Providence Coach Joe Mullaney has become an expert at enduring uneasy moments. Last week, having seen his Friars collapse in the face of a late 15-point spree by St. Bona-venture and lose 83-71, Mullaney expected the worst when Dayton scored 15 straight points and led his team, 44-31, early in the second half in New York's Madison Square Garden. But then Vinnie Ernst, a puckish little (5-feet-8) fellow, took over. He pestered Dayton's backcourt man by stealing passes and led a furious fast break that left the Flyers gasping. Ernst's playmaking with Ray Flynn, Jim Stone and Bob Kovalski sot up 26 points and Providence won, 84-72. Mullaney squirmed again when Niagara took a 12-point lead over Providence. But once more Ernst got the Friars moving and Niagara went down after 16 straight wins, 12-78.
St. John's, bogged down in a losing season, was no match for taller and more talented Bowling Green. The Redmen moved the ball stylishly enough until they got a man free, but then he would drop the pass, miss the shot or find himself trapped by the up-stretched arms of Bowling Green's 6-foot-11 Nate Thurmond. Meanwhile, the Falcons, with Thurmond blocking shots and Howie Komives scoring 21 points, won easily, 63-55. Canisius, too, had its troubles with Thurmond and Komives. Thurmond held Bill O'Connor, the nation's No. 4 scorer, to eight points before fouling out, while Komives scored 17 points to give Bowling Green a close 6-59 win.
Temple tried to use its smooth pattern offense against bigger LaSalle, but fruitlessly. The Explorers clogged the middle with a tight 2-3 zone, took charge of the boards and beat the Owls 76-64. St. Joseph's had things even easier. Jim Boyle and Tom Wynne shot over St. Peter's 1-2-2 zone for nine baskets apiece, and the Hawks won 76-66. But the two top teams in Philadelphia's Big Five were now worried about Villanova. The improving Wildcats beat Duquesne 49-45, then upset Memphis State 59-54.
In the Ivy League, Princeton turned loose newly eligible Chuck Berling, a redhead with a sharp eye for the basket, and he gave Bill Bradley just the help he needed to knock Penn out of first place. Bradley's 22 points and Berling's 17 beat the Quakers, 7-58, and put Yale, a 74-72 overtime winner over Dartmouth, into the league lead.
In other games, NYU, with Happy Hairston back in good academic standing, beat Fairleigh Dickinson 7-62; Holy Cross out-scored Dartmouth 87-7 and Boston College 74-61; Creighton defeated St. Bonaventure 81-74, and Seton Hall beat LIU 71-61 and Catholic U. 8-75-The top three:
1. ST. JOSEPH'S (14-3)
2. NYU (10-2)
3. PROVIDENCE (11-4)
In 17 straight games against West Virginia, Furman tried to run with the Mountaineers, and each time it lost the race. Last week the Paladins found a way to beat their old tormentors. They held the ball while the Mountaineers stewed, calmly shot their free throws (23 for 26) and refused to panic when West Virginia staged a late rally. Gerry Glur and Jerry Smith outshot the fabled Rod Thorn as Furman won, 59-58. West Virginia came back to beat Florida easily enough, 114-67, but Pitt took the Mountaineers right down to the very end before losing, 69-68. Encouraged, Virginia Tech came to life in the Southern Conference, beating V.MI 77-66 and George Washington 74-7.
Kentucky's Adolph Rupp is no man to cry over a lost championship, not even after league-leading Georgia Tech just about eliminated his Wildcats from the Southeastern Conference race. Rupp could thank Tech sophomore Ron Scharf for his unlikely predicament. Scharf's two jump shots in the final minutes overtook Kentucky 66-62. "We're not ashamed," said The Baron. "We're not embarrassed, either." Tech also beat Alabama 74-58 and now only Mississippi State, which defeated LSU 73-66, and Auburn, a bare 62-59 winner over Vanderbilt, have a chance to catch the Georgians.
Duke managed to shake its two most persistent challengers in the Atlantic Coast, at least for now. The Blue Devils, after coasting past South Carolina 88-7, outlasted North Carolina 77-69. Duke used a 2-3 zone to keep the Tar Heels outside, and its big men, Hack Tison and Jay Buckley, played well inside. Meanwhile, Clemson upset Wake Purest, 71-7. The top three:
1. DUKE (15-2)
2. GEORGIA TECH (16-1)
3. MISSISSIPPI STATE (14-4)
Somebody almost got Cincinnati—but not quite. Drake, coming off a 79-72 upset of Bradley, had the Bearcats and then let them get away. Leading 56-53 with three minutes to go, the Bulldogs elected to shoot it out with Cincy instead of going into a stall, and almost before they knew it Tom Thacker tied the score at 58-58. In the overtime, George Wilson and sub Gene Smith put in seven points and Cincinnati won on a bad night, 65-6. Two nights later, against St. Louis, Cincy played what many felt was its best game ever. When the Bills tried to double-team Thacker, Wilson and Ron Bonham inside, Tony Yates shot over them for six field goals. When they went after Yates, the front court began scoring. After 1 minutes it was no contest as Cincinnati took its 35th straight, 7-4. Coach Ed Jucker was apologetic later when he met St. Louis Athletic Director Bob Stewart. "I'm sorry we had to be so good," he said. Loyola, the only other major unbeaten team, was still running and still winning. Washington of St. Louis gave the Ramblers a few anxious moments early, but they broke away for a 118-58 victory. Iowa tried a slowdown and it worked—for about eight minutes. Then Jerry Harkness and his friends rolled on, winning 86-68.
Illinois, although idle, appeared to be running out of first-rate challengers in the Big Ten. Indiana, after a close call (74-73) against last-place Purdue, found it couldn't run with Northwestern and lost its first conference game, 1-87. Ohio State, Minnesota and Michigan fared better. The Bucks defeated Northwestern 72-7 and Purdue 97-93; Minnesota beat Wisconsin 69-68, and Michigan made it by Michigan State 72-71.
In the Big Eight, league-leading Colorado was concerned about Iowa State after the Cyclones whipped Missouri 78-66 and Kansas 69-57 for their fifth in a row. But the Buffs, who beat Oklahoma 77-68, will find out the facts soon enough. They meet Iowa State Feb. 16 at Ames. Among the independents, DePaul took Bowling Green 55-53 and Louisville 78-73, while Marquette beat St. John's 51-47 and lost to St. Louis 73-62. The top three:
1. CINCINNATI (17-0)
2. LOYOLA OF CHICAGO (20-0)
3. ILLINOIS (12-2)
Texas turned in about the only performances anybody would want to put their eyes upon in the Southwest Conference last week. First TCU, 87-71, and then Texas A&M, 58-57, lost to independent Houston, no disgrace to be sure, as North Texas State, a 68-62 loser to the Cougars later, found out. But, just to make hard times worse for the Aggies, they were upset by Arkansas 66-55.
In the meantime, Texas bolstered its lead at the expense of weak TCU. After beating Trinity 88-54, the Longhorns defeated TCU 73-56, thanks largely to Jimmy Gilbert who sank 1 shots in 11 tries over the Frogs' skimpy zone.
Arizona State managed to get by Texas Western 63-6, but the Sun Devils were relieved when the Miners left Tempe. Western's 6-foot-8 Jim Barnes eluded Art Becker and Joe Caldwell to score 27 points, and State almost lost the game when it went to a zone defense in the last 1 minutes. The Miners slipped through it to cut ASU's 1-point lead to 62-6 before Bobby Howard dropped in a clinching free throw with five seconds to go. The top three:
1. ARIZONA STATE (16-2)
2. TEXAS WESTERN (12-5)
3. TEXAS (10-5)
After watching opposing teams drift away from Walt Hazzard, his infallible passer, UCLA Coach Johnny Wooden decided it was time to change strategy. "Start taking those shots when you're open," he told Hazzard. Last weekend Hazzard took, and made, so many that USC didn't have a chance against the Bruins. Hazzard scored 27 points Friday night, 27 more Saturday night and UCLA won, 77-65 and 86-72.
California, playing without Coach Rene Herrerias, who was hospitalized for a gallbladder operation, lost a 1-point half-time lead and a game to Oregon, 6-55. Cal was more tenacious the next night, however. Assistant Coach Bob Blake sent them out in a full-court press, and this so upset the Ducks that their errors cost them the game 79-58. Meanwhile, Stanford, the Big Six leader, found the same trouble at Seattle that UCLA discovered four weeks ago. Washington's defense tied up Tom Dose, and Charlie Hart's hook shot, with four seconds to go, beat the Indians, 49-48.
Seattle's finely tuned fast break beat Loyola of Los Angeles 12-58 and St. Mary's 95-63, but it almost never got started against Oregon State. With 7-foot Mel Counts taking the rebounds and scoring 17 points before he left with a twisted ankle and Terry Baker quarterbacking a tight ball-control game, State slowed down the Chieftains, beating them 66-6. Idaho, after defeating Washington State three times this season, was upset by the Cougars, 66-57. But the Vandals came back to down Idaho State 9-61 as Gus Johnson, a 6-foot-6 transfer from Akron University and Boise Junior College, scored 37 points and got 25 rebounds.
Wyoming's Flynn Robinson, a sophomore who jumps, fades away and then lofts the ball from behind his head, generally into the basket, was the talk of the mountain country. And with good reason. He poured in 75 points as the Cowboys downed Denver 81-67 and Air Force 7-68. Colorado State, for once, gave up its ' "hold the ball" game and outran Montana State 1-83. Utah State hardly drew a deep breath as it took old rival Utah, 97-69. But the night wasn't a complete waste for Utah's milk-swigging Jack Gardner. His consolation prize: a gallon of milk and a two-foot slab of Swiss cheese from the Cache Valley Dairy Association. The top three:
1. OREGON STATE (12-4)
2. STANFORD (12-4)
3. UTAH STATE (16-3)