"Maybe I shouldn't be the one to say it," said Penn Guard Steve Bilsky, "but you have to be impressed by a team that improves week after week for four months. Pressure, we love it." The young Quakers, with no seniors among their starters, took all the pressure Columbia's Jim McMillian could apply and still came away with the Ivy League championship 71-57. McMillian poured in 21 points in the first period to give the Lions a one-point half-time lead before Penn made a subtle defensive adjustment. In the second period Bilsky and backcourt mate Dave Wohl started playing deep to help out against the Columbia high scorer. That held McMillian to only 12 points in the second half. With Corky Calhoun stopping the Lions' other top shooter, Hey ward Dotson, with just nine points for the game, Penn had all it needed to swing the pressure its way. The Quakers also defeated Cornell 97-63 to finish the season with a 25-1 record, presently the best in the country and the best ever for a Philadelphia team.
As expected, Davidson proved far too strong for the rest of the Southern Conference in the league's postseason tournament. The Wildcats clawed through VMI 72-46, William and Mary 78-54 and Richmond 81-61 to take their third consecutive title. Davidson's Mike Maloy was named the tourney's most valuable player after scoring 47 points.
South Carolina, which still faces the tough Atlantic Coast Conference tournament before it can claim the league championship, wrapped up regular-season play by beating Wake Forest 67-51 and North Carolina State 85-69 for a five-game lead in the final standings. Duke showed it may be the Gamecocks' toughest opponent in the tournament by defeating North Carolina 91-83 and North Carolina State 71-69.
St. Bonaventure's Bob Lanier and Niagara's Calvin Murphy neared the end of their three-year reigns in upstate New York on off-notes. Lanier spent most of the game on the bench in foul trouble, watching his teammates bump Canisius 91-68. For only the fourth time in his career, Murphy was outscored by a teammate as the NCAA tournament-bound Purple Eagles topped Syracuse 91-83. Sub Mike Samuel tallied 28 points to 24 for Murphy.
Temple took the Middle Atlantic Conference playoffs by defeating St. Joseph's 63-59 as Paul Collins, who came into the title game with an 8.5 scoring average, broke loose for 28 points.
1. S. CAROLINA (23-2)
2. ST. BONA (20-1)
Like Iowa, Ohio University won its conference title—the Mid-American—with a tense one-point victory over its nearest rival. The Bobcats topped Bowling Green 77-76 as sophomore Guard Tom Corde, an often-used substitute, coolly dropped in a pair of foul shots with seven seconds showing on the clock, thus avenging an earlier 20-point defeat by Bowling Green, their only league loss of the year. They won by holding the Falcons' Jim Penix—who had averaged more than 20 points in his previous 11 games—to only 15.
Dayton, which backed into an NCAA tournament bid when Marquette refused to transfer to the Midwest region for an at-large berth, immediately made the selection committee look good—and bad. The Flyers pounced on Notre Dame 95-79, but the reason why Marquette's Warriors became disenchanted with the NCAA was that the committee rated Jacksonville and Notre Dame ahead of them. The Irish almost compounded the embarrassment when they nearly stumbled at Butler as well. With the Bulldogs' Tony Hinkle coaching his last game after a 41-year career at the Indianapolis school, Notre Dame came close to giving him a nice going-away gift before winning 121-114. Butler led the Irish midway through the second half and trailed by just two points with 3:32 left in the game. Hinkle ended his tenure with a 561-392 record.
Southeastern Conference champion Kentucky added two league victories: 98-89 over Alabama and 90-86 over Vanderbilt. Jacksonville's towering frontcourt men allowed 5'10" Guard Vaughn Wedeking to steal the glory in two wins. He scored a 15-foot jump shot with four seconds to play to hold off Oklahoma City 77-75 and then poured in 21 points in an 86-81 defeat of Georgia Tech.
1. KENTUCKY (23-1)
2. IOWA (17-4)
"Our defense won it," said New Mexico Coach Bob King after his team upset Utah 93-74. "Sometimes man-to-man, sometimes switching and sometimes with zone traps. We kept Utah busy deciding what we were going to do next." Thus confounded out of the Western Athletic Conference lead, the Redskins next were knocked out of the race by UTEP 83-82. In its loss to New Mexico Utah was twice held scoreless for long stretches, 17-0 and 14-0, while Lobos Willie Long and Petie Gibson were piling up a combined total of 48 points. At UTEP, which won the championship in its first year in the WAC, the Utes were 11 points ahead in the second half when the Miners stormed back behind Nate Archibald. Archibald scored 31 points in all—nine in the final three minutes—including the two winning free throws with 14 seconds to play.
Weber State took the Big Sky Conference championship for the third consecutive season by defeating Montana State 80-55. The Bobcats attempted to control Weber's 6'8", 220-pound Willie Sojourner with only one defender. In the first half Sojourner drew his man into foul trouble and converted nine of 11 free throws. In the second period, when the defense loosened up to cut down Sojourner's foul shots, the Weber center hit on 11 of 13 field-goal tries and finished the game with 39 points.
Weber's first-round opponent in the NCAA tournament will be Long Beach State. The Forty-Niners, 22-3 for the season, bagged the newly formed Pacific Coast Athletic Association championship by defeating San Diego State 74-55.
Pacific (104-55 over Nevada at Reno and 110-78 over Nevada at Las Vegas) and Santa Clara (74-70 over Loyola of Los Angeles and 87-70 over Pepperdine) remained tied for the West Coast Athletic Conference lead. The two meet Saturday night on Pacific's cozy court in Stockton.
UCLA won its fourth straight Pacific Eight championship with wins of 120-90 over Stanford and 109-95 over Cal. Utah State, aside from losing at New Mexico State, edged Air Force 80-78 and West Texas State 83-73.
1. UCLA (23-1)
2. UTAH STATE (19-6)
The only criticism Kansas State Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons had of his players last week was that they might have ruined his purple and white checked pants. Fitzsimmons has worn the trousers all year and, after K-State clinched the Big Eight championship with a 79-69 defeat of Colorado, his players dunked him in the shower checks and all. "If they're shrunk, I'll just have to get them stretched so I can wear them during the NCAAs," said the Wildcat coach. In the decisive victory, State doused the Buffaloes with strong rebounding and a hot offense in the second half. Leading by one point after the first period, the Wildcats out-rebounded Colorado 23-6 in the final 20 minutes and, during one stretch, scored on 11 of 12 trips down the court.
The hot Southwest Conference race left Rice fans with an ear glued to the radio and an eye peeled at television. After stumbling 78-66 early in the week at Texas Tech, the Owls regained their form by stinging TCU 82-73 and ensuring themselves of at least a tie for the league title. In games later that same day, first Texas A&M knocked itself out of contention before a TV audience by losing to Baylor 70-68, then Texas Tech, whose game was heard in Houston, dropped out of the race in bowing to SMU 85-80. Rice's undisputed championship was its first since 1945.
Despite an 88-72 loss to surging Cincinnati, which has now won 11 consecutive games, Drake guaranteed itself a tie in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Bulldogs beat Louisville 79-73 by scoring on 16 of 22 field-goal attempts in the second half.
New Mexico State, shifted from the West to the Midwest for this season's NCAA tournament, defeated Boise State 105-79 and Utah State 104-92. Houston breezed past Texas at Arlington 102-84 and South Alabama 128-90.
1. N. MEX. ST. (23-2)
2. HOUSTON (22-3)