"Now maybe you'll believe we're pretty good," Coach John Thompson told the media after his Georgetown team beat Syracuse 87-81 for the Big East title. For Thompson, irked when the wire-service polls overlooked the Hoyas after they had shocked the highly ranked Orangemen 52-50 two weeks earlier, it was a sweet victory and Georgetown's 13th straight, equaling the school record. Choosing his words carefully, Thompson refused to say he felt his squad "deserved" increased recognition, declaring, "The word is 'earned.' "
Helping Georgetown earn its triumph were tournament MVP Forward Craig Shelton. who scored 18 points, Center Ed Spriggs, who came off the Hoya bench to provide much-needed inside strength (13 points and 10 rebounds), and Guards Eric Floyd (21 points) and John Duren (12 points, seven assists), who kept the offense flowing. Syracuse was hounded into 25 turnovers, 15 of them on steals—six by Eric Smith, who also scored 17 points. Georgetown made it to the Big East finals by whipping Seton Hall 60-47 as Floyd tossed in 22 points, and by jarring St. John's 76-66, thanks to 21 points by Shelton and 20 more by Floyd. After a first-round bye, the Orangemen had unleashed their offense by walloping Connecticut 92-61.
"At halftime we just talked about punch inside, punch inside, punch inside, and that's where Gminski and Banks were operating well," explained Coach Bill Foster, whose Duke team had trailed Maryland 37-33 at the intermission of the Atlantic Coast finale. In the second half the Blue Devils did some inside punching. Gene Banks wound up with 21 points, and Mike Gminski held Buck Williams of the Terps to just one second-half rebound. Gminski finished with 13 points, including the decisive basket on a tap-in nine seconds from the end. Invaluable, too, was Vince Taylor, who scored 19 points, passed off for six assists and twice stole the ball in the final two minutes. That completed a remarkable turnaround for the Blue Devils, who had entered the tournament with five losses in their past seven games. On the way to the finals Duke defeated two other Top 20 teams. North Carolina State 68-62 and North Carolina 75-61. Against State. Banks had 24 points and Gminski 22. The Blue Devils then got 24 points and 19 rebounds from Gminski as they avenged the 25-point loss that the Tar Heels had inflicted upon them six days earlier. Maryland started off by squeezing past Georgia Tech 51-49 in overtime on a close-in shot by Albert King with only four seconds to go. King then came through with 38 points and 10 rebounds as the Terps beat Clemson 91-85.
LaSalle and Villanova won conference tournaments with three wins each. Michael Brooks pumped in a total of 51 points to lead the Explorers to the East Coast title, while the Wildcats, en route to Eastern Eight honors, got a total of 58 points and a tournament-record 39 rebounds from its standout performer, Alex Bradley.
Three Eastern collegiate AC tournaments were also settled by three-time victors. Iona, with Jeff Ruland netting 72 points and grabbing 26 rebounds, took the Metro Division championship after racking up 16 victories in a row, the longest streak in Division I. Ron Perry's 71 points helped Holy Cross come out on top in the Northern Division. Perry, a senior guard and the most prolific scorer in New England history, has now netted 2,500 points. And Ronnie Valentine ran his string of consecutive games of scoring in double figures to 100 as Old Dominion took the South title. Valentine kept his streak going in the finale against Navy when he popped in six points in overtime for a total of 14 as the Monarchs prevailed 62-51.
Princeton and Penn tied for first place in the Ivy League, forcing a playoff game this week. Superb free-throw shooting by the opposition led to a pair of overtime losses for the Quakers. Dave Blatt of the Tigers canned all eight of his foul shots in the extra period to upend Penn 78-69. Then Columbia, which converted 29 of 32 free throws, got eight points from Richie Gordon and six from Darren Burnett in overtime to surprise the Quakers 55-51. Following a 67-47 defeat at Cornell, Princeton dumped Columbia 57-47, while Penn kept pace by drubbing the Big Red 67-42.
1. GEORGETOWN (24-5)
2. SYRACUSE (25-3)
3. DUKE (22-8)
Kentucky's Sam Bowie, who at one point had stood jaw-to-jaw arguing with Louisiana State's De Wayne Scales during the Southeastern Conference tournament showdown, had nothing but praise for the Tiger forward when it was all over. "Scales should be able to act as he pleases tonight," Bowie said. "He deserved the MVP award. He made shots when he couldn't even see the basket." Scales did that and more, pouring in 26 points and bringing down eight rebounds as LSU won 80-78. It was his eight points in a row that overcame a 64-63 Wildcat lead. And it was Scales' 27 points—16 in nine minutes during the second half—and 11 rebounds that did in Alabama 73-66 in the semis. Describing one of his shots, Scales said, "I got me an Astronaut [that's his nickname] slam dunk and drummed it home." In its first game of the tournament LSU drubbed Florida 95-82. For his part, Bowie scored 66 points for Kentucky, which had started the tournament by knocking off Auburn 69-61 and then laboring past Mississippi 70-67.
It was the hot shooting of Forward Kelly Tripucka that enabled Notre Dame to upset undefeated DePaul and kept the Irish from being toppled by Dayton. Tripucka flicked in eight of his 28 points as Notre Dame sped to a 12-4 advantage over the Blue Demons. DePaul, down 32-31 at halftime, went in front with an 8-0 spurt after the intermission, then fell behind 45-43 when the Irish ran off 11 straight points. The score was 64-64 at the end of regulation time and 70-70 after Rich Branning of Notre Dame hit on a jumper with seven seconds left in the first of two extra periods. Orlando Woolridge of the Irish scored the game's decisive two points on foul shots with 19 seconds to go, for a 76-74 decision that ended DePaul's 26-game winning streak. It was the fifth time in 12 years that a team ranked No. 1 had lost at South Bend. Tripucka then scored 22 points as the Irish (22-5) held off Dayton 62-54. DePaul won its next outing as Mark Aguirre, who had 28 points at Notre Dame, pumped in 40 during a 97-81 romp over Illinois State. On the Blue Demon bench for that game was Center Jim Mitchem, who the day before the Notre Dame contest had slipped on ice and fractured a bone in his left hand, an injury that limited him to two points.
Two wings and Center Jonathan Moore helped Furman take the Southern Conference playoffs by beating Marshall 80-62. With the wings—Michael Hunt and Ronald White—playing two steps farther down the baseline in the second half, the Paladins overcame a 36-32 halftime deficit. Hunt finished with 22 points, White with 16 and Moore with 16, plus 11 rebounds. For the second year in a row Moore was the tournament's MVP. He also became the first player ever named four consecutive times to the all-Southern and all-tournament squads.
In the Mid-American Conference Toledo beat Bowling Green 85-70, Jim Swaney scoring 31 points, Harvey Knuckles adding 20 and Dick Miller latching on to 20 missed shots. The Rockets (23-5) knocked off Ball State in the semifinals as Swaney tossed in 27 points and Knuckles 26. Murray State and Western Kentucky, which tied for first in the Ohio Valley, met for the tournament title. Western downed Murray for the third time, coming back for a 54-51 victory after trailing 31-19 at halftime. Led by MVP Edmund Sherod, fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth took the Sun Belt tournament. Sherod scored a total of 68 points, 19 as the Rams beat top-seeded South Alabama 74-72 and 22 as they defeated Alabama-Birmingham 105-88 in the finals.
1. DePAUL (26-1)
2. LSU (24-5)
3. INDIANA (20-7)
"I knew we were flat as we walked down the runway to the court," Kansas Coach Ted Owens said after the Big Eight tournament final game against Kansas State. Flat, indeed; as flat as the unfortunate Jayhawk doll that was slammed to the floor by Wildcat cheerleaders at halftime. Even the printed signs that were flashed from the Kansas bench to designate plays, such as 3 SCREEN could do nothing to revive the fading Jayhawks, who lost 79-58. Kansas may well have suffered a downer after having stunned regular-season champ Missouri 80-71 the night before. For K-State, Guard Rolando Blackman's 22 points, Forward Ed Nealy's 17 and Coach Jack Hartman's "green zone" defense were decisive. Hartman also has blue, red and brown zones. Nealy, who came into the tournament in a dreadful shooting slump, got hot and made good on a Big Eight-record 17 consecutive field-goal tries during one stretch as the Wildcats won three games. All told, Nealy hit on 22 of 29 shots, scored 52 points, pulled down 29 rebounds and had seven assists. MVP Blackman scored a tournament-record 60 points, snatched 16 rebounds and fed off for seven assists. Kansas State barely survived the semifinals, nipping Nebraska 60-59 when Blackman scored a basket with 18 seconds remaining and then blocked the final shot by the Huskers.
"Our press gets to people only when we really jump in their shirts, and that's what we started doing," said Guard Jerry Eaves after Louisville overcame Florida State 81-72 in the Metro Conference tournament title game. The Seminoles led 42-35 early in the second half when the Cardinals began to apply their devastating shirt-to-shirt pressure. During the next 5:39 Louisville outscored State 20-3, Poncho Wright flipping in nine Cardinal points and Darrell Griffith eight. Griffith, the tournament MVP, had 30 points in the game.
When Texas A&M Guard David Britton was not exasperating Arkansas with his shooting during the wrap-up of the Southwest Conference playoffs, he did it with his ball handling. Britton fired in 23 points, 17 in the second half, and put on a virtuoso dribbling and passing performance when the Aggies went into their four-corner delay with 11:57 to be played. The Razorbacks scrambled back in the waning moments, but A&M hung on for a 52-50 verdict. In the semifinals the Aggies defeated Texas Tech 61-51 behind Vernon Smith's 20 points and Arkansas skimmed past Texas 64-62 as U. S. Reed scored 25 points.
Bradley, which earlier seemed to be going nowhere fast—the Braves were 5-6 in December after tying for last place in the Missouri Valley the season before—completed a dazzling comeback. The Braves wound up in first place this time and earned their first NCAA berth since 1955 by winning the conference tournament. Bradley brought its season's record to 23-9 with three victories during the playoffs, the last a 62-59 decision over West Texas State in which Mitchell Anderson came through with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Larry Smith, as usual, was very busy as Alcorn State took the Southwestern AC playoffs. During a 116-92 victory over Southern University, Smith had 27 points and 20 rebounds. In the finals against Grambling, Smith scored 16 points and got 19 boards to lead the Braves to another lopsided triumph, this time by an 81-63 margin.
Other conference tournament champions were Centenary in the Trans America and Oral Roberts in the Midwestern City.
1. LOUISVILLE (28-3)
2. TEXAS A&M (24-7)
3. MISSOURI (23-5)
"I told my players to go home and pray to the Man Upstairs," said Oregon State Coach Ralph Miller after a 52-51 triumph over California. "He was more responsible for this win than anything we did." That was small comfort for the Golden Bears, who exploited gaping holes in the Beavers' zone defense but missed two last-minute chances for an upset. With six seconds left, Cal Guard Phil Wilhite cut loose with a pass intended for Walt Gillespie, who was all alone under the basket. The Bears' Doug True, thinking the pass was meant for him, leapt at the ball, it struck his hand and was deflected out of bounds. A traveling violation by State with two seconds to go gave Cal the ball for one last shot. Air ball.
Cal's misses plus Washington State's 71-58 defeat of Arizona State locked up the Pac-10 title for Oregon State. The Cougars knocked the Sun Devils out of a first-place tie as Forward Don Collins popped in 21 points. Collins then scored 19 more and Stuart House 35 as Washington State (22-5) stopped Arizona 74-71. That left Collins with 422 points in Pac-10 play, a single-season record that surpassed the 406 scored in 1953 by Washington's Bob Houbregs. A 75-61 victory over Washington enabled Arizona State (21-6) to cling to second place.
As for Oregon State, the Beavers took their final game from Oregon 67-55 behind Steve Johnson's 19 points and 11 rebounds, an effort that left Coach Miller smiling. For years Miller has been a stoneface, but with four seconds to go he turned to the student section at Oregon State and, as he had promised he would if his team finished first, broke into a broad grin.
Brigham Young was all smiles while winning twice. Up and down the court the Cougars zipped in their scurrying, almost pellmell style, shooting .580 from the floor and picking off 42 more rebounds than their opponents. Hawaii was trampled 107-82 as Devin Durrant netted 27 points and Danny Ainge 22. Then San Diego State took it on the chin 114-81 as Ainge scored 30 points, Scott Runia 22 and Fred Roberts 21. In that game, BYU's Alan Taylor grabbed a Marriott Center-record 23 rebounds.
New Mexico, buffeted by troubles all season, suffered the final blow. Guard Kenny Page kept the Lobos in front of UTEP until the end in a Western AC battle, but then came a last-second 20-foot net-cutter by Center Anthony Burns that sent New Mexico to a 68-67 loss.
One of the biggest playoff surprises was San Jose State's triumph in the Pacific Coast AA. The Spartans, who finished in fourth place at the end of the regular season, bumped off UC-Santa Barbara 73-66, first-place Utah State 94-68 and second-place Long Beach State 57-55 to take the conference title.
San Francisco clinched the West Coast AC crown by defeating Portland 81-58 and Seattle 71-59.
1. OREGON STATE (26-3)
2. BYU (24-4)
3. WEBER STATE (26-2)
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
DeWAYNE SCALES: Louisiana State's 6'9" junior forward carried the Tigers to three victories and the SEC playoff championship with an MVP performance that included a total of 68 points, 26 rebounds and three steals.