"True luck," said one philosopher, "consists not in holding the best cards at the table; luckiest he who knows when to rise and go home." Those words might describe St. John's, which battled back to win a pair of Big East road games over Seton Hall, 87-76 and Villanova, 70-68, to extend its winning streak to 14 games. The Redmen prevailed not so much because of their superior talent, but because senior swing-man Chris Mullin knew when to play his aces. When St. John's trailed the Pirates by 14 points in the second half, Mullin scored 20 of his game-high 26 points.
Against the gritty Wildcats, Mullin was held to four points in the first half by a sticky box-and-one defense, and Villa-nova led the Redmen 52-47 midway through the second half. Thereafter, Mullin dominated the game, getting 12 of St. John's final 18 points in the final 6:17. "I've grown up with him," said Villanova senior center Ed Pinckney, like Mullin a New York native, afterward. "I'm not surprised by anything he does."
With seconds remaining and Boston College trailing Syracuse 66-65, the Eagles got a lucky break of their own. B.C. point guard Michael Adams took a desperate 30-foot shot that landed short of the hoop. But when the Orangemen's bullish 6'8" forward Andre Hawkins and Adams collided, referee Dick Paparo called a blocking foul on Hawkins. Adams hit both ends of a one-and-one with :01 left, and B.C. was a winner 67-66.
Before North Carolina State's 82-78 overtime upset of SMU in Raleigh, N.C., Wolfpack center Cozell McQueen went to the movies. What he saw was The Adventures of King Konc, starring Mustang center Jon Koncak. "I noticed that Koncak likes to post low and come at you with his shot," said McQueen of his viewing of scouting footage. "But I kept stepping in front of him, and when he'd take a shot he was always fading away." Indeed, Koncak positively disappeared in the game, getting just five points on one-of-nine shooting, and three rebounds against McQueen. "I mean, man, I intimidated the man, that's all there was to it," said McQueen.
Duke whipped Maryland 70-62 to prevent Terrapin coach Lefty Driesell, a Blue Devil alumnus (class of '54) from getting his 500th career victory. In the game's waning moments the fans in Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium chanted, "Four-ninety-nine! Four-ninety-nine!"
Last season, USC went 11-20 and finished eighth in the Pacific-10. Though the Trojans suffered a bewildering series of injuries—"At times I felt I was coaching General Hospital" says coach Stan Morrison—it was clear that improvement was needed. "The future didn't look auspicious," says senior forward Ron Holmes, "so we went to work." Holmes and his teammates undertook an off-season program of weight training and pickup games. Their efforts have paid off. USC last week rolled to road wins over Oregon State (60-58), Washington (61-50) and Washington State (64-58), and with a 9-2 Pac-10 record at week's end, held first place for the first time since 1978-79.
Things are going less smoothly for preseason favorites Oregon State and Washington. Though the Beavers bounced back from the USC loss to beat archrival Oregon 53-51, Oregon coach Ralph Miller still can't get his team to play consistent defense. The most frustrated team of all is Washington, still two games behind the Trojans despite its 67-61 win on Saturday over UCLA. Senior forward Detlef Schrempf, the Pac-10's best player, is regularly double-and triple-teamed and is taking a physical beating. And when junior guard Gary Gardner flunked out of school on Jan. 5, Schrempf inherited the ball-handling duties against pressure defenses. Without a competent guard who would free Schrempf to exploit his marvelous open-court skills, the Huskies are likely to continue to struggle.
Entering its PCAA game at Fresno State, Nevada-Las Vegas had won 17 straight, the longest major-college winning streak in the nation, and Jerry Tarkanian was one career win shy of 400. But after Fresno State beat UNLV 63-52 in Selland Arena, a.k.a. (coach Boyd) Grant's Tomb, the streak was ended and Tark was still at 399.
When some Notre Dame fans pelted the floor of the Athletic and Convocation Center with oranges before the Irish's game with Syracuse, Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps grabbed the P.A. microphone and snapped, "Let's get something straight right now. You show class the rest of the game or they hit us with two technicals, and that will be that." Orange coach Jim Boeheim, who had made a similar appeal to his own rowdy crowd on Jan. 28 during a game against Georgetown, was unruffled by the incident. "As long as they don't hit me, I don't mind," he said. "They were bad shots, anyway. If they could shoot, they'd be playing." Actually, no one could hit anything in Syracuse's 65-62 victory. The Orange made only 42.9% of its shots, while Notre Dame converted a mere 42.3%.
Michigan guard Antoine (The Judge) Joubert was perplexed when visiting Illinois guard Bruce Douglas didn't give him the customary pre-tipoff handshake. "I don't know what he was trying to prove," said Joubert. "He just gave a little wave and moved on. Then he started a lot of talk like, 'Too bad we're going to have to beat you on your home court today.' Totally unnecessary stuff like that." Not to mention inaccurate. The Wolverines' 57-45 victory gave them a half-game lead over Iowa in the Big Ten race.
After Tulsa beat Illinois State 79-69 in overtime on Jan. 17, Golden Hurricane forward Herbert Johnson likened his team to a thoroughbred and the Redbirds to a mule "that was ready for the glue factory." But following last week's rematch, Illinois State guard Michael McKenny said, "The shoe's on the other foot." In the first meeting McKenny missed a driving 10-footer in regulation that would have given Illinois State the victory. In the second go-round he made a 12-foot jumper with five seconds to play in OT to give the Redbirds a 73-72 win. Illinois State has now played six overtime games this season and has won five.
DePaul lost its second game to Dayton in 11 days, a 67-63 defeat that snapped the Blue Demons' 36-game winning streak at the Rosemont Horizon. Suddenly, a victory in last Saturday's game with Pepperdine became essential for DePaul. "We have to start making an impact now," said Blue Demon coach Joey Meyer. "Otherwise we'll never make the NCAA playoffs." DePaul made that impact in a hurry by routing the Waves 90-65.
Kansas forward Ron Kellogg was dazzling in the Jayhawks' 75-71 defeat of Memphis State in Allen Fieldhouse. Still, coach Larry Brown found room for a good-natured dig. Special K scored 34 points, 22 of them in the second half, but Brown, a stickler for good shot selection, chided Kellogg for "taking a shot [an 18-foot jumper] in the last 50 seconds we didn't want him to take." Brown added, "He's a good kid, but he's got to understand how we want him to work."
Last Friday when Auburn coach Sonny Smith announced his resignation, effective at the end of the year, he cited a "failure to achieve goals I'd set for myself." That failure included 23 losses in 30 games against rivals Alabama and Kentucky, and the disappointing turnouts for the home games in 13,000-seat Memorial Coliseum. "I looked up during the Alabama game [a 60-55 loss on Jan. 16 that drew 9,000 fans], saw all those empty seats," Smith said, "and got sick. And I looked up at the Kentucky game [a 49-47 loss on Feb. 2], saw 8,000 people...and I got sick again."
Last year under Smith, Auburn got its first NCAA tournament bid and only the second 20-victory season in its history. Smith said he was quitting because he has an opportunity in the oil business that is "too good to pass up." He also said that his health wasn't a factor, though he had passed out during the LSU game on Jan. 26 because he has had trouble eating and sleeping. According to a source at Auburn, the real reason Smith resigned was his fear that Auburn's board of trustees wouldn't renew his three-year revolving contract when it came up for review March 1. Henry B. Steagall II, the board's president pro tempore and chief advisor to Alabama Governor George Wallace, is said to disapprove of Smith's good-ol'-boy flamboyance and up-tempo court strategy. Steagall opposed the board's decision when it gave Smith his three-year contract. At any rate, Smith indicated to SI that he doesn't plan to remain an oil mogul for long. "Most people think I'll surface as a basketball coach somewhere," he said.
Marshall guard Bruce Morris may have earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. With three seconds left before halftime of the Thundering Herd's 93-82 victory over Appalachian State, Morris grabbed a loose ball near the Mountaineers' hoop and whirled and hurled a line-drive shot from an estimated 92' 5¼". It swished, sending the crowd of 8,223 at Marshall's Henderson Center into a frenzy. If that distance is accepted by Guinness, Morris's heave will surpass the old mark of 89'3" set by Les Henson of Virginia Tech in a game against Florida State on Jan. 21,1980.
Guinness should make room for Ohio Northern's Annette Alverson, a junior reserve guard who sank a 72'6" shot against Northern Kentucky on Jan. 11. Continental Basketball Association commissioner Jim Drucker, the self-proclaimed authority on the basketball equivalent of ICBMs, announced last week that the Alverson launch, which sent the game into overtime (Ohio Northern eventually lost 74-73), was the longest ever by a woman player.
PETER READ MILLER
Schrempf split typical multiple coverage to score 14 in Washington's win over UCLA.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
ROY TARPLEY: Michigan's 6'11" junior center scored 48 points, converted 17 of 24 shots from the field and 14 of 19 free throws, and had 18 rebounds in Big Ten victories over Purdue and Illinois.