Although many of the nation's college basketball players deserted the boards for the books and midyear exams, there were some who managed to keep the round ball bouncing. Auburn stretched its all-winning streak to 24 and Michigan State rose to the top of the Big Ten, but St. Bonaventure was among the less fortunate and found itself bumped from the unbeaten ranks.
While the Ivies contented themselves with a couple of nonleague skirmishes ( Dartmouth beat Springfield 70-68, and Cornell lost to Creighton 64-63), St. John's continued to enjoy its return to prominence in the East. The Redmen were never sharper than when they ran over St. Francis of Brooklyn 91-44, and the sharpest of all was Guard Gus Alfieri, a brawny, hard-driving 210-pounder who claims, "I only shoot when the other club gives me too much room." Alfieri found all the room he needed, took 10 shots from the field and made them all and added three for three from the foul line for the kind of night most players dream about but only a rare few achieve.
St. Francis of Loretto, Pa. caught St. Bonaventure away from home and used its rebounding skill to send the Bonnies skidding to their first defeat 92-81 after nine straight victories. Villanova beat Drexel 62-46, found Providence Sophomore John Egan, who scored 39 points, more than it could handle and finally bowed to the Friars 90-83 after four frantic overtime periods.
Kentucky sat out the week in the classrooms, but Auburn put its shuffling offense to the test twice and padded the nation's longest major-college winning streak with victories over Georgia Tech 65-55 and Georgia 81-61. SEC-hopeful Mississippi State, beaten only by Auburn, ventured out once and had little trouble downing Murray State 63-48 as Bailey Howell scored 35 points.
The ACC was idle, but VMI put another damper on Virginia Tech's Southern Conference hopes, upsetting the young challengers 81-78, while West Virginia barely edged Western Kentucky 74-72 in a nonleague game. Eastern Kentucky, Ohio Valley cellar-dweller last year, beat Tennessee Tech 81-75 and More-head State 86-67 to move into first place. Tennessee A&I, with 28 straight, and Belmont Abbey, with 12 in a row, were also clamoring for attention.
Illinois's Harry Combes, only Big Ten coach to resist the zone this season, came out four-square against this most aggravating of all defenses, but was candid enough to admit, "If I thought I could win by using it, I would."
Michigan State's Forddy Anderson couldn't care less; his Spartans picked apart Ohio State and Minnesota zones and rumbled to the top of the Big Ten Forddy's solution: he merely had Bob Anderegg shoot holes in the zone from outside while hustling Johnny Green cleaned up inside. The result: State beat Ohio State 92-77 and Minnesota 82-76. But Anderson, aware of Northwestern's 99-96 overtime win over Iowa and the challenge of Illinois and Michigan, was a realist: "We're ahead now, but this race is just getting started."