In its 93-92 double-overtime victory over Missouri in the Big Eight tournament final in Kansas City, Mo., Oklahoma State required the services of a gym rat and the Rat Patrol. The Patrol was the scrambling, scavenging defense that contained Tiger Center Steve Stipanovich, harassed Mizzou floor leader Jon Sundvold into 6-for-22 shooting and accounted for eight steals, three blocked shots and nine turnovers. The gym rat was sophomore Rick Anderson, a walk-on and erstwhile intramural all-star who was called upon after three Cowboy starters had fouled out. He made the free throw that provided the winning margin. The two players who got Oklahoma State as far as the second OT were seniors Leroy Combs and Lorenza Andrews. Andrews scored two of his 24 points on a sprawling scoop shot that tied the score at the end of the first overtime. Combs finished with 34 points and 11 rebounds.
"Don't ask me how it happened," said TCU Coach Jim Killingsworth after his Horned Frogs' 61-59 overtime win over Arkansas in the Southwest Conference semifinals. "We were just ahead when the gun went off." So ended the Razorbacks' hope for a rematch with Houston in the finals as well as the Frogs' 25-game record of futility against the Hogs. Doug Arnold led TCU, scoring 10 consecutive points, including the tying basket with 17 seconds remaining, during the Frogs' comeback from a 51-40 second-half deficit.
In spite of colds that afflicted half the team, including Coach Guy Lewis, Houston beat SMU 75-59 and Killer's Frogs 62-59. But the Cougars' performance in the final was something to sneeze at. They sank only eight of 22 free throws and bungled seven of nine one-and-one opportunities in the final five minutes. "I think our guys were waiting for the NCAAs," said Cougar Forward Larry (Mr. Mean) Micheaux. "I hope our intensity builds, because this scares me." He suggested that a hazing might be in order for the brothers of Phi Slamma Jamma. "I'll take 'em in the locker room and tell 'em; if they don't get the intensity started, I'll beat 'em all up." Thank you, Mr. Mean. We needed that.
Illinois State Forward Hank Cornley had some victims on his mind, too, before the Redbirds hosted the Missouri Valley Conference tournament final, but they weren't his teammates. "We want to attack and attack and attack," he said, "and then stomp on 'em until they fold." Woe be to weary Tulsa, which arrived in Normal after an eight-hour journey from a semifinal game with New Mexico State and then tried to throw a full-court press at the Redbirds. Rickie Johnson scored a career-high 22 points in an 84-64 Illinois State stomp.
It's still not clear why Southland Conference officials, after deciding to hold their tournament in Beaumont, Texas, even bothered to play the games. Host Lamar had won 66 straight in the Beaumont Civic Center. The Cards ran that streak to 68 with wins over Arkansas State and North Texas State. Guard Lamont Robinson's 24 points in the final, a 75-54 victory over the Mean Green, earned him co-MVP honors with North Texas' Kenneth Lyons. Robinson's teammate Kenneth Perkins held Lyons to 15 points in the final. The victories gave Lamar its fifth Southland title in six years and fourth NCAA berth in the past five. Spots in the NCAA preliminary round also went to SWAC champion Alcorn State, which didn't win by fewer than 12 points in three tournament games; Georgia Southern, which didn't win by more than three points in its three games in the Trans America tournament; and Xavier, which beat Loyola of Chicago 82-76 for the Midwestern City Conference title.
The NCAA had slim pickings for independents; only Southwestern Louisiana and Marquette earned at-large berths. The NIT, on the other hand, took in four: South Carolina, New Orleans, Notre Dame and DePaul.
It was UCLA's first Pac-10 title in four years, but, admitted Michael Holton, the Bruins' captain, "It was an awful way to win our first championship." When Holton and his teammates took the Pauley Pavilion floor for their season ender against Arizona State, they already knew that Washington had upset second-place Washington State 76-75 to present the Bruins with the conference crown. Appropriately, the Bruins played as if they had nothing to gain. The Sun Devils went into a stall with the score tied 76-76 and 2½ minutes left and had run off all but 14 seconds, when Arizona State Forward Paul Williams scored on a driving layup for the final two of his 27 points. When UCLA's Darren Daye missed a short jumper eight seconds later, the Sun Devils had a 78-76 victory. Earlier, UCLA had wiped its fast-breaking feet on conference doormat Arizona 111-58, but then allowed Washington State a chance to tie for the title by losing 70-68 when the Cougars' Bryan Pollard tipped in the ball with no time left.
Upon hearing the chants of "We want Fresno, we want Fresno" from UNLV fans after his Runnin' Rebels had scored a 67-64 semifinal win over Long Beach State in the PCAA tournament. Coach Jerry Tarkanian said, "I'm not sure I want Fresno." His anxiety was justified. The Bulldogs, with the nation's staunchest defense, which was giving up an average of 53.2 points, led Vegas 23-6 midway through the first half and 37-28 at the break. But Tarkanian's son Danny threw in a three-pointer with 33 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, and Eric Booker, a refugee from the University of San Francisco, nailed another three-pointer at the OT buzzer to give the Rebels a 66-63 victory. It was the sixth time this season that UNLV had rallied to win after falling behind 12 points or more, and the second time the Rebels had made up a 17-point deficit. UNLV Forward Sidney (El Sid) Green, who'd begun the week in a Vegas hospital with bronchitis, had 31 points and nine rebounds in UNLV's 74-67 tourney-opening win over Pacific on Thursday night, 20 points and 14 rebounds against Long Beach Friday night and 23 points and 11 rebounds in the final.
Utah, with freshman Manuel Hendrix scoring 17 points, gained a tie for the WAC title with Texas-El Paso and Brigham Young by defeating Air Force 67-55. The Utes received the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament, thanks to their 3-1 record in head-to-head meetings with UTEP and BYU, neither of which got at-large bids.
Nor did the tournament committee lavish at-largesse on the Big Sky and West Coast conferences. Big Sky tournament victor Weber State, which beat Nevada-Reno 87-78 in the title game by sinking 25 of 28 free throws, will be the league's sole NCAA participant, as Idaho had to settle for the NIT. And for the second straight year Pepperdine will carry the banner of the WCAC.
Leading 80-74 with some two minutes of overtime left in North Carolina's ACC tournament semifinal game against North Carolina State, Tar Heel Coach Dean Smith decided he wouldn't allow the Wolfpack's three-point sharpshooters, Dereck Whittenberg and Terry Gannon, to beat him with bombs. So he had his players foul members of the State bomb squad rather than let them unload, figuring the most any Wolfpack possession could yield would be two points. Problem was, State canned its free throws and even snuck in a three-pointer and a layup, while North Carolina kept missing from the field, and in just over a minute the Wolfpack had the lead. The Tar Heels retaliated with even more fouls. Bad idea. State buried free throw after free throw to win 91-84. In the meantime, Virginia was roaring to the tournament final in the other bracket, laying waste to Duke 109-66 and Georgia Tech 96-67. But the latter win, in a game so rough that Cavalier Coach Terry Holland threatened to pull his team off the court, was pyrrhic. Starting Forward Tim Mullen was probably lost to Virginia for postseason play with a sprained knee, which he suffered in a collision with Tech's Maurice Bradford.
In the final, Virginia got just what Smith had feared from N.C. State. It sank 12 of 22 three-point attempts, including four by Gannon. Whittenberg scored seven straight points in one second-half stretch as the 'Pack opened a nine-point lead en route to an 81-78 victory. Thurl Bailey added 24 points, and tournament MVP Sidney Lowe contributed 18. In four tries Ralph Sampson never won an ACC title or the tournament's MVP award, and only once, in 1982, was he voted to the all-tourney team. The three-time college Player of the Year was 0 for 3 with two turnovers in the final 7½ minutes against the Wolfpack. "Don't say anything that'll make Ralph mad at us," pleaded State's Harold Thompson to the press afterward.
"Yeah," said Lorenzo Charles, Thompson's teammate. "We might have to play him again sometime down the road." That road could lead to Ogden, Utah and the finals of the West Regional, where both Virginia and N.C. State were sent.
Temple was the surprise of the Atlantic 10 tournament, making the final against West Virginia thanks to MVP Terence Stansbury, who scored 79 points in three games. (So valuable is he—and so prone is Temple to playing overtime—that Stansbury is averaging 40.1 minutes a game.) But the Owls lost Guard Jim McLoughlin when he broke a bone in his shooting hand during their 72-67 upset of Rutgers in the semifinals, and lost the title 86-78 as four Mountaineers scored in double figures. Rutgers (22-7) earned an at-large bid despite its loss. James Madison, on Derek Steele's three-point play with :04 left, beat William & Mary 41-38 to win the ECAC South and advance to the NCAAs.
Berths in the preliminary round of the NCAA tournament went to Boston University, which won the ECAC North Atlantic crown by edging Holy Cross 63-62; LaSalle, a 75-73 victor over American in the East Coast Conference tournament final; MEAC champ North Carolina A&T, which beat Howard 71-64 for the conference crown; and Robert Morris, winner of its second straight ECAC Metro title with a 79-67 defeat of LIU. Colonial Guard Chipper Harris, the nation's leader in steals the past two seasons, averaged 28.7 points and shot 70% in three games.
The 'Ville bears no ill will. If Derek Smith and Wiley Brown, Class of '82, were still around, that's how they might have described Louisville's attitude toward Memphis State, a team the Cards have played often—three times this season—and well, winning all three, most recently 71-68 in last week's Metro Conference tournament semifinal. "We have a good relationship with Memphis," says Rodney McCray, the 'Ville's new spokesman, who was one of four Cards in double figures against the Tigers. "There's no animosity between the players. I was talking with [the Tigers'] Derrick Phillips at the free-throw line during the game. I said, 'Derrick, this is a good game.' "
Well, that depended on whom you talked to. Tiger Coach Dana Kirk, suggesting that Louisville had treated his players' backs as mere rungs on the way to the title, said, "Hell, you ought to put ladders out there for 'em." To which Cardinal Coach Denny Crum replied, "We didn't bring our ladders. I distinctly told our players to leave our ladders at home." The Cards scaled Tulane—for the 15th straight time—66-51 in the final as three Cards dealt double digits. The Green Wave has never beaten Louisville.
Having trailed Auburn by 10, Kentucky by 14 and Mississippi State by 11 before going on to win all three Southeastern Conference tournament games, Alabama wasn't about to panic midway through the second half of the championship game when Georgia went up by 11. But cool-handed or not, 'Bama could get no closer than seven as the Dawgs, hitting 22 of 26 second-half shots and getting an outstanding defensive effort by Terry Fair on Tide Forward Bobby Lee Hurt, won going away, 86-71. Georgia's first SEC tournament title earned the school its debut in the NCAA tournament, and the Dawgs' tournament wins over the Tide, Mississippi and Tennessee gave them a 21-9 record, their first 20-win season.
Guy Minnifield, cousin of Kentucky's Dirk, scored 26 points as Morehead State downed Akron 81-65 to win the Ohio Valley tournament and advance to the NCAAs for the first time since 1961. Tennessee-Chattanooga won its third straight Southern Conference postseason title as Skip Clark and Willie White each scored 17 points in a 70-62 victory over East Tennessee State.
Ohio University lost twice to Bowling Green during the regular Mid-American Conference season, and the Bobcats took only 11 shots in the second half of their third meeting with the Falcons in the tournament final at Bowling Green. But Ohio made 10 of them to advance to the NCAAs with a 59-56 victory. Tournament MVP John Devereaux finished with 18 points for the Bobcats, whose 22-8 record marked the most wins in a single season in the school's history.
Meanwhile Ball State's Ray McCallum became the conference's career scoring leader, after falling behind Melvin (Sugar) McLaughlin of Central Michigan in the penultimate regular-season game. But McLaughlin and the Chippewas failed to qualify for the MAC tournament, so McCallum used the Cards' two extra games to score 50 points, raising his career total to 2,109, some 38 points sweeter than Sugar's.
Half of the Big Ten—Iowa, Purdue, Ohio State and Illinois, in addition to Indiana—received NCAA bids.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
LEROY COMBS: Oklahoma State's 6'8" senior center was the tournament's MVP for scoring 69 points, getting 33 rebounds and making 11 steals in three games as the Cowboys won the Big Eight title.
SI TOP 20
1. LOUISVILLE (29-3)
2. ST. JOHN'S (27-4)
3. VIRGINIA (27-4)
4. HOUSTON (27-2)
5. UNLV (28-2)
6. UCLA (23-5)
7. WICHITA STATE (25-3)
8. INDIANA (23-5)
9. MISSOURI (26-7)
10. BOSTON COLL. (24-6)
11. N.C. STATE (20-10)
12. N. CAROLINA (26-7)
13. ARKANSAS (25-3)
14. KENTUCKY (21-7)
15. VILLANOVA (22-7)
16. MEMPHIS STATE (22-7)
17. GEORGETOWN (21-9)
18. ILLINOIS STATE (24-6)
19. VA. C'WEALTH (23-6)
20. OKLA. STATE (24-6)
* Last week