When officials of the Suntory Ball round-robin in Tokyo learned that 7'4" Ralph Sampson, the beau of the Ball, had the flu and wouldn't play against Houston, they despaired—but not half as much as the Cougars themselves.
"Several of the players were so disappointed that Sampson didn't play that they suffered a real letdown," said Houston Coach Guy Lewis. "They thought they would win in a walk." Instead the Cavs, with 6'8" soph Jim Miller chipping in 14 points and five rebounds in Sampson's stead, waltzed past the Coogs 72-63. Othell Wilson and Ricky Stokes, the Cav's fireplug guards at six feet and 5'10", had 18 and 12 points, respectively. Wilson felt especially vindicated. "We heard that some of the Houston players were laughing because Ricky and I are so small and calling us Smurfs," he said. "We wanted to show them that we can play."
Houston's 6'6" forward, Clyde Drexler, held to a season-low seven points, was brought down a notch by the Smurfs' performance. "We had the opportunity to beat the Number One team," he said. "But we couldn't get motivated and I apologize."
Hapless Utah, whose coach, Jerry Pimm, said beforehand that stepping on the court with Virginia and Houston was like grappling with a pair of 500-pound sumo wrestlers, got squashed twice. The Cougars regained enough motivation to smash the Utes 82-57. Seven-foot Nigerian Akeem Abdul (Jelly Bean) Olajuwon, who had just eight points and seven rebounds against Virginia, burned Utah with a career-high 30 points, 18 rebounds and eight blocked shots. The following night, with Sampson returning to score 14 points, grab 17 rebounds and block five shots in 22 minutes, Virginia beat the Utes 80-57.
After Tulsa surprised North Carolina 84-74 in the first round of the Oil Capital Classic in Tulsa, Golden Hurricane Coach Nolan Richardson said that 6'10" Center Bruce Vanley "really put a show on." Vanley scored 23 points and had 11 rebounds—and got lots of help from Steve Harris (a career-high 26 points) and Ricky Ross (20 points) as Tulsa overcame a seven-point halftime deficit.
The next night Tulsa got 15 points and eight rebounds from Vanley, the tournament MVP, in a 63-56 win over co-host Oral Roberts to win the championship. In the consolation game, North Carolina, 4-3 on the season, took out some frustration against Pan American. The Tar Heels had four men in double figures, led by Sam Perkins' 20 points, and pounded the Broncos 106-50. There was little consolation for ORU Coach Ken Hayes, who was fired barely 20 minutes after the final. Assistant Coach Dick Acres, the father of ORU stars Jeff and Mark, replaces Hayes on an interim basis.
Memphis State's 64-58 defeat of Kansas in Lawrence was "as sweet as granulated sugar" to Tiger Coach Dana Kirk. The Tigers led the Jayhawks 41-24 at the half. But Kansas roared back to tie the game 48-48 on a pair of free throws by Kelly Knight. The Tigers regained the lead for good when Point Guard Andre Turner sank a foul shot with 4:51 to go; 1:39 later he fed Phillip Haynes for a score to make it 52-48 with 3:12 left.
Two years ago Oklahoma State beat Louisville on a last-second shot, and last week it looked like déj√† vu time. But after the Cards' Scooter McCray blocked Cowboy Matt Clark's layup with 10 seconds to go, McCray caught the ball and hung on until Louisville's 67-66 win was assured. The Cardinals had an easier time with South Alabama, whipping the Jags 94-77.
Indiana's 48-46 win at Kansas State wasn't a vintage Hoosier victory; Indiana won despite shooting a miserable 42.2%. Missouri made quick work of Eastern Illinois, beating the Panthers 76-61 behind Steve Stipanovich's 21 points.
Kentucky made news off and on the court. Center Sam Bowie, still hobbled by an injury to his left leg sustained nearly two years ago, announced he planned to play for the Wildcats next season rather than make himself eligible for the NBA draft. Then 6'8" freshman Todd May, Kentucky's high school player of the year last season, announced he was leaving school. On the court, the Wildcats won their 22nd Kentucky Invitational title in 30 years, but not without an early struggle.
Kentucky weathered a poor effort to defeat Duquesne 55-42 in the first round. But in the championship game Kentucky got 17 points and 15 rebounds from tournament MVP Derrick Hord and 17 points from Minniefield as the 'Cats beat Tulane 80-61.
Tennessee Forward Dale Ellis was held to a three-year low of five points in the Vols' 70-51 victory over St. Francis (N.Y.) in the first round of the Volunteer Classic. But Ellis redeemed himself in the title game against Miami of Ohio, scoring 28 points in a 69-62 Tennessee victory.
Illinois handed Illinois State its first defeat, beating the Redbirds 67-60 in the finals of the Illini Classic in Champaign. Earlier in the tournament, the Fighting Illini whipped Southern Illinois 79-61, while State beat Bowling Green 61-57 in overtime. Alabama got 22 points from Bobby Lee Hurt and 15 points and a team-record 14 assists from Ennis Whatley in an 88-73 defeat of Louisiana Tech.
Georgetown lost its second consecutive game, a 62-61 decision to crosstown rival American, and though Coach John Thompson wouldn't admit it, it seemed his Hoyas were still reeling from their emotional loss to Virginia four days earlier. "We were just outplayed, that's all," Thompson said after the loss to the Eagles. Well, at least for the first 30:16. Georgetown trailed 49-32 with 9:44 left but rallied furiously to cut the margin to 51-50 with 5:02 remaining. "We were like a punch-drunk fighter on the ropes waiting for the bell," said American Coach Ed Tapscott afterward. But Eagle Point Guard Gordon Austin saved the day, scoring seven points in the final four minutes. The Eagles, however, didn't have long to savor their victory. Three nights later D.C. upstart George Washington upset American, 70-69 in overtime.
After thrashing Division III Ohio Wesleyan 98-50, West Virginia won its own Mountaineer Classic. West Virginia breezed by Georgia Southern 85-58 in the first round and then got 27 points, including a decisive free throw with 10 seconds left in overtime, from Guard Greg Jones, to beat Virginia Commonwealth 66-65 in the title game.
St. John's won twice, whipping Fordham 74-66 behind David Russell's 21 points and game-high 10 rebounds and Princeton 58-46. Senior Forward Billy Goodwin keyed a 17-3 Redmen burst against the Tigers midway through the second half by scoring on a breakaway dunk after a steal. In all, Goodwin had eight points in St. John's surge.
Syracuse got 19 points apiece from starters Erich Santifer, Tony (Red) Bruin, Leo Rautins and Gene Waldron in beating Ohio State 91-85 at home. Four days later Bruin got 26 points and eight rebounds in a 105-82 Syracuse win at Niagara.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
BRUCE VANLEY: Tulsa's 6'10" junior center was named MVP of the Oil Capital Classic in Tulsa. He scored 38 points and pulled down 19 rebounds in victories over North Carolina and co-host Oral Roberts.