After St. John's defeated skidding Boston College 66-59 before a crowd of 11,325 in Boston Garden, swingman Chris Mullin was asked how he had rallied the Redmen from a 40-30 deficit with 15:58 to play. "Hey," said Mullin, "it's just a matter of playing the game right." Easy for Mullin to say. He scored a game-high 24 points and had eight rebounds in his first appearance on the Garden's parquet floor. "He came out, and he gave a performance," said Redmen coach Lou Carnesecca. "The Garden? That might've crossed his mind."
Until the final four minutes, BC seemed to have all the right moves. Despite the absence of center Trevor Gordon, who had lost his eligibility because he'd failed to complete a term paper in a fall semester business class, the Eagles frustrated the Redmen inside by alternately double-teaming 7-foot Bill Wennington and 6'8" skywalker Walter Berry. Meanwhile, Boston College's aggressive 1-2-2 zone defense kept Mullin so far from the hoop that he was actually out of his shooting range.
"They pushed me out like 30 feet from the basket," said Mullin. "I had to do something to get into the flow of the offense. In the second half, I started to look more along the baseline and down the middle." Mullin's strategy paid off; he got 16 of his points after intermission. "He's a player, that's all," said Celtics president Red Auerbach, who was in the stands. "He's got a quick release, great range and is just a competitor." Hey, Red, remind you of anyone you know?
After Connecticut dropped early-season games to lowly Fairfield and Providence, the annual Let's Fire Dom Perno chants were heard again throughout the state. But Perno is accustomed to such talk. Although he has guided UConn to one NCAA and three NIT tournament appearances since 1977-78, he has failed to keep talented Connecticut high school stars such as John Pinone and Harold Pressley (Villanova), John Bagley, Jay Murphy and Michael Adams (Boston College), Rod Foster (UCLA) and Charlie Smith (Pitt) at home. Thus the Huskies' 70-68 upset of Syracuse before 30,161 fans in the Carrier Dome, which ran their record to 6-7, was a help. "I think it was a great win. I'm happy for Dom because it was a shot in the arm," says Lou Carnesecca. "It was a psychological boost. It says to the players, 'Hey, we can win.' " Well, at least it silenced the UConn boo-birds for a week.
Jerry H. Lewis has never, in his 18 years as coach at Tougaloo College, a small, predominantly black, liberal arts school in suburban Jackson, Miss., had the luxury of scouting high school talent almost every night. Lewis is getting in plenty of scouting this season, but he's quick to add, "I'm not proud of it." That's because Lewis and Tougaloo athletic director James Coleman canceled the Bulldogs' last 20 games of this season when they learned that nine of their 12 varsity players had failed to meet the school's scholarship standards during the fall semester.
The Tougaloo nine—eight sophomores and one junior—either fell below the minimum of 12 passing credits or failed to meet the minimum grade-point average the college requires of all its students. Though the school will lose no money because of the forfeitures, it did lose some pride. "When we told the guys, they were solemn and sad," says Lewis, who has a 266-225 record at Tougaloo, including a 3-4 mark this season.
The nine players are still in school and will retain their financial aid. But no Bulldog will be allowed to touch a basketball in Brownlee Hall until at least Feb. 22. "I don't know if there's a silver lining in any of this," says Lewis. "But if it helps them to realize the seriousness of their lives, and helps them to go on to get their degrees, it will be a silver lining for everyone. I will know we did the right thing."
Alabama-Birmingham coach Gene Bartow swears he's not superstitious, but his actions betray his words. During the last six games of the Blazers' current seven-game winning streak, including last week's 68-66 Sun Belt win at Western Kentucky, Bartow has worn the same navy-blue blazer, along with the maroon sweater he got at the Great Alaska Shootout in November. He has also continued to start 6'7" senior center Pipo Marrero, normally a crowd-pleasing reserve from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Marrero has averaged just 7.8 minutes while playing in 13 of UAB's 19 games, but its record with him as a starter is 10-0. "We have some players that we think are better coming off the bench," says Bartow. As for his superstitions, he says coyly, "In the coaching profession, you can never be too careful."
"We've had a hard time shaking the image of having suntan lotion, oranges and a good time, but no tough competitors," said Florida coach Norm Sloan after the Gators whipped Kentucky 67-55 in Rupp Arena. "This ought to give confidence to the people supporting our program, because we did play tough and got the job done." Indeed, the Gators handed the Cats only their 13th loss in Rupp since it opened in 1976. Only a basket by Kenny Walker at the buzzer kept the final margin from matching the worst Kentucky defeat in that building—a 78-64 loss to Alabama in 1980.
Michigan nipped Iowa 69-67 in triple overtime to move into a first-place tie in the Big Ten with Illinois, and Wolverine coach Bill Frieder was understandably jubilant. "We deserved one like that," said Frieder, whose team had lost all five of its overtime games since defeating Ohio State in OT in 1982. Among those losses was a four-overtime marathon against the Illini last season.
Michigan center Roy Tarpley, who led both teams with 21 points and 14 rebounds, hit the game-winning bucket—a 12-foot left-side banker at the buzzer—after he rebounded teammate Antoine Joubert's missed jumper. "I can't describe what it feels like," said Tarpley. "Everyone picked me up, and I had to run out of the arena because I didn't want people to see me cry."
In October, when Ball State forward Dan Palombizio, a transfer from Purdue, posed with his new teammates for the Cardinals' 1984-85 press-guide photo, he wore No. 41 because his regular jersey number, 5, wasn't available. He's still listed as No. 5 on the numerical roster inside the guide, but he wore No. 30 for the Cards' first game against Washington. Palombizio scored 18 points (his season low) that night and has worn No. 30 ever since. But at week's end he was really No. 1. After pouring in 58 points in two Mid-American Conference games, the 6'8", 225-pound Palombizio was averaging 28.1 points per game, the best in the nation. "He's been super for us," says Ball State coach Al Brown, who in 1981 had unsuccessfully tried to recruit Palombizio, the state's Mr. Basketball, at Michigan City (Ind.) Rogers High. "I'm not surprised that he's doing well. I'm just surprised that he's doing so much so quickly."
Palombizio started 25 games as a sophomore at Purdue in 1982-83, but he chafed at what he considered to be a minor offensive role assigned to him by Boilermaker coach Gene Keady. "At Purdue, [Keady] told me I'd never make it in the NBA," says Palombizio. "That's why I feel that I really have something to prove. That's why I'm always hungry. I want to prove him wrong."
"It's been a long time since I could smile after a road game," said DePaul coach Joey Meyer after the Blue Demons' 71-66 Super Sunday triumph at Notre Dame snapped a three-game losing streak on the road. "We really wanted this one. The team was starting to pull apart and confidence was eroding. The only thing that can build up confidence is a big win on the road." DePaul's Kenny Patterson took care of that by sinking four crucial free throws in the final 1:01.
Maryland coach Lefty Driesell was emphatic when asked if Nevada—Las Vegas, the scourge of the weak-sister PCAA, would fare as well in the rugged ACC. "They would do well," said Driesell, not surprisingly, after the Runnin' Rebels had ground out a 78-76 victory over the Terps. "I sure wouldn't want them in the ACC. So don't put any ideas in anyone's head." But UNLV's 11th-straight win didn't come easily. The Rebels nearly blew a 75-64 lead when Maryland clamped on a suffocating full-court press over the last 2:51. Still, to Vegas coach Jerry Tarkanian, any win is a good win. "We almost beat North Carolina State [in 1983] when it won the [national] championship," Tark said. "I didn't see [Wolfpack coach Jim] Valvano sending us half the trophy."
Earlier in the week Tark had won an even sweeter victory—in court. Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Paul Goldman ruled that the NCAA must pay Tarkanian $195,951 for the attorney fees he incurred during his eight-year legal battle with the association. "I'm really elated," Tarkanian said following the decision. "They [the NCAA] put me through all kinds of misery. It's only fair that I should get the attorney's fees paid. It just goes to show how bizarre my case was." Goldman was the judge who had ruled last June that the NCAA had violated Tarkanian's right of due process and acted as "lords of the manor" when in 1977 the association sought to force UNLV to suspend Tarkanian from his coaching job for two years. In last week's decision, Goldman said that if he had been able to award punitive damages, the NCAA would have been "shivering in their boots."
While Tubbs kept cool on the Sooner bench, Oklahoma forward Darryl (Choo) Kennedy sizzled. He scored 19 points in the Sooners' rout of Mizzou, and then against the Jayhawks, Kennedy stole the hero's wreath from his more illustrious teammate, junior center Wayman Tisdale. Tisdale, who entered the game averaging 26.2 points per game, found himself shackled by a collapsing Kansas zone and was held to six points. It was the first time in Tisdale's college career that he failed to score in double figures. Left free by the Jayhawk defense, Kennedy exploded for a career-high 35 points.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
BENOIT BENJAMIN: Creighton's 7-foot junior center scored 88 points and had 32 rebounds and 15 blocked shots in the Bluejays' Missouri Valley victories over Southern Illinois and Indiana State.
SI TOP 20
1. GEORGETOWN (17-0)
2. ST. JOHN'S (13-1)
3. MEMPHIS STATE (13-1)
4. SMU (15-1)
5. DEPAUL (12-3)
6. DUKE (13-2)
7. LA. TECH (15-1)
8. OKLAHOMA (13-4)
9. OREGON STATE (14-1)
10. INDIANA (11-4)
11. GEORGIA TECH (12-3)
12. N. CAROLINA (13-3)
13. SYRACUSE (11-2)
14. KANSAS (13-3)
15. ILLINOIS (15-4)
16. WASHINGTON (12-4)
17. TULSA (14-2)
18. MICHIGAN (12-3)
19. LSU (11-4)
20. UNLV (12-2)