Most of the hosts had a better time than their guests in the ever-growing number of year-end tournaments, but Alabama, living it up before beginning the Southeastern Conference season on the road at Vanderbilt and Tennessee, embarrassed Louisville 65-55 in the finals of the Cardinals' new Holiday Classic. The Crimson Tide's defense was the key, holding Wesley Cox and Allen Murphy to 21 points combined, and the presence of Kentucky's SEC champion team in the Freedom Hall audience further inspired Alabama. "We knew they were there," said Guard Ray Odums. "They'll see a lot more of us, too."
The Wildcats should be anxious for any league contest after losing their fourth game of the season the following night to an unbeaten Notre Dame team that is solid muscle. Kentucky is a team without a center and therefore no match for the likes of John Shumate and Adrian Dantley, who scored 25 and 22 points from the inside. When the Wildcats switched to a zone to offset their deficiencies underneath, the Irish's Gary Brokaw burned them for 22 points from the outside. Notre Dame will conserve its considerable strength by playing only once more before meeting UCLA on Jan. 19 at home in South Bend.
In Milwaukee, sixth-ranked Marquette took apart young and dynamic Arizona 76-62 in the semifinals of its co-sponsored annual tournament, but ran into more trouble from co-host Wisconsin. The Warriors, who have not lost to Wisconsin since 1969, needed two overtimes to get past the Badgers in last year's title game. This time they were only slightly more efficient. A jump shot by reserve Jerry Homan saved the game, 49-48, in a single overtime.
Missouri, which has finished second in the Big Eight three years in a row, won its third straight conference tournament in extremely unorthodox fashion. Supposedly crippled by graduation this year, the Tigers had 30 turnovers against conference favorite Oklahoma, were outshot by five baskets against Colorado and trailed Iowa State by 12 points in the first half, yet somehow beat all three teams. A seldom-used 6'11" center, Gail Wolf, brought Missouri back against the Cyclones in the championship game by scoring 14 second-half points, only one point fewer than he recorded all last year.
The big boys from Long Beach State ran their record to 9-1 by beating two of the nation's toughest small college teams, Assumption and Evansville, 84-61 and 75-67 in the Evansville Invitational. Freshman Cliff Pondexter was named Most Valuable Player. In non-tournament action, Ohio University defeated Ohio State 84-79 behind Walter Luckett's 23 points. Northwestern freshman Billy McKinney hit five of six shots at the start of the second half to sink St. Joseph's of Indiana 83-65. The victory was the Wildcats' fifth of the season, matching their entire 1972-73 output.
1. NOTRE DAME (7-0)
2. MARQUETTE (9-0)
St. John's, no great surprise, made it into the finals of the E.C.A.C. Holiday Festival in Madison Square Garden for a record sixth time, and back as the Redmen's leader was Lou Carnesecca, who had deserted them for three years to coach the pro Nets. The team had managed to mask its decided lack of height with a combination of speed, shooting and ball handling, and it beat Jacksonville twice and Alabama once and, in the tournament, Illinois and Princeton. But then it met old rival Manhattan, a club it had not played in 11 years because Manhattan had wearied of losing. This time, though, the Jaspers were ready with the ingredient St. John's lacked—height. Manhattan opened in a 1-3-1 zone designed to shut off the outside shooting of Kevin Cluess and Mel Utley and never had to abandon it as 6'10" strong man Bill Campion took care of the middle on defense and scored 19 points in a 74-65 triumph. He was named MVP.
Canisius' Larry Fogle, a transplant from Southwestern Louisiana and the nation's leading scorer, had a magnificent night against George Washington, scoring 51 points, 21 of them on free throws, and getting 21 rebounds. The Golden Griffins won the opening game of the Queen City Invitational in Buffalo 100-89, and watching the performance was Coach Bill Foster of UNC Charlotte, who forthwith announced his strategy for the final. "We are going to play Fogle straight up, stand in front of him and hope we get some charging calls," he said. The plan worked.
Geoff Bommer stood still as Fogle made his rushes to the basket, and by the end of the first half Fogle was playing with three fouls against him. He drew a fourth early in the second half. Although he finished the game and scored 33 points, he was forced away from the offensive boards and Charlotte won handily 99-83.
Massachusetts ran its record to 8-0 by beating St. Peter's 82-67, winning the Hall of Fame Classic in Springfield, Mass.
1. PROVIDENCE (8-2)
2. SYRACUSE (7-1)
Forced to play without Tom McMillen, whose father died, Maryland looked to Len Elmore to take up the slack. The tall center, who warned future opponents a month ago that they would have to suffer for his team's disappointing one-point loss to UCLA, kept his promise by scoring 28 points and grabbing 16 rebounds in a 102-75 rout of Holy Cross in the first round of the Maryland Invitational. The Terrapins disposed of Boston College 58-37 in the finals.
Another UCLA victim, N.C. State, as determined to reassert itself as Maryland, took the Sugar Bowl tournament in grand style. David Thompson, cool against the Uclans, pumped in 60 points in easy-riding victories over Villanova and talented Memphis State. North Carolina warmed up for this week's Big Four showdown (State, Wake Forest and Duke) in Greensboro with a laugher in Miami. The Heels worked over Biscayne College 112-72, but to show he meant no disrespect Coach Dean Smith used 16 players and finished the three-platoon game with an all-freshman unit.
Back in Charlotte, where Smith's freshmen might have warmed the bench, Miami of Ohio, if not world beaters at least became Syracuse beaters. They spoiled the Orangemen's perfect 6-0 record 96-74 despite 34 points from Dennis Duval. But then the Redskins were beaten themselves, by Davidson, 97-87.
Vanderbilt returned from Christmas vacation a bit sluggish but quickly remembered what its success story was all about. The Commodore defense surrounded helpless Vermont in the second half, producing 10 steals in all, a 91-56 victory and a dandy 8-0 Vandy mark.
Everyone agreed that it would be defending champion Jacksonville against Western Kentucky in the Gator Bowl, and indeed it was—in the consolation round. Underdog Florida, unable to qualify its football team for the Gator Bowl, settled for a sneakish basketball championship, first wiping out a 19-point deficit against Jacksonville and winning 64-62, then thumping Duke 77-60 in the final. Said Jacksonville's badly disappointed Coach Bob Gottlieb, "One of the great sicknesses and tragedies of college basketball is that officiating can control the outcome of a game."
There is only one thing to say about Clemson's Wayne Rollins: simply that he is intimidating. The 7'1" freshman now has blocked 46 shots in his first nine games and the Tigers, 7-2, are off to their best start in 38 years. Against Furman and its own giant, Fessor Leonard, in the finals of the Poinsettia Classic, Rollins turned in eight blocks, five of them on Leonard. He also had 12 points and 12 rebounds, did a superlative defensive job and earned MVP honors. "They said Fessor [who is from Columbus] was the best big man ever to come out of Georgia," said Rollins, from Cordele. "Everyone has always said he was better than I am and I had the chance to prove a point." The score was 75-67.
Riding high after conquering Memphis State, Western Kentucky and Wake Forest in a pre-Christmas week, Coach Hugh Durham of Florida State said his team had enjoyed "the best regular-season week in school history." It immediately followed with one of its poorer weeks. The Seminoles lost to 1-5 Indiana State 93-92 in the first game of the Bear Classic at Mercer, then barely survived Wisconsin-Milwaukee 84-82 in the consolation. "We are tired," said Durham after the Seminoles' sixth game in 14 days. Mercer was wide awake, winning the final over Indiana State 75-68. Austin Peay said, "Bah, humbug." And didn't play at all.
1. N.C. (7-0)
2. MARYLAND (6-1)
With the century mark still 17 victories away, it was tough for UCLA students to get up for the biennial Bruin Classic; after all, UCLA only wins it every other year. Fortunately, beneath the golden neon of McDonald's on Westwood Boulevard near the campus, an ever-enterprising owner came up with an idea to spur excitement—and incidentally to sell a billion or two more burgers. When UCLA scores between 90 and 99 points, the gentleman decreed, every student with a valid I.D. and a ticket stub from that game gets a free hamburger. The higher the score, the more food, including French fries. Thus the disappointment was wholly understandable when the Bruins trounced Wyoming by only 86-58. Student appetites were sated a bit the next night, though, when Gavin Smith made an otherwise unnecessary free throw as UCLA yawned past Michigan 90-70.
There was no such gimmick at the Far West Classic, nor was any needed. Seventh-ranked Indiana managed only 18 points in the first half, then lost to Oregon State 61-48 in one of the young season's big upsets. "I'm not at all certain that they aren't just a flat better team than we are," said Hoosier Coach Bobby Knight. If State is, then Washington is better still. The Huskies took Oregon State 65-56 while Indiana came back to smother Oregon 58-47.
In a farther west classic, Honolulu's Rainbow, Hawaii skipped past Purdue 76-67 after the well-coached Boilermakers had disposed of Providence 93-65. The Friars won fifth place when Kevin Stacom hit for 28 points in a runaway against Washington State.
Southern Cal, now 9-1, slammed the door on Oral Roberts' scoring express to take a 96-75 victory and the championship of the All College Tournament in Oklahoma City. Houston, off to its worst start in years (5-5), gained third place from Rutgers, whose tournament MVP Phil Sellers scored 101 points in three games.
Nevada-Las Vegas won five home games within two weeks, blasting Northern Illinois 114-92 and overcoming Virginia 77-72 to cash in on its own holiday classic. Trailing by eight points, the Rebels held Virginia to just one basket in the last 7:22 of play and freshman Eddie Owens sank five free throws in the last minute.
Unbeaten New Mexico jumped out to an 18-3 lead over Minnesota in the Lobo Invitational when Gopher Coach Bill Musselman was thrown out of the game with his third technical, the last two flagrant, meaning New Mexico was awarded two free throws for each. Norm Ellenberger's Lobos made all four and then rolled up a 102-68 score.
Utah, which begins its conference schedule this week at New Mexico, bombed Montana State 110-86 as Luther (Ticky) Burden got 32 points in 32 minutes. The Utes then smothered Idaho. Ahead 68-35 by halftime, they let the reserves take over for most of the second half. Final score: 116-79.
"Hey, one in a row," said Pepperdine Coach Gary Colson facetiously when the Waves had beaten Portland 70-49 after losing five of their first six games. "Golly, you're kidding me," he continued, reading the statistics on sophomore Forward Dick Skophammer. "Twenty-four rebounds, 32 points. What a game." The alert Skophammer slipped in for 11 layups while Pepperdine's usual top scorer, Allen Jones, was tallying only 12 points. Watching his old team from the stands was William (Bird) Averitt, the nation's leading scorer last year at 33.9 points per game, who could have made the Waves a contender for the WCAC championship had he not signed a pro contract with the San Antonio Spurs. His current ABA average is 6.8.
1. UCLA (8-0)
2. LONG BEACH (9-1)