AGAINST THE ODDS
Temple's sophomore point guard, Mark Macon, politely answered questions backstage at the Atlantic City Convention Hall after his Owls' surprising 95-78 loss Saturday to Kansas, which dropped Temple's record to 0-3, its worst start since 1913. This was the same Macon whom Owls coach John Chaney had ruled off-limits to the media at the start of preseason practice. But Chaney relented once the games got under way, meaning Macon was available to help explain such mysteries as how Temple could be so thoroughly whipped by a Danny Manning-less Kansas team that isn't being allowed to defend its national crown because of NCAA sanctions. "Danny wasn't the whole team," said Macon. "These guys are national champions and they're playing like champions."
The Jayhawks' 6-1 start—their only loss was to Seton Hall in the Great Alaska Shootout—is almost as shocking as was their improbable march to the NCAA title last spring. Kansas's biggest surprise is 6'9" sophomore forward Mark Randall, who had to sit out last season while recovering from jaw surgery to correct a breathing problem. Randall has a versatile game; against the Owls he scored 22 points, made 10 of 11 shots, pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds and had four assists.
The Jayhawks' main holdovers from last season—Milt Newton, Kevin Pritchard, Jeff Gueldner and Scooter Barry—are thriving under former North Carolina assistant Roy Williams, who replaced Larry Brown. While Brown tended to frown on players who shot three-pointers instead of looking for Manning, Williams has given his veterans the green light to fire at will. "The kids were down the first few days after the penalties were announced," he says, "but they've competed their buns off after that." The Jayhawks' season was further brightened last week when the Big Eight voted to let Kansas play in the postseason conference tournament.
The strange case of Francis Ezenwa, a 6'8" native of Nigeria who had hoped to play for Texas-El Paso this season, is only the latest example of why the NCAA needs to apply a little common sense in enforcing its rules. Here's a young man who is being penalized for going to class. No wonder UTEP coach Don Haskins is "mad as hell about it." according to the Miners' sports information director, Eddie Mullens.
It seems that when Ezenwa was in his early teens, before he had begun to play organized basketball, he took some college prep courses at the University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University. Texas-El Paso even has a letter from the registrar of the Nigerian university stipulating that Ezenwa was never formally enrolled there as a college student.
After moving to the U.S. to pursue his education and his newfound interest in hoops, Ezenwa spent a year at New Mexico Military before transferring to UTEP, where he was admitted as a sophomore. Neither New Mexico Military nor UTEP gave him academic credit for any of the courses he had taken back home. But because of an NCAA rule that says an athlete's five years of eligibility begin from the time he takes his first college class, Ezenwa was declared ineligible.
Ezenwa, now 22, has already won fans at UTEP: Director of internal operations Maxine Neill-Johnson describes him as a serious student who never misses a class and spends virtually every evening in the tutoring hall. "He's a very special young man who's bothered by all this because he doesn't understand it," she says.
Nor does anyone else. But Ezenwa's case isn't closed yet. The NCAA has agreed to study documentation supplied by Texas-El Paso to determine if his situation will be reassessed.
MAKING THEIR POINTS
In warming up for this Saturday's much-anticipated shoot-out with high-scoring Loyola Marymount, Oklahoma, now 5-1, ripped Oral Roberts 152-122. The Sooners' 87 second-half points set an NCAA record for points in a half, eclipsing by one the mark established by Jacksonville against St. Peter's in 1970 and Lamar against Portland State in 1980. That Lamar team was coached by—surprise—Billy Tubbs, the Oklahoma coach.
Meanwhile, another scoring machine is in high gear: Florida State has averaged 107 points while rolling to a 4-0 record behind the dazzling senior duo of George McCloud (22.3 points a game) and Tony Dawson (25.8). In a 91-74 win over Stetson last week, the Seminoles failed to crack the 100 mark for the first time this season but scored 56 points in the second half, including 27 by forward Dawson and 18 by McCloud, a 6'6" guard who has pro scouts drooling.
HAVING A BALL
When Rick Majerus took the coaching job at Ball State last season, he said his goal was to come up with enough good one-liners to earn an appearance on the TV show of Ball State alumnus David Letterman (who, by the way, never lettered). On Saturday, Majerus came up with a line that has them howling all over Indiana—except in West Lafayette. Maybe you've heard it already: Ball State 70, Purdue 56. The victory came after Majerus had made this prediction: "I think we have a better chance of Our Lady of Fatima reappearing than us beating Purdue." Are you listening, Letterman?
Pauline Jordan, a 6'3" junior at UNLV, hauled down 27 rebounds in a game against Northern Illinois on Saturday. It was her second 20-rebound performance in three games....
Danny Ferry's 58-point outburst against Miami broke both the ACC single-game scoring record (57, by N.C. State's David Thompson against Buffalo State in 1974) and the Duke record (48, by Dick Groat)....
When Kentucky lost to Northwestern State of Louisiana, it marked the Wildcats' first defeat in a home opener since a 79-66 loss to Iowa in 1972-73. The Iowa coach was Dick Schultz, now executive director of the NCAA, which may soon deal Kentucky a much bigger setback.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
LSU's 6'1" freshman point guard averaged 41.3 points in three games. He had 48 in a 111-109 loss to Louisiana Tech and 53, including Jive three-pointers, in a 111-101 triumph against Florida.
NORTH CAROLINA (8-1)
GEORGIA TECH (4-0)
FLORIDA STATE (4-0)
OHIO STATE (4-1)
SETON HALL (7-0)
N.C. STATE (2-1)
NOTRE DAME (4-1)