The final holiday tournaments ended last week, the big month of intersectional play was over and a few highly touted hotshot teams had to quietly tiptoe back home with eggnog on their faces. But by and large such familiar names as Cincinnati (No. 1, of course), Duke and Ohio State were arrayed in the top 10 and the season was following form. It was following form, that is, except for Loyola of Chicago, a sprawling institution on Chicago's North Side.
Out of the tiny gym there has come the No. 2-ranked team in the country. It doesn't have much height, it doesn't have much depth and it hasn't had much notoriety. What it does have is speed and endurance—attributes it is making use of in an almost unheard-of fashion. By simultaneously running a pell-mell offense and a swarming all-court defense—the team considers it a personal affront when the opposition gets to touch the ball for a second or two—Loyola is far and away the highest-scoring team in the country. Averaging 99.3 points a game (Morehead State is second, some 11 points behind), the Ramblers recently scored 123 in a single game (against Western Michigan) and might have made it 1,123 if they had tried. Last week Loyola gave little Marshall the express-train treatment, 103-58, and then ran past its brother school from down South, Loyola of New Orleans, 88-53. These were the Ramblers' 12th and 13th straight wins and, if some of the opposition has been weak, the record is still impressive.
Basketball has been the major sport at Loyola since that day in 1930 when the Catholic fathers decided to leave football to the Big Ten and the Big Bears. To make sure their antifootball decision would not be quickly revoked, they had the school's large concrete stadium torn down and carted off to the other end of town. All that remains today are the rest rooms, now used as work rooms for radioactive projects.
The next move in the race to the big time was the hiring of George Ireland as head coach. Ireland was signed up in 1951, was given a new three-year contract in 1954 and was operated on for a bleeding ulcer in 1956—classic form for an earnest young coach with a firm, if unorthodox, idea of how the game of basketball should be played and hand-me-down players too ponderous to make those ideas work.
Ireland lived patiently with his quarter of a stomach and undistinguished seasons while trying to gather athletes who could play the game his way—namely running when they had the ball and running when they didn't. His wants sounded simple enough, but only the toughest, quickest kind of players could hope to meet such standards. "Big men are fine," he said, "but first I want quick men who can shoot." He had a good hunch he wouldn't find many of these standing around Sheridan Road and Devon Avenue pleading with the registrar to get into Loyola. So, though Loyola's teams in the past had traditionally been manned by boys who scarcely lived within a long jump shot of Chicago, Ireland began recruiting against the name colleges all over the country. He had more than a little success, and a bit of luck as well. The best example of success was the finding of a 6-foot-2 jumping wonder named Jerry Harkness, who felt right at home in the city; he had been raised in The Bronx, N.Y. A senior and leader of the young Loyola squad, Harkness whirls around the court with ghostly quickness, scoring well with his left-handed jump shot and leading the charge in the team's cloying, ball-stealing defense.
The luck came when Ireland almost got a top prospect from Nashville's all-Negro Pearl High School. At the last minute the boy decided to go to UCLA. "Don't you fret, George," said Pearl's embarrassed William Gupton. "You come back next year and I'll show you two boys who'll make you forget all about this other kid." Gupton was right. What Ireland saw that next year was 6-foot-7 Leslie Hunter and 6-foot-6 Vic Rouse. Both were strong, good jumpers and could score. Hunter and Rouse now form two-thirds of Loyola's starting front line.
The coach then ranged back to the Harlem River for Guards Ron Miller and Paul (Pablo) Robertson, added a suggestion of local talent with a tough little Irishman named John Egan from Chicago's South Side, and went to Cleveland, Cincinnati and Racine for bench strength.
Ireland greeted each of his hand-picked crew this fall with a plump red vitamin pill and started them running outside. "Five miles a day," said Ireland, "and, believe me, when that first game came around they were ready."
They were shooting, too, thanks to small rims Ireland had placed inside the regulation baskets for practices. It was, at first, an unhappy sensation for the players when their softly arched and well-placed practice shots bounced out. When Ireland wasn't looking they removed the infernal devices. Ireland fixed that by putting the little rims back and bolting them in place. "Now the regular basket seems as big as Lake Michigan," says Jerry Harkness.
By the time the season began, however, offensive basketball was no longer an issue during practices. "We work on our pressing defense," said Ireland, "because it's the most difficult thing in basketball to master. Timing must be perfect and you've got to be tough."
The fact that Loyola uses its press for nearly the whole game without adequate bench strength—it is essentially a seven-man squad—gives some indication of just how tough this team is. Only during the recent All-College Tournament in Oklahoma City did Ireland let up on the all-court harassment. Three successive nights of it would have been too much, even for Loyola. "We used it in spots," said Ireland, "mostly as a tactical weapon." Loyola's scores dipped, but it went right on winning handily just the same.
Last week it was back to the full-time press again. Loyola of New Orleans used slowdown tactics to keep the Ramblers off their accustomed scoring pace in the first half, but a second-half splurge netted 58.
Loyola's stiffest competition comes in the second half of the season (Houston, Bowling Green and Wichita), but even a good team may react to the prospect of playing against the Ramblers' press much the way one Marshall guard did last week. He started fearfully down the court with the ball, expecting to be challenged at once. Jerry Harkness, a full 15 feet away, stomped his foot hard on the floor. The unnerved Marshall player threw the ball backward over his own head, and out-of-bounds.
There was no stopping Cincinnati, and two good teams tried last week. Houston attempted a zone defense, but Tom Thacker and Ron Bonham shot the Cougars out of it early and Cincinnati went on to win 79-56. Wichita, the Bearcats' strongest foe to date, was slightly more obstreperous. But Cincinnati refused to panic, even when the Shockers shifted to a pressing defense. Defending militantly and attacking with their usual precision, the champions got the ball to George Wilson, who scored 20 points, and won 63-50. It was their 29th straight and 66th in a row at home.
But Cincinnati's Missouri Valley competition isn't willing to concede yet. Bradley was still winning, over Tulsa 72-58 and North Texas State 95-68, and St. Louis, despite the loss of most of its muscle—6-foot-8 Gary Garrison was still nursing a knee injury and Dave Harris suffered a severe ankle sprain—looked good enough to concern the Bearcats. The close-guarding Bills, with Donnell Reid hounding Kentucky's Cotton Nash to distraction, trounced the Wildcats 87-63, then beat North Texas State 71-59. When Tulsa threw up a collapsing zone, the Bills blooped passes over it to Bill Nordmann and St. Louis won easily, 70-45.
Illinois and Wisconsin got off to an expected good start in the Big Ten race. The Illini, after losing their first game of the year to Notre Dame, 90-88, beat Iowa 85-76 in the conference opener, while Wisconsin rallied to overtake Purdue 74-66. But defending champion Ohio State, hard put to hold off Brigham Young 97-91, had even more trouble with Minnesota. Only the helter-skelter hustle of Gary Bradds, who scored 27 points, and some last-minute outside shooting by little Dick Reasbeck saved a 78-76 victory for the young Bucks. Michigan, too, had problems. The Wolverines edged Northwestern 78-75 on Tom Cole's three-point play. Indiana finally righted itself to beat Michigan State 96-84.
Kansas, a recent tournament champion, learned the facts of Big Eight life in a hurry. The Jayhawkers swarmed over Colorado's Ken Charlton. They double- and triple-teamed him and once even assigned four men to him. But they needed six. Charlton made 11 of 13 shots, 13 of 13 foul tries, and Colorado won 73-57. In other games, Oklahoma State beat Iowa State 44-42 and Oklahoma outran Missouri 84-78.
In the Mid-American, Ohio U. caught Bowling Green without Harold Komives, its ailing star guard, and beat the Falcons 61-56. Notre Dame, playing the off-tackle smash kind of basketball that Coach Johnny Jordan dearly loves but hasn't seen much of in recent years, beat Illinois and Indiana (73-70), before losing to North Carolina 76-68. Marquette won twice, over Detroit 85-76 and Louisville 68-64; DePaul downed Baldwin Wallace 89-70 and Western Ontario 70-45. The top three:
1. CINCINNATI (11-0)
2. LOYOLA OF CHICAGO (13-0)
3. ILLINOIS (9-1)
It was a good week for Philadelphia teams. St. Joseph's converged both its smothering man-to-man and zone defenses on Seton Hall's Nick Werkman, the nation's leading scorer. Werkman managed 27 points, well below his 36-point average, but the Hawks had plenty of scorers, like Jimmy Lynam (20), Tom Wynne (19) and Jim Boyle (16), to make up for Werkman as they won, 92-75. Penn opened its Ivy League schedule by beating its toughest rival, Princeton. The Tigers' Bill Bradley, with 26 points, harassed the Quakers until almost the very end when Sid Amira sank four foul shots to win for Penn, 65-62. LaSalle, meanwhile, beat Miami. The Explorers knew they couldn't match rebounds with Miami's 7-foot-1 Mike McCoy and 6-foot-7 Rick Barry, so they took their chances from the outside. Frank Corace threw in 25 points, Tony Abbott added 20 more and LaSalle held off a last-gasp rally to win 78-76. Earlier, Miami's looming troubles were hinted at in their performance against sub-par St. John's in New York. The Redmen, armed with little more than willingness and Coach Joe Lapchick's astuteness, battled Miami furiously before losing, 67-59.
Pitt, more proficient than it has been in years, came from behind to beat Princeton 71-62, then stopped a Syracuse rally with a withering press, winning 87-51. NYU, still getting its impetus from Barry Kramer, beat Iona 70-60 and Army 82-68. In other games, Villanova stopped Detroit 77-60; Niagara beat Belmont Abbey 70-52; Canisius edged St. John's 52-49; Temple lost twice, to Delaware 64-52 and Penn State 78-51. The top three:
1. ST. JOSEPH'S (9-2)
2. NYU (7-2)
3. PITT (8-2)
Mississippi State found a way to beat Auburn's shuffle. The Bulldogs simply shuffled right along with the Tigers. In fact, State's defense was so stifling that Auburn went 11 straight minutes in the first half without a field goal and seven in the second half. Meanwhile, W. D. Stroud scored 19 points and Auburn's unbeaten record went shuffling away, 62-53.
While Auburn stumbled, undefeated Georgia Tech took advantage of Kentucky Coach Adolph Rupp's irritation to beat his Wildcats 86-85 in double overtime at Lexington. Annoyed by Cotton Nash's failure to shoot enough, Rupp benched his star midway in the second half and kept him sitting there for the rest of the night. The Baron undoubtedly made his point, but Tech won the ball game on Mike Tomasovich's two free throws with seven seconds to play.
North Carolina State tried the "no shoot" method against Duke's running game and came away empty-handed. State took only 10 shots in the first half and made eight, but still Duke led 34-22. Then Art Heyman and his single-minded friends, fed up with the Wolfpacks' slowdown, began to run at full speed. Heyman scored 25 points and Duke won 78-52. Earlier, the Blue Devils beat Virginia 82-65. Wake Forest overwhelmed Clemson 80-62.
If West Virginia students meant to stir up the sometimes lethargic Mountaineers when they hanged Coach George King in effigy after his team beat VMI only 86-74, they certainly succeeded. The next night Rod Thorn poured in 28 points and West Virginia crushed Furman 104-71. But the Mountaineers still had plenty of unbeaten company in the Southern Conference. Davidson won again, over William & Mary 73-70, while Virginia Tech made its foul shots count (19 for 20) to beat Virginia 71-63. The top three:
1. DUKE (10-2)
2. GEORGIA TECH (9-0)
3. MISSISSIPPI STATE (9-2)
Form is a rare commodity at best in the Southwest Conference, and last week it was almost extinct. SMU was upset twice, Texas began to win after a frustrating December and Texas A&M, an unlikely preseason candidate, was tied with the Longhorns for first place. Arkansas was the first to tumble SMU, 73-71, then Baylor, even more unexpectedly, beat the Mustangs, 62-58. Texas put down Rice 54-49 and, when Arkansas tried to thwart the Longhorns with a late press, they dropped in nine free throws in the last five minutes to win, 69-63. Meanwhile, Texas A&M beat Baylor 80-54 and Texas Tech 60-53.
Arizona State survived a pair of close calls. Denver pulled the Sun Devils into overtime before losing, 79-72, and Texas Western gave them trouble until jumping Joe Caldwell bobbed up with enough points for a 63-60 victory. In between, New Mexico State succumbed easily enough, 87-60. Houston, back home in more friendly confines, beat Oklahoma City 91-80. The top three:
1. ARIZONA STATE (12-1)
2. TEXAS A&M (9-2)
3. TEXAS WESTERN (10-4)
The results in the first week made it anybody's race in the Big Six, especially after Washington jolted highly favored UCLA twice at Seattle. The Huskies, setting and driving off tricky screens, defeated the Bruins 62-61 and 67-63. But California, an enigma last year, was acting like a champion. Led by Dick Smith's ball-stealing and jump shots and sophomore Danny Wolthers' consistent scoring, Cal stopped USC 72-65 and 78-70.
Oregon State's Slats Gill put 6-foot-7 Jim Kraus up front to help 7-foot Mel Counts with the rebounds, and Washing ton State rarely got the ball. Terry Baker did the quarterbacking, Counts most of the scoring and OSU beat State 74-47 and 61-50.
Utah State embarrassed old rival Utah 69-65 and Brigham Young 69-58, while Colorado State, although unable to stop Wyoming's brilliant Flynn Robinson, who scored 39 points, still defeated the Cowboys 91-70 and then Denver 76-65. The top three:
1. OREGON STATE (8-3)
2. CALIFORNIA (10-2)
3. UCLA (10-4)