When forward Kenny Walker considers Kentucky's 26-3 record and its Cakewalk to the SEC regular-season title, it all seems unreal. "If you'd told me we would go 17-1 in the league, I'd have said, 'Wake up, you're dreaming,' " said Walker, who capped a dream senior season with 32 points in the Cats' 62-60 victory at Tennessee—and 17 more in a 68-57 win over LSU in Rupp Arena.
As Walker left the LSU game with 30 seconds to go, Tiger coach Dale Brown showed his appreciation. Brown strode across the midcourt line, then clasped the Kentucky forward's hand. Walker began to cry as Brown whispered in his ear. "He said he'd never done that for [an opposing] senior in his entire coaching career," said Walker later, "but that this was something special."
"Kenny's a special athlete—a perpetual motion machine," said Brown. "There's not a player in the country that hustles like he does. I don't know if NCAA rules allow it, but it'd be nice to give Kenny Walker a graduation gift."
Louisville won its seventh Metro Conference title and earned a first-round bye in this week's conference tournament in Louisville by edging Memphis State 70-69 in Freedom Hall. The Cards' Milt Wagner sank the winning points, a pair of free throws, with one second left.
After Duke's 82-74 win over slumping North Carolina in Durham, N.C. gave the Blue Devils their first outright regular-season ACC title in 20 years, coach Mike Krzyzewski refused to discuss this week's ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C. "For four damn years we've been working [for the championship]," said Coach K. "I'll talk about the regular season, and about today." He likened Blue Devils sixth man David Henderson's 11-point outburst during a 14-4 run late in the game to "replaying a pleasant dream." Henderson's spree countered an eight-point run by North Carolina center Brad Daugherty that left the Tar Heels only two points down, 64-62, with seven minutes left. Late in the game, the crowd at Cameron Indoor Stadium taunted the Tar Heel bench with the chant, "First place, third place." Carolina hadn't finished lower than second in the ACC since 1966—Duke's last title year.
A pair of ACC wins over N.C. State (69-57) and Clemson (74-63) enabled Georgia Tech to finish second in the conference standings. But the Yellow Jackets may have blown their chance for a No. 1 seed in one of the NCAA tournament regions with a 59-57 loss to Illinois in the Omni on Saturday. Up 45-35 with 11:21 to play, Tech seemed to have the game in hand. But the Illini came back to take the lead on an Efrem Winters jumper with 31 seconds left. Georgia Tech then missed four chances to tie the score—three of them by Bruce Dalrymple. "We took things for granted," said Tech coach Bobby Cremins, "and we got burned."
The good news for St. John's fans was that the Runnin' Redmen's 86-79 win over Syracuse in Madison Square Garden virtually clinched the top seed in this week's Big East tournament in New York City. But the best news came three nights later when St. John's closed out the regular season with an 82-70 win over Seton Hall. Junior center Walter Berry's numbers against the Pirates—31 points, 12 rebounds—weren't surprising, but his pregame announcement was. He said he would bypass the May 3 NBA draft and return to St. John's for his senior year. With 6,008 fans in Alumni Hall chanting, "One more year, one more year," Berry topped Chris Mullin's single-season school scoring mark of 694, set in 1984-85.
Kansas ruined one home-court winning streak but extended its own. The Jayhawks, led by Danny Manning's 25 points, whipped Oklahoma 87-80 in Norman after the Sooners had won a Big Eight-record 48 straight games on their home floor. "We had one of the great all-time crowds here for this game," said OU coach Billy Tubbs of the overflow turnout of 11,371. "We're sorry we let the fans down." The Sooners simply had no solution for the 6'11" Manning, who scored 20 of his points in the second half to help KU pull away. On the rare occasion that Manning was blanketed, he simply kicked the ball out to forward Ron Kellogg (18 points) for a perimeter swish. "They get you one way or the other," said Tubbs. Oklahoma began a new winning streak by easing past N.C. State 72-69.
Back in Lawrence, Kansas blasted Iowa State 90-70 for its 33rd straight victory in Allen Field House, which tied the school record for consecutive home triumphs established from 1950-51 to '54-55. Since it was the final appearance in Allen for Jayhawk seniors Kellogg, Greg Dreiling and Calvin Thompson, the trio decided to make the game a gala occasion. They arrived at the arena dressed in tuxedos, and after the victory headed for a lavish dinner. "We wanted to go out in style," said Kellogg.
Michigan coach Bill Frieder says the Wolverines need a rest, but he would have a hard time convincing Wisconsin and Northwestern of that. Michigan traveled west and clobbered those teams, 97-74 and 86-64, respectively, to remain tied for first place in the Big Ten with Indiana, which knocked off Minnesota 95-63 and Iowa 80-73 in Bloomington. Michigan State remained a game behind by whipping Northwestern 82-48 and Wisconsin 84-71. In Notre Dame's 70-59 victory over DePaul, junior forward Donald Royal set an Irish record by hitting 16 of 16 from the foul line, along with a career-high 26 points and 13 rebounds. In Notre Dame's 74-66 win over Marquette, sophomore David Rivers sank seven of eight free throws in the final minute to ice the game.
Washington coach Andy Russo wishes that the Pac-10 would inaugurate its postseason tournament this year instead of next, so he could get another shot at conference-leader Arizona. But Washington pivotman Christian Welp has had enough. After the Wildcats pounded the second-place Huskies 77-56 in Tucson on Thursday to sweep the season series, Welp said, "They beat us twice. What's the use of playing them again? They proved that they're the best team."
Washington State was not convinced of that. Indeed, Arizona escaped with a 62-61 victory on Saturday only because the Cougars' Chris Winkler missed an open 15-foot jumper with three seconds left. "A loss would have undone everything we'd accomplished on Thursday," said Arizona guard Steve Kerr.
With only 15 seconds to play in UCLA's game with DePaul and the score tied 63-63, the 7,235 fans in Pauley Pavilion knew what time it was—Miller time, of course. Reggie Miller, the 6'7" junior with ICBM range, hit an 18-foot jumper to give the Bruins a 65-63 win over the Blue Demons and keep his team's faint NCAA hopes alive. UCLA has a 14-11 record—8-7 in the Pac-10—with three league games left. "I'm not sure how deep the NCAA will go," said Bruin coach Walt Hazzard, "but the Pac-10 deserves to send more than two teams." Does it?
After UC-Irvine outgunned visiting UNLV for the second time in 12 days, 95-88, Anteater forward Tod Murphy got a present from a frustrated Runnin' Rebel fan—a red and gray UNLV cap. "He said he didn't need it anymore," said Murphy, who scored 27 points against the Rebels. His frontcourt mate, 6'10" Johnny Rogers, was hotter still. Rogers, who lit up UNLV with 41 points in UCI's 99-92 win at Las Vegas on Feb. 15, tossed in 32 last week.
Notre Dame keeps rolling, thanks to old man Rivers.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
DELL CURRY: Virginia Tech's 6'5" senior guard scored 74 points, sinking 31 of 43 attempts from the field, and had 15 rebounds and 10 steals in the Hokies' victories over Cincinnati and Florida State.