Till We MeetAgain
Curry Kirkpatrick reports on last week's showdown between No. 4 Ohio State andNo. 5 Indiana.
That was somekind of rock 'n' roll homecoming in Bloomington, Ind. What with the warmup bandplaying, the media buzzing and the crowd in an uproar, one would have thoughtthat local boy John Mellencamp had returned for a gig. But Mellencamp, whosecurrent hit song is entitled Love and Happiness, was merely a spectator on thisoccasion, having driven from his home in nearby Seymour to join 17,000 otherHoosiers in greeting Ohio State sophomore Lawrence Funderburke, whose previoussojourn in Bloomington was defined by a rather different theme: fear andunhappiness.
Only thoseallergic to tacky red V necks need be reminded that Funderburke is a 6'9",220-pound forward with a career full of troubles. He was kicked off hisColumbus (Ohio) Wehrle High team as a senior in December 1988 for having misseda curfew, was linked to recruiting violations at Kentucky and then stunned therecruiting world by signing to play for Indiana coach Bob Knight. That led tothe inevitable sequence of events in which Funderburke:
•scored 16 pointsagainst Kentucky in his third game as a Hoosier freshman, got 26 against LongBeach State, and in his first six games looked like he would be a star;
•was kicked outof a practice by Knight and later claimed to have been "physicallyabused" by Joby Wright, a Hoosier assistant coach at the time, a claim thatWright denies;
•quit the teamand left Indiana;
•asked for—butnever received from Knight—an unconditional release from his national letter ofintent so that he could be eligible for a scholarship at anotherinstitution;
•returned toIndiana-as a student only—in the fall of 1990 to complete his freshmanyear.
Ultimately,Funderburke wound up paying his own way to Ohio State, whose coach, RandyAycrs, was not averse to throwing him into the Big Ten fray as soon as hebecame eligible, on Jan. 6. Instantly Funderburke, a stylish, quick lefthander,scored seven points against Michigan State and a game-saving 16 againstNorthwestern as preparation for his crucible at Bloomington. "Controversyhas been part of my life for a long time now, but I still say the man [Knight]shouldn't decide which school I can go to," said Funderburke before thegame. "Nobody talks about the good things in my life. I make good grades. Ihelp kids. I go to class. I don't do drugs. No criminal record. Yet everyonechastises me for a sport that's basically a diversion. Basketball is just adream world."
Ayers must havebeen dreaming if he thought he could sneak Funderburke into the game at thefirst TV timeout without the partisan Indianans filling the place withthunderous boos, BLUNDERBURKE, WHO NEEDS YOU?¬¨¬®‚Äö√Ñ‚Ä†read one sign. The Buckeyesobviously did, and Funderburke responded in the second half. Ohio State trailed56-37 with a little more than 14 minutes remaining when he exploded for acouple of three-point plays—a hook from the lane and a banked conversion of analley-oop pass on the break both elicited Hoosier fouls—that ignited theBuckeyes on a 26-2 tear that put them ahead 63-58. "As good a run as I'veever seen," said Knight, who didn't mention Funderburke's contribution, ofcourse.
The two ignoredeach other until Indiana righted itself to regain the lead, 78-73, with 2:51left. Away from the ball, as Indiana's boy legend, Damon Bailey, crowded intoFunderburke to set a pick, Funderburke raised his left forearm, hitting Baileyin the neck with it and sending him sprawling to the floor. As the refereecalled an intentional foul, Knight stared a hole straight through Funderburke'sbewildered forehead. But Jimmy Jackson, Ohio State's stellar swingman, whoscored 31 points in yet another player-of-the-year demonstration, later saidthe incident had been "mostly an acting job" by Bailey.
Not only didBailey get up and walk away laughing, but he also swished his two free throws,swished a trey on the ensuing possession to make the score 83-73 and latercalmly swished the answer to the question, Did Funderburke deliberately nailyou? "I don't know why the intentional was called," said Bailey, whohad cordially hugged Funderburke after Indiana's 91-83 victory. "It wasn'ta cheap shot. Lawrence and I kind of collided, that's all."
The play merelyturned the game and gave the Hoosiers the Big Ten lead. It may even havedecided the conference champion, except that Funderburke—competing on shaky sealegs, with that monstrous red wave of animosity pounding against him—still got12 points, three rebounds and three blocks in only 28 minutes, and he should bemuch more solid in the rematch in Columbus come Feb. 23.
"I expectedthe booing," Funderburke said. "But how much hard feelings can theyhave for me now? Do they want me to die or something? They definitely takethings too seriously here. All I know is, I got five more games against him,and I'm going to try to win all five."
Even the rock 'n'rollers in the crowd knew the "him" wasn't John Mellencamp.
Digging Out of aHole
It is with sometrepidation that we turn our attention to Texas-El Paso. We got a littleexcited about UTEP in this space a year ago, after guard Henry Hall helped leadthe Miners to an upset of Georgetown on their way to a 10-2 start. UTEPproceeded to lose 11 of its final 17 games, miss the NCAA tournament for thefirst time in eight years, suffer through an NCAA investigation into allegedbooster transgressions and lose Hall because of academic deficiencies that lefthim ineligible for this season.
But thesurprising Miners, picked to finish somewhere in the middle of the WesternAthletic Conference standings, are off to an even faster start than lastseason. At week's end they were 14-1 and led the WAC with a 4-0 conferencerecord. The first sign that the Miners' fortunes were on the upswing came inOctober when they learned that the NCAA investigation had turned up evidence ofonly minor violations. UTEP was limited to two scholarships in each of the nexttwo seasons as a result.
That still leavesthe Miners free to return to the NCAA tournament, which is where they seem tobe headed. Coach Don Haskins, who knows a good guard when he sees one-NateArchibald and Tim Hardaway are among the ones he has had in his 31 years atUTEP—has come up with two more terrific backcourtmen. Eddie Rivera, a 5'10"juco transfer who played for Puerto Rico's national team, has become a hero toEl Paso's large Hispanic community. Rivera scored 33 points in a Jan. 9 winover Brigham Young, the highest total for a Miner since Archibald got 36 in agame in 1970.
Prince Stewart, a5'10" senior who was academically ineligible last season, has returned togive the Miners a defensive stopper in the backcourt. In UTEP's first twoleague victories, he held Hawaii's Phil Lott, the WAC's leading scorer, toeight points, and Jimmy Soto, Utah's top scorer, to four. The presence of6'9" David Van Dyke, a blade-thin, shot-blocking center, has been equallyimportant to the UTEP defense, and the recent return, after arthroscopicsurgery, of forward MarIon Maxey, last season's leading scorer, can onlyhelp.
Maryland women'scoach Chris Weller has taken three Terrapin teams to the Final Four, so whenshe said during the preseason, "I think this is the best team in thehistory of our program," she surprised even some of her players. But thethird-ranked Terrapins (14-1 through Sunday) went a long way toward justifyingWeller's confidence when they upset top-ranked Virginia 67-65 inCharlottesville last week and took over the No. 1 spot in the Associated Presspoll on Monday.
The win continuedthe Terps' impressive turnaround from a rather disappointing 1990-91 season,when Maryland finished 17-12 before losing to Holy Cross in the first round ofthe NCAA tournament. The Terps have come a long way back, largely because ofthree new players who came a long way—in one sense or another—to play for them:point guard Limor Mizrachi of Israel and forward Michele Andrew of Finland,both current members of their countries' national teams, and junior forwardMalissa Boles, who attended three junior colleges in the past three years.
Boles scored 15points in the Virginia win but also committed an error with 14 seconds leftthat almost proved devastating for Maryland. With the Terps leading 67-65, shethrew an errant pass that ended up in Weller's hands on the bench. But Weller,a superstitious sort who raps her knuckles on her head and on the floor threetimes before each game for luck, saw her good fortune hold up when theCavaliers missed a layup and a threepoint shot that could have won thegame.
It wasappropriate that Weller's team saved its best game for the road because fewfans would have seen it at home, where the Terps have never drawn well, despitehaving a strong program. Their average attendance at 14,500-seat Cole FieldHouse had fallen from 876 a game last year to 574 before the victory overVirginia.
"I hope thiswin will have an effect," said Weller after the Virginia game. "I don'texpect our attendance to go from 800 to 8,000. I'd be excited if we had acouple of thousand." Her wish came true last Saturday night when Marylandbeat North Carolina 72-68 in College Park before a crowd of 2,033.
A Wonder DownUnder
In case you'rewondering, here's the skinny on once and future BYU center Shawn Bradley: He'snot so skinny anymore. Bradley, painfully thin last season as a 7'6",215-pound freshman, has gained 30 pounds in seven months while on his two-yearmission in Australia for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
That should givehis opponents-to-be something to think about, but it's also worth keeping inmind that Bradley, who won't return to the Cougars until the 1993-94 season,has had little chance to work on his basketball skills. Finding time to play isdifficult because Mormon missionaries spend six days a week studying andproselytizing, and getting challenging competition is almost impossible. Themost significant contact he has had with basketball has been through coachingan Australian boys' team.
A Tragic Loss
Oregon Statesophomore guard Earnest Killum took a calculated risk when he returned toaction last month after recovering from a mild stroke he suffered last summer(INSIDE COLLEGE BASKETBALL, Jan. 13). On Monday an Oregon State officialannounced that Killum had died after a more severe stroke last Friday. TheBeavers were in Killum's hometown, Los Angeles, to play UCLA, when Killumcollapsed at his hotel. Just a few hours before his fatal stroke, Killum wasinterviewed by the Los Angeles Times. When asked if he was concerned thatplaying basketball might endanger his health, Killum said, "I'm notworried. I'm young."
Indiana coach BobKnight wanted junior forward Calbert Cheaney to look for his shot more, soKnight enlisted two of his former players to get the message across. Afterpractice last Thursday, Cheaney found erstwhile Hoosier stars Scott May andMike Woodson waiting to talk to him. Against Northwestern two days later,Cheaney took a season-high 18 shots while scoring 26 points in a 96-62 Hoosierwin....
Texas A&M hadnothing but bad luck last week. First, the Aggies lost freshman Damon Johnson,their leading scorer, for four to six weeks when he fractured a foot. Then theteam was overcome by carbon monoxide fumes in the visitors' locker room atBaylor's Ferrell Center before a scheduled game with the Bears on Saturday.Thirty-five people at the arena were treated at nearby hospitals; forwardAnthony Ware, assistant coach Mitch Buonaguro and grad assistant John Pigattihad to be admitted. All were expected to recover quickly. The fumes, which werecaused by a malfunction of the building's heating system, forced the game to bepostponed.
Players of the Week
Arkansas-Little Rock's Tony Martin, a 6'5" junior guard, averaged 24.5points and 10 rebounds as the Trojans, with only seven healthy players, beatSouth Alabama 85-74 and New Orleans 72-61.
Stanford's Val Whiting, a 6'3" junior center, made 27 of 43 field goals and16 of 18 foul shots while averaging 35 points and 10 rebounds in a 87-72 winover Southern Cal and a 95-92 defeat of UCLA.
John Pierce, a 6'6" sophomore center for David Lipscomb, had a total of 77points and 26 rebounds as the Bisons, ranked No. 2 in the NAIA, beat TreveccaNazarene-96-77 and Union 104-90.