THE OTHER FINAL TWO
By the time No. 4-ranked Duke and No. 1 Michigan (page 14) tipped off their part of last Saturday's December Final Four, No. 3 Kansas and No. 2 Indiana had already played their game at the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis. SI's William F Reed was there and filed this report.
Kansas has had a tough time getting the taste of last season's upset loss to Texas-El Paso in the second round of the NCAA tournament out of its mouth. "I still keep a bottle of Mylanta tablets on the night table next to my bed," says Jayhawk coach Roy Williams. But Kansas's 74-69 victory over Indiana last Saturday should go a long way toward bolstering the Jayhawks' self-esteem.
Fortunately for Kansas, Jayhawk guard Rex Walters has never had a problem with confidence. Although he was mired in a shooting slump, Walters had the moxie to take and make the jumper from the lane with 26 seconds left in the game that sealed the win for Kansas. "I'm going to take it if I'm 1 for 10 or 1 for 100," Walters says. "Coach Williams once told me I'd have to miss 100 in a row before he'd lose confidence in me. I hope it doesn't get to that point."
"Me, too," added Williams.
Over the summer Walters, normally a fine outside shooter, studied videotapes made by former Philadelphia 76er shooting instructor Buzz Braman. However, in the Jayhawks' 75-66 win over Georgia on Dec. 1, Walters hit only two of seven. After the game he went back onto the court at Allen Fieldhouse and practiced shooting until midnight. This didn't seem to help much either. He missed nine of 14 shots against the Hoosiers before landing the winning jumper. And that shot was no masterpiece; it hit the heel of the rim, bounced straight up and fell through. Shooter's roll.
The Jayhawks won with a lot of help from 5'11" point guard Adonis Jordan, who scored 16 points, including all six of his free throws. After the game Williams draped an arm around Jordan's shoulders and said, "Adonis, you played your best game ever at Kansas. Running the team, hitting the open shot, overall savvy, making the big free throws and making no turnovers against that great defense. That's truly something."
The Jayhawks won with very little help from forward Darrin Hancock, the junior college transfer who has been drawing raves. Hancock contributed three points and three rebounds, coming out the loser in a matchup with Indiana star Calbert Cheaney, who leaned over him for a three-pointer in the opening moments. "Darrin was shell-shocked," Williams says. "He's never had anyone jump up in his face and knock down one like that."
Sounds like a little confidence problem. Better have him talk to Rex Walters.
The back-and-forth pattern of the Stanford and Tennessee women's teams is starting to get downright spooky. The two have alternated winning the national championship the past four seasons, and each time the team that won their regular-season matchups went on to win the title.
Because No. 1-ranked Stanford is the defending national champ, it's the second-ranked Lady Vols' turn to have the upper hand, if form holds. And sure enough, even with three key players unable to play, Tennessee eked out a 74-73 overtime victory over the Cardinal in the finals of the Wahine Classic in Honolulu on Sunday. Might as well hang up the uniforms, folks. The die is cast.
Of course, Stanford is not ready to hand over the crown, and the Cardinal will have another chance to break the pattern when the teams meet again on Dec. 21 in Knoxville; but circumstances will probably not favor the Cardinal as they did in Honolulu. All-America candidate Peggy Evans, the Lady Vols' leading scorer last season, sat out the tournament for committing an unspecified violation, of team rules. Senior point guard Jody Adams and highly regarded freshman Michelle Johnson were both out with knee injuries.
Tennessee won largely because 6'6" center Vonda Ward and 6-foot forward Lisa Harrison dominated the boards and because Stanford displayed a one-note offense. Center Val Whiting scored 31 points, including eight of the Cardinal's nine in OT, but no other Stanford player had more than 12. "Our plan was pretty obvious," Cardinal coach Tara VanDerveer said. "Go to Val, go to Val, go to Val. We're more than that, but we didn't show it."
One other item of note: Last year, when Stanford was on its way to the championship, the Cardinal beat the Lady Vols early in the season. By one point. In overtime. Spooky.
THE NEW KIDS
The early departure, via the NBA draft, of such top underclassmen as Shaquille O'Neal, Jim Jackson and Harold Miner, coupled with this season's relatively weak senior class, left a talent vacuum in college basketball; but early indications are that newcomers like 6'4" freshman guard Jason Kidd of California and 6'8" Purdue forward Glenn Robinson, a Prop 42 sophomore, will fill that void in a hurry.
In his first two games, easy victories over Sacramento State and Oklahoma State, Kidd averaged 12 points, 8.5 assists, 4.5 steals and 4.5 turnovers. Kidd's most spectacular talent is his ability to deliver no-look passes, so expect his assists to increase and his turnovers to decrease as his teammates learn to keep an eye out for the ball. "There are not many people who can pass like him, even as seniors or as pros," says Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton.
Kidd's greatest feat may have been getting the attention of the San Francisco Bay Area, which is usually blasè about college hoops. Cal moved its opener from tiny Harmon Arena in Berkeley (capacity 6,578) to the Oakland Coliseum Arena in anticipation of the larger crowd Kidd would draw. Smart move. The 12,700 who showed up weren't there to check out Sac State.
But it seems that Kidd is finding all the attention overwhelming. A week before the opener Cal announced that at the request of Kidd and his parents, he would be off-limits to reporters except for postgame interviews.
Robinson's quiet time came last season. He declined all interview requests while he sat out the basketball season. "I figured I wasn't playing," he says, "so what was there to talk about?" Now everyone is talking about him. After three games Robinson has two MVP trophies—from the Tip-Off Classic and the Boilermaker Invitational tournament—and he is averaging 26.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He shows no rust from the layoff, which may be attributable to the fact that he spent the summer honing his talents in the Malcolm X Summer League in Chicago. "I've played with guys like [NBA players] Tim Hardaway and Kevin Duckworth," he says. "There's no fooling anybody out there. You find out quickly if you can play."
Robinson can play. He scored 25 points in a victory over Weber State last Saturday despite missing the previous two days of practice because of a sore back—which he hurt while bending over to tie his shoelaces. Perhaps from now on the 3-0 Boilermakers will find someone to do that for him.
Western Michigan coach Bob Donewald is undoubtedly the only coach in the country who had to take a course in terrorist recognition before he could hold his first practice. Because of renovations to their home court, Read Fieldhouse, the Broncos practiced in a hangar at Kalamazoo/Battle Creek International Airport, where workers are required to take the course. Says John Pigatti, one of Donewald's assistants, "It was just to familiarize us with procedures if we saw anyone suspicious." ...Congratulations to Prairie View, which broke a 30-game losing streak Saturday with a 90-76 win over Arkansas Baptist. Mount St. Mary's of Emmitsburg, Md., may be the Panthers' successors in futility. The Mountaineers committed seven fouls before they scored their first point in an 87-71 loss to American University, their 21st straight road defeat. Last Saturday they lost again, 65-60 at Penn State. Coach Jim Phelan needs just seven wins to become the eighth coach in NCAA history to reach 700, but it could take a while.
Greg Ostertag showed Matt Nover (24) that Kansas was not short on confidence.
A 19-year-old Kidd has already stirred new excitement at Cal.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Baylor center Alex Holcombe, a 6'9" senior, scored 50 points, making 17 of 21 field goal attempts, and grabbed 14 rebounds in a 104-87 win over Valparaiso and a 94-93 defeat of UNC Charlotte.
Julie Powell, a 5'11" junior guard at Vanderbilt, averaged 19.7 points and had 10 steals as the Commodores beat Arizona 73-63, Southwest Missouri State 72-59 and Oregon 72-68.
Sophomore Kenny Walls, a 6'5" center at Pittsburgh's Point Park College of the NAIA, had 93 points and 31 rebounds to lead his team to wins over Edinboro, Dyke College and Pittsburgh-Bradford.