St. John's rebounded from its 85-69 midweek thrashing by Georgetown to grind out a 72-53 win over Providence at Alumni Hall. The victory clinched the Big East regular-season crown for the Redmen and earned them the No. 1 seed in this week's conference tournament at Madison Square Garden. At game's end, the 6,545 fans clamored for senior Chris Mullin, who scored 18 points in his farewell home-court appearance, the other seniors and coach Lou Carnesecca to take a bow. Seven-foot Bill Wennington returned to the locker room to fetch the coach and emerged with the 5'7" Carnesecca perched precariously on his shoulders. "Coach Carnesecca was a little scared up there, I think," said Wennington.
Georgetown coach John Thompson, who had upstaged Carnesecca during the Hoyas' rout of the Redmen by wearing an extra-extra-large replica of Looie's formerly lucky tricolor sweater, didn't brandish it for the Hoyas' 90-63 defeat of Syracuse on Sunday. But Thompson hardly needed luck, not with center Patrick Ewing squeezing the Orange for 15 points and 12 rebounds.
The race to determine the top seed in this week's ACC tournament in Atlanta came down to a drawing at conference headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., which included regular-season tri-champions Georgia Tech, North Carolina and N.C. State. Tech won the draw and the right to face last-place Virginia in the tournament's first round.
What perfect day for Memphis State—a 66-59 victory over Louisville and the retirement of Keith Lee's jersey, No. 24—was marred by an ugly incident. With 5:48 to play, referee John Clougherty whistled a foul on the Tigers' Baskerville Holmes. As Clougherty approached the scorer's table, some still-unknown spectator near the Tigers' student section hurled an open pocketknife toward him. The knife slid along the floor, stopping just short of his feet. A shaken Clougherty finished the game but later said, "I came very close to walking off the court."
Tennessee's 86-85 triumph over Georgia in Knoxville prevented the Bulldogs from sharing the SEC regular-season title with LSU, which whipped Kentucky 67-61 in Baton Rouge. Georgia freshman Cedric Henderson was brilliant in defeat, getting 34 points and 17 rebounds. But while Vol coach Don DeVoe praised Henderson's performance—"I know he's a great player," he said—DeVoe maintained that Georgia had violated NCAA rules in recruiting him. "I know all these charges are still allegations," he said, "but I feel for teams that have to play against players who have been ill-recruited."
Virginia Commonwealth won the Sun Belt tournament championship and, with it, the league's automatic bid to the NCAAs by defeating Old Dominion 87-82 in the title game. Marshall also earned a bid to the NCAAs by beating VMI 70-65 in the Southern Conference tournament final.
Tulsa won the Missouri Valley championship by virtue of its 67-66 win over Wichita State followed by Bradley's 82-69 upset of Illinois State. But Golden Hurricane coach Nolan Richardson didn't sound like a happy man. The Tulsa coach hinted that he might be ready to leave coaching after 22 years, the last five at Tulsa, where he has had a 117-35 record. "We have to be so good to win," said Richardson. "I've had 22 years of frustration, and it's sad. I'm tired of it. It's fun to work with kids and go to practice. It's fun to recruit. I just don't like going to games anymore. That's work."
Richardson's tirade might have been expected. During Tulsa's win over Wichita, Richardson had been hit with two technical fouls, one of them for stepping out of the coach's box. "If I had some of the opportunities other guys get in this league," said Richardson last week, "I'd never lose a game."
Creighton lost its fifth straight game, 67-62 at Dayton, and jeopardized its chance for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament. Included in the Bluejays' descent was a 103-54 collapse at Drake, in which center Benoit Benjamin had only six points and seven rebounds, and picked up a pair of technical fouls. Said Bluejay coach Willis Reed: "We're just not a team anymore."
On Jan. 30, SMU was 7-1 in the SWC and 17-2 overall. But after conference losses to Texas Tech (59-54) at home and Houston (79-76) on the road, the Mustangs finished the regular season with a 10-6 SWC record, tied for second place with Arkansas and Texas A & M. Surprising Tech wrapped up its first conference title since 1973 with a 61-53 win at TCU.
While SMU floundered on the court, Mustang guard Carl (World) Wright had his share of problems off it. The day the Mustangs lost to Texas Tech, Wright was arrested for traffic violations and spent 3½ hours in the Lew Starrett Justice Center in Dallas. A check by police not only revealed that Wright owed $366 in fines, but also that his driver's license had been suspended in January.
Charlie Simpson scored on a layup with two seconds left to give Southern Cal an 80-78 quadruple overtime win at UCLA, and a sweep of the season series from the Bruins for the first time since 1942. Afterward, USC fans danced around Pauley Pavilion, waving brooms in celebration.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
PATRICK EWING: Georgetown's 7-foot senior center scored 35 points, grabbed 21 rebounds and blocked nine shots as the Hoyas pummeled Big East opponents St. John's (85-69) and Syracuse (90-63).
SI TOP 20
1. GEORGETOWN (27-2)
2. MICHIGAN (23-3)
3. ST. JOHN'S (25-2)
4. OKLAHOMA (25-5)
5. MEMPHIS STATE (24-3)
6. GEORGIA TECH (21-7)
7. N. CAROLINA (22-7)
8. LA. TECH (25-2)
9. DUKE (21-6)
10. KANSAS (24-6)
11. UNLV (24-3)
12. LOYOLA (ILL.) (22-5)
13. VA. COMM. (25-5)
14. SYRACUSE (20-7)
15. TULSA (21-6)
16. N.C. STATE (19-8)
17. IOWA (21-8)
18. UAB (24-8)
19. GEORGIA (20-7)
20. SMU (21-8)