About the only thing that would surprise Philadelphia's basketball followers these days would be to see a favorite win. But last Saturday not even the most blasé among the 9,238 who shrugged off a bus and trolley strike and a snowstorm to jam the Palestra would have given a used transfer for Villanova's chances when the Wildcats trailed Penn by 10 points midway in the second half. Then Villanova's Jack Kraft moved his team out of a shifting zone and into a tight man-to-man. Almost immediately Villanova began to catch up. Finally, with three seconds to go, Wally Jones sank two free throws to give the Wildcats a 63-62 victory.
Earlier, St. Joseph's was doing fine just as long as Rhode Island stuck to its running game. The Hawks easily built up a 17-point lead. But when Rhode Island switched to a more deliberate attack, St. Joe's was in trouble. With 1:30 left, Rhody was only four points behind. At this point, clever jimmy Lynam stalled with some of his fancy ball handling, then sank some free throws and St. Joe's pulled it out 79-70.
Like everybody else, Boston College concentrated on stopping Seton Hall's Nick Werkman. Gerry Ward, with help from his converging teammates, held Werkman to 11 points, but the strategy left too much shooting room outside. Randy Chave, Richie Dec and Sonny Sunkett made the most of it as Seton Hall won 61-53.
Canisius beat Scranton 88-78 and Connecticut 74-65, but then barely made it past Massachusetts 54-52 on Bill O'Connor's foul shooting (15 for 18). St. Bonaventure, even with sophomore Mike Rooney back in the lineup, couldn't match Detroit's rebounding and lost to the Titans 78-73. Meanwhile, unbeaten Niagara was still winning. The Eagles overpowered Youngstown 82-65.
Pitt, surprised by Holy Cross 77-65, came back to beat Dartmouth 70-53 while Providence trounced Scranton 101-74. The top three:
1. ST. JOSEPH'S (13-3)
2. NYU (9-2)
3. NIAGARA (9-0)
"Utterly fantastic," murmured Duke's Vic Bubas. He was talking, as usual, about Art Heyman's passing and shooting but he could easily have been referring to his entire Duke team after it ran over West Virginia 111-71. Heyman and the other Blue Devils were never tougher. They shot a hot 61.6%, beat the jittery Mountaineers at their own running game and stopped the visitors' shooters cold with a neat 1-1-3 zone that swarmed over poor Rod Thorn, who got only 11 points. Heyman scored 28 points and passed off for almost as many more while Jeff Mullins added 27 to the rout. Said West Virginia's George King: "I don't care if I never see them again."
The Southeastern Conference race stays as tough as ever. Georgia Tech got right back into a first-place tie with Mississippi State by beating Auburn 69-64 and Tennessee 73-69. But just when Mississippi State was feeling best, independent Memphis State caught them. The Tigers, defending tenaciously with a tight zone and shooting very well, undid State 71-65. Kentucky fared better, beating Xavier 90-76.
Touring Houston tried a Florida vacation, but had a grim stay. Miami edged the Cougars 71-70 on Kenny Allen's foul shot with seven seconds to play and then Florida State outscored them 79-69. The top three:
1. DUKE (13-2)
2. GEORGIA TECH (14-1)
3. MISSISSIPPI STATE (12-4)
It was a profitable week for Cincinnati. The Bearcats turned back Illinois 62-53 (see page 16) in a big doubleheader at Chicago and without doing anything themselves virtually got rid of two more Missouri Valley challengers. Wichita, upset by North Texas State 69-67, and Bradley, beaten by St. Louis 71-63, each lost their third conference game. But Cincinnati isn't quite a shoo-in yet. St. Louis hopes to give the Bearcats a struggle when they meet in Cincinnati Saturday. St. Louis Coach John Benington was grateful for one thing. "Thank goodness Cincy took care of Illinois," he said. "I'd hate to have to play them after they lost one."
There didn't seem to be anyone in the Big Ten ready to challenge Illinois. Indiana was hardly overpowering in a 76-75 win over DePaul, achieved in the final seconds on sophomore Steve Redenbaugh's tap-in. Minnesota lost to Michigan State 61-59 after the Spartans bowed to suddenly aroused Iowa 60-59. Wisconsin found a soft touch in St. John's and won 85-52. There was some hope, however, for Ohio State. The Bucks' Gary Bradds matched Creighton's Paul Silas, the nation's leading rebounder, with 19 and out-scored him 25 to 19 as Ohio State won 78-73.
Colorado was idle but its Big Eight neighbors were jockeying for position. Oklahoma State's Hank Iba inhibited Oklahoma's fast break by having his men box in the Sooners' defensive rebounder, and State won 81-62. But then Kansas State used a 1-3-1 zone against the Cowboys and beat them 57-55. Ohio U. worried Loyola with a full-court press of its own, but finally knuckled under to the Ramblers 80-72, and the Loyola team went on to win the other game of that Chicago doubleheader 92-72 over Santa Clara. Notre Dame outmuscled Purdue off the boards, winning 98-66. The top three:
1. CINCINNATI (15-0)
2. LOYOLA OF CHICAGO (18-0)
3. ILLINOIS (12-2)
Most Southwest Conference teams were still busy with exams, but of the four that ventured out to play, three wished they hadn't. Texas Tech got a lesson in basketball skills from UCLA's talented Walt Hazzard. One night he dazzled the Raiders with his deft passes, mostly to Jack Hirsch—who scored 25 points—as UCLA won 83-63. The next night Hazzard showed he can shoot, scoring 32 points as the Bruins won 103-80.
Oklahoma City, with 7-foot transfer Eddie Jackson eligible for the first time and swooping in on rebounds like a huge hawk, beat Baylor 78-55. Two nights later Bud Koper, a 6-foot-5 sharpshooter, scored 41 points for Oklahoma City on twisting drives and long, floating jump shots as SMU fell 94-90 in overtime. Only Rice, an easy 104-75 winner over Trinity, survived the black week. The top three:
1. ARIZONA STATE (15-2)
2. TEXAS A&IYI (10-3)
3. TEXAS (8-5)
There was enough deep strategy in the West, some of it hopeless, to last an entire season. USC matched ball-control games with two West Coast AC teams and came away with two dull wins, over Loyola 66-43 and San Francisco 60-51. Up north, Washington planned to beat Oregon with its tall front-liners and did, 63-52. Against Oregon State, however, the Huskies were too busy watching 7-foot Mel Counts pluck 19 rebounds and score 27 points to do much scoring of their own as the Beavers took the game 65-48.
Loyola tried its deliberate game against fast-moving Seattle and all it earned was a 64-45 defeat. Montana State's plan was to run with Idaho. But the Grizzlies couldn't shoot with the Vandals, and they lost 78-69.
Utah sagged its defenses all over Colorado State's Bill Green. But when Dave Sigafoos and Dennis Anderson began to hit from the outside, Utah had to go out after them. This left Green free to squirm his way to 25 points and the Utes succumbed 72-54. Brigham Young was tougher for Utah State. Despite Wayne Estes' 25 points, the Cougars were only a point away from the Aggies with 11 seconds to play. But Gary Batchelor missed a one-and-one foul try and Utah State came out ahead 70-67. The top three:
1. STANFORD (12-3)
2. OREGON STATE (11-4)
3. UTAH STATE (15-3)