other end with three seconds left. Villanova found the going rougher at Boston College; Pinckney hit just two of three shots and scored eight points in the 'Cat's 76-70 upset loss. On Sunday Georgetown beat DePaul in Landover, Md. 71-65 behind Patrick Ewing's 20 points.
North Carolina disposed of three more opponents, increasing its winning streak to 17 and giving Dean Smith a record 13 consecutive years of 20 or more wins as a coach. The Tar Heels beat Clemson 84-81, dusting off the Four Corners offense in the final 1:32 to protect its lead. North Carolina then steam-rolled two Southern Conference foes in the 25th annual north-south doubleheaders in Charlotte. On the first night Carolina blitzed the Citadel 81-36, limiting the Bulldogs to just 27.8% shooting from the floor. The next evening the Tar Heels mauled Furman 78-43, forcing the Paladins into 17 first-half turnovers and 32 overall.
"Going into the last nine games [of the regular season] I decided I wanted to assert myself," said Virginia's Ralph Sampson after he asserted himself by scoring 30 points, 25 in the first half, and grabbing 12 rebounds in the Cavaliers' 89-75 win over Wake Forest. Sampson got only 10 points in the Cav's subsequent game with Duke in Charlottesville, but his offense was hardly missed. Led by Tim Mullen's career-high 23 points, including five three-pointers, the Cavs routed the too-young Blue Devils 105-84.
The recent play of 7'2" Uwe Blab, Indiana's Teutonic Tower, had made his face almost as red as his hair. "Coach [Bobby] Knight told me to be more aggressive," Blab said after he scored 12 points and brought down 12 rebounds but missed two successive dunks in an 83-73 victory over Wisconsin. "I usually don't even take the dunk shot when I've got the chance," Blab said. "I never take a dunk shot and I'm 7'2". That's embarrassing." But two days later, in the Hoosiers' showdown with Minnesota for first place in the Big Ten, Blab unleashed his blitzkrieg. With the Gophers leading 14-6, Blab reeled off 11 straight points, triggering a 26-5 Hoosier spurt that put them on top 32-19. Blab finished with 15 points and Ted Kitchel added 20 as Indiana rolled 76-51.
Earlier, Minnesota had edged momentarily into first place with an 89-80 double-overtime win at Ohio State. Sophomore Guard Tommy Davis scored half his 22 points in the two overtimes to spark the Gophers. Iowa lost a pair of road games just short of the wire, falling 62-61 at Illinois, when Steve Carfino's 18-footer with 10 seconds left fell short, and 60-57 at Purdue, when Boilermaker Steve Reid hit a three-point shot with one second left to play.
Georgia Coach Hugh Durham was concerned that his Bulldogs' upset victory over Kentucky in Athens two weeks earlier would leave his team flat against Vanderbilt. "You can't afford to celebrate too long in this league anymore," Durham said, "because the next team you play is just as tough as the last one." He needn't have worried about the game with the Commodores; Georgia raced to a 23-9 lead early in the first half and buried Vandy 86-61. But his words proved prophetic: Louisiana State, getting 66.0% shooting from the field and 23 points from Howard (Hi-C) Carter, surprised the Dogs 70-59. The loss dropped Georgia into a six-way logjam for the SEC lead with Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Auburn, Tennessee and Kentucky. The Wildcats lost 65-63 to the Vols in Knoxville, despite getting a career-high 42 points from Melvin Turpin. "I rested all day Sunday and all day today [Monday] and just pushed myself harder than I ever have, and it still wasn't enough," Turpin said later. The Wildcats had enough left to beat Alabama 76-70 in Lexington. Turpin scored 16 points, including a three-point play with 20 seconds left to secure the victory.
Tennessee Coach Don DeVoe wore a lucky red necktie in the Vols' victory over Kentucky and repeated the ritual in a subsequent 65-53 win over Ole Miss. "And I'll wear it again as long as we win," DeVoe vows. Of course, everyone knows how quickly styles change in the SEC these days.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
XAVIER McDANIEL: The sophomore forward scored 64 points, hitting 24 of 44 from the field and 16 of 25 from the line, and had 51 rebounds as Wichita State won three Missouri Valley Conference games.
SI TOP 20
1. UNLV (20-0)
2. N. CAROLINA (20-3)
3. VIRGINIA (19-2)
4. UCLA (16-2)
5. INDIANA (17-2)
6. MEMPHIS STATE (17-2)
7. ST. JOHN'S (19-2)
8. WICHITA STATE (17-2)
9. MISSOURI (18-3)
10. ILLINOIS STATE (17-2)
11. LOUISVILLE (18-3)
12. HOUSTON (18-2)
13. ARKANSAS (18-1)
14. GEORGETOWN (16-5)
15. TENNESSEE (14-5)
16. PURDUE (15-4)
17. VILLANOVA (14-4)
18. KENTUCKY (14-5)
19. GEORGIA (15-4)
20. OKLAHOMA (17-5)