Skip to main content
Original Issue

Some eye-opening openers

Indiana was one of the first-week casualties, courtesy of Louisville

It was fine-tuning week for many of the country's top teams, and more than a few hit sour notes. Illinois was gunned down in the Great Alaska Shootout. Nevada-Las Vegas crapped out in its game with its less renowned intrastate rival from Reno. UCLA lost to Athletes In Action and Santa Clara. New coach Joey Meyer barely guided DePaul past Northern Illinois.

But no one had a more forgettable first week than Indiana coach Bob Knight. First he skipped the Big Ten's annual preseason press conference in Chicago on Sunday, Nov. 18, and was chided by commissioner Wayne Duke. Knight protested that he was doing "undercover work for the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. They had been told that several quail had infiltrated southern Indiana and they asked me to spend my Sunday on a search-and-destroy mission." Then, last Saturday, Louisville did a search-and-destroy mission on Knight's brand-new team.

Cardinal coach Denny Crum got his first crack ever at Knight's Hoosiers and beat them 75-64. Against Louisville's 1—3-1 zone press, Indiana shot just 42.1% and made an un-Hoosier-like 25 turnovers. Indiana pulled out to a 26-20 lead in the first 14½ minutes, but then the Cards clamped on the pressure. The result: a 19-1 run for Louisville and a 39-27 halftime lead. During the blitz the Cards' ball-hawking defenders, principally guard Milt Wagner and frontcourt men Billy Thompson and Barry Sumpter, kept the Hoosiers from even taking a shot for a full three minutes. "We wanted to turn their press into sort of an offensive weapon for us," said Indiana guard Steve Alford, "but we sort of jogged the ball up the court."

Louisville increased its lead to 63-48 before Knight finally found a floor combination—including a trio of highly touted freshmen—that could get the Hoosiers back into the game. Forward Steve Eyl, a 6'6" newcomer, hit all three of his shots from the floor and scored seven second-half points. Delray Brooks, a 6'4" guard who was co-Mr. Basketball in Indiana in 1984, and 6'8" forward Brian Sloan, the son of former Chicago Bull Jerry and Illinois' Mr. Basketball in '84, each had a pair of buckets during a 4½-minute, 16-6 spurt that pulled the Hoosiers to within five points with 2:13 to go.

But Louisville reserve guard James Jeter sank a pair of free throws and then Manuel Forrest, who along with Alford scored a game-high 18 points, converted two more 24 seconds later to ice the game. "I'd have been proud even if we'd lost because we played really hard," said Crum. "It's not the easiest place to win in." Indeed, the Hoosiers are 157-18 in Assembly Hall.

Knight didn't seem particularly perturbed by the defeat, probably because of its educational value for his young—three freshmen and two sophomores—squad. "This was the kind of team that over the years I've really enjoyed playing against," Knight said of Louisville. "They were probably as good a defensive team as we've had come in here."

Alabama-Birmingham won the Great Alaska Shootout in Anchorage with a 50-46 victory over Kansas in the championship game. Blazer guard Steve Mitchell, who scored 18 points against the Jayhawks, including the decisive three-point play with 28 seconds left, was named the Shootout MVP.

Kansas reached the final by whipping Oregon 66-49 as 7'1" junior Greg Dreiling scored 13 of his team-high 16 points in the second half. UAB had stunned Illinois 59-52 in its semifinal game. After scouting the Fighting Illini in their 64-44 opening-round victory over Idaho State, Blazer coach Gene Bartow junked his man-to-man defense and installed a zone to neutralize Illinois' powerful inside game. The switch paid off. The Illini made just 19 of 54 shots against UAB, including a woeful three for 20 from forwards Efrem Winters and Anthony Welch. Meanwhile, Mitchell scored a career-high 26 points, despite being guarded by Illinois' Bruce Douglas, who's usually a superior defender. "I've never seen anyone make it seem as if Bruce wasn't on the court," said Illini coach Lou Henson.

While Illinois went cold up north, No. 1 Georgetown was on fire 4,000 miles to the south in an 81-47 victory over Hawaii-Hilo. Hilo coach Jimmy Yagi figured that his team would stand a chance only "if the road washes out between here and Kona." The Hoyas were billeted in Kailua-Kona, 98 miles from Hilo, on the opposite side of the big island. But not even an eruption of the Kilauea volcano would have kept Georgetown from its appointed rout. Forward Bill Martin scored a game-high 20 points for the Hoyas, while Patrick Ewing had 17 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.

One of the few people who wasn't shocked by Nevada-Reno's 97-89 upset of Nevada-Las Vegas was Reno coach Sonny Allen. "It's not that much of an upset," said Allen of the Wolf Pack's victory before the largest home crowd (11,125) in the school's history. "I said before the game we could upset them. We did the things it takes to beat a team like Las Vegas." Indeed. The smaller Pack outrebounded (62-38), outshot (48.8%-42.3%) and outhustled the Runnin' Rebels. Reno's 3-2 and 2-1-2 zone defenses also forced UNLV to abandon its inside power game and gun from beyond the 19'9" three-point stripe. UNLV converted just seven of 20 three-point attempts, while the Wolf Pack made three of four. Senior guard Curtis High scored a game-high 22 points and had 11 assists and nine rebounds, while forwards Dwayne Randall and Ed Porter combined for 39 points and 20 boards.

In his 42 seasons as coach at DePaul, Ray Meyer was 32-0 in home openers. But as a radio announcer for Chicago's WGN he was nearly 0-1. Said Meyer's son, Joey, after sweating out a 59-58 win over Northern Illinois in his head coaching debut, "If I'd had time to think about it I'd have thought Coach Ray and I would change places. I wasn't nervous coming in, but if I knew what was going to happen, I'd have been petrified." De-Paul trailed the Huskies 45-44 with 9:03 to play and finally built a 58-49 lead after Marty Embry's three-point play five minutes later. The Blue Demons scored only one more point in the final 3:56, but it was just enough to win.

UCLA was so horrid in a 93-72 exhibition loss to Athletes In Action that all new coach Walt Hazzard could say afterward was, "At least it didn't count." The Bruins' 87-58 rout of hapless Idaho in Hazzard's regular-season debut did, but, unfortunately for Hazzard, so did the next night's 68-60 loss to Santa Clara. Senior guard Harold Keeling got 23 points and 7'2¼" center Nick Vanos had 19 points and 13 rebounds as the Broncos defeated UCLA for the first time since 1959.

Virginia Tech used a tenacious pressing defense to hammer Old Dominion 102-76 and win against intrastate competition at home for the 56th time in 57 tries. The Hokies forced the Monarchs into 22 turnovers, including 10 in the first 13 minutes. Guard Dell Curry scored 26 points to lead the Hokies, while Perry Young had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Oklahoma rebounded from its 81-64 loss to Illinois in the Hall of Fame Tip-off Classic on Nov. 18 to hammer Morehead State 94-48. Wayman Tisdale, held to just 19 points by the Fighting Illini, exploded for 31 points and 15 rebounds against the outclassed Eagles.

Joe Kleine scored 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Arkansas past Southeastern Louisiana 65-62, but afterwards Hog coach Eddie Sutton was hardly in a celebratory mood. Arkansas had blown most of a 14-point second-half lead, so after the fans had departed Barn-hill Arena, a furious Sutton reassembled the Razorbacks for practice. "There have been too many guys give their blood and guts for this program for these guys not to," he snapped. "And they had better learn that." It seems that Sutton has been conducting a cram course in character; he had the Hogs work out twice on Thanksgiving Day.




Louisville's Sumpter (above) and Thompson took turns hammering the Hoosiers.


STEVE MITCHELL: The 6'1" Alabama-Birmingham guard hit 26 of 56 from the field and 11 of 18 from the line for 63 points and had 10 rebounds and eight assists in UAB's Great Alaska Shootout win.