North Carolina and North Carolina State jostled the lead back and forth like a hot potato but in the end it was the Tar Heels who held on longest to win 72-68 in overtime for first place in the ACC. With Governor Luther Hodges and 13,049 other excited fans whooping it up, a driving layup by big Lee Shaffer gave North Carolina the winning basket, and Harvey Salz added two foul shots in the very last second.
In the SEC, unbeaten Auburn had some bad moments before three clutch pop shots by Jimmy Lee sneaked the Tigers past Alabama 57-55 for their 22nd straight, while Mississippi State trounced Vanderbilt 83-65 and Mississippi 87-58. Kentucky, working easily against zone defenses, beat Tulane 85-68 and Tennessee 79-58. Observed Coach Adolph Rupp: "Any team that plays the zone against us may think they have murder in mind, but actually it's suicide."
In Texas, where men are supposed to be men and coaches are almost always glad of it, some men seemed to be acting like boys as they hanged Texas' Marshall Hughes and Rice's Don Suman in effigy. But more important SWC news was made by Baylor and Texas Tech. Baylor's Bob Turner shot SMU out of a zone defense with his 27 points to help beat the Mustangs 70-53 and then the Bears used a zone of their own to upset Rice 46-45. Texas Tech defeated Texas 64-47 and took the first fall out of TCU 61-57. TCU was still on top but the race tightened up after Texas A&M squeezed by Arkansas 63-62 and clobbered Texas 73-29.
The Big Ten deck underwent its weekly shuffling, and this time Michigan and Illinois wound up on top. Michigan beat down Wisconsin 84-74 and the Illini out-shot Iowa 103-97, but both needed a helping hand and got it from Iowa and Ohio State. The Hawkeyes caught Indiana by surprise and bumped the Hoosiers 88-78; State upset Northwestern 88-77.
Kansas State breezed past Oklahoma 90-45 and Missouri 75-60 to hold firm in the Big Eight; Missouri Valley leader Cincinnati was given a scare by stalling North Texas State but pulled ahead in overtime to win 64-56 and then drubbed Drake 97-60 as Oscar Robertson scored 40 points; Miami of Ohio caused some rumbling in the Mid-American Conference, edging Ohio U. 56-54 and Bowling Green 70-68 to breathe heavily down the neck of Kent State; Marquette outraced Valparaiso 96-74 for its 11th straight.
Princeton, laying it on poor Columbia 75-66 and Cornell 66-52, moved to the top of the Ivy League but was only a bare half-game ahead of Dartmouth's defending champions. Coach Doggie Julian's Indians whomped Harvard 74-56 in their only Ivy test, then found themselves hard-pressed to beat Manhattan 63-61 in double overtime at Hanover.
Philadelphians, who wondered how St. John's could have beaten St. Joseph's in New York's Holiday Festival, got a chance to see for themselves and were convinced after Alan Seiden and Tony Jackson led the Redmen to an easy 97-72 victory. Unbeaten St. Bonaventure made Canisius its ninth straight victim 86-79 but Holy Cross found Syracuse too hot to handle and lost 85-73.
UCLA's Walt Torrence developed a fine case of hot hands at the right time and carried the Bruins to upset victories over USC 57-53 and 65-63 and into first place in the wild PCC. But California, bounced from the lead by Stanford 56-53, came back to whip the Indians 67-46 and stay on the heels of UCLA.
St. Mary's outmuscled Santa Clara 65-54 to top the West Coast Conference; Utah beat New Mexico 76-50 and Denver 72-56 in the Skyline Conference.
It was the same old story as the NBA season approached the halfway mark and the All-Star Game in Detroit on January 23 (NBC-TV, 10 p.m. E.S.T.). The Boston Celtics and St. Louis Hawks were sprinting away from the opposition. No one had yet found a way to stop Boston's magnificent Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman and Bill Russell and St. Louis' Bob Pettit short of kidnaping them. New York, Syracuse and Philadelphia were trailing badly in the East while Detroit, Minneapolis and Cincinnati were lagging far behind in the West. The rundown:
Boston: After a slow start, the Celtics picked up momentum when ailing Cousy regained his health and added his magic touch to the offense. Russell's rebounding (average 23 per game) and Sharman's near-perfect foul shooting, plus a strong bench, should keep Boston moving at top speed in the second half.
New York: The Knicks started fast and were far above their heads in the early weeks. But injuries to Charlie Tyra, Willie Naulls and Ron Sobie and the usual pivot problems brought New York back to the rest of the league.
Syracuse: Dolph Schayes is showing signs of slowing down and Ed Conlin and Connie Dierking have been subpar. Poor rebounding has contributed to the Nats' troubles, but they could make a run at the Knicks if Schayes gets his second wind.
Philadelphia: The Philadelphia story is one of injuries and illness. Tom Gola and Guy Rodgers have been sidelined, and Neil Johnston is out for the season with a bad knee. Paul Arizin is still one of the league's great shooters and Woody Sauldsberry is having a good second year, but they can't do it alone.
St. Louis: Owner Ben Kerner seems to have found the coach he wants in Easy Ed Macauley, and he certainly has the player he needs in Pettit, the league's leading scorer. Pettit, Cliff Hagan, Slater Martin, Clyde Lovellette and now Si Green, acquired from Cincinnati, make the Hawks tough to beat.
Detroit: Lack of bench strength, George Yardley's inability to match his 1958 point splurge and Dick McGuire's reluctance to shoot have cost the Pistons dearly. Detroit will have to fight Minneapolis for second place.
Minneapolis: Rookie Elgin Baylor, with a 23-point average, is the best newcomer in the NBA, and he has kept the Lakers afloat. Dick Garmaker's shooting has helped, but old dependables Vern Mikkelsen and Larry Foust have been depended upon for too long and are beginning to slip.
Cincinnati: The Royals have never been able to come back after losing Maurice Stokes and Dick Ricketts, and the trading off of Clyde Lovellette and Si Green didn't help. They seem doomed to remain in the cellar.
NORTH CAROLINA'S Lee Shaffer launches layup in 72-68 win over N.C. State.