Coach Babe McCarthy, a mere neophyte in the hostile SEC jungle, had one trick more up his sleeve than Kentucky's effusive Adolph Rupp and played it right (see page 50) as once-beaten Mississippi State tamed the Wildcats 66-58 at Starkville to take second place behind Auburn. State's zone kept Kentucky outside and brilliant Bailey Howell skillfully eluded Wildcat defenders to put up 27 points and snare 17 rebounds. Five nights later the talented Howell scored 43 points to help the Maroons humble Florida 105-68 at Gainesville, and even the partisan Gator fans were moved to give him a rousing ovation. Kentucky found solace in Chicago, where it bounced back to beat Notre Dame 71-52.
While all the shooting was going on in Starkville, unbeaten Auburn was doing plenty of its own at home. The Tigers toyed with Florida 93-71 and shifted from its usual shuffle to a fast break to whomp confused LSU 115-67 and run their undefeated string to 29. But Auburn was not yet out of the woods. The sharpshooting Tigers, only a smidgen ahead of Mississippi State in the SEC standings, still had to prove that they, too, could bell the Cats when they face Kentucky at Lexington next Saturday.
North Carolina State picked up ground in the ACC, suppressing Duke 80-72 and beating Maryland 53-37, but the Wolfpack gained little comfort from North Carolina's activities. The Tar Heels parlayed a magnificent second-half defensive effort by Sophomore Doug Moe, who cooled off Wake Forest's George Ritchie, into a 75-66 victory over the Deacons at Winston-Salem after flaring tempers blossomed into a small-scale riot. Then, North Carolina moved on to Chicago to trim Loyola 76-57.
West Virginia, upset by NYU in New York (see EAST), returned to the usually homier confines of the Southern Conference but found Richmond in no mood to be taken and barely squeezed by the Spiders 64-62 for its 45th consecutive league triumph. Earlier Virginia Tech bombed Richmond 104-66 to tighten its grip on second place as sparkling Sophomore Bob Ayersman scored 47 points.
Perhaps the week's most responsive player was Davis and Elkins' Paul Wilcox. Finding his small-college scoring lead threatened, Wilcox took matters into his own capable hands and piled up 70 points to hoist his total for 18 games to 632 and his average to 35.1, as his team clubbed Glenville 116-90.
NYU, suddenly getting NIT fever, lured unsuspecting West Virginia into Madison Square Garden and proceeded to teach the mountain boys the facts of life in the big city. With Cal Ramsey, a Violet who never quite bloomed before, rebounding and scoring (30 points) like a pro, NYU's great outside shooting and board control beat the West Virginia zone press and forced the game into overtime, where the New Yorkers won it 72-70. Army, beaten by Notre Dame 76-60 in the Irish's first visit to West Point since 1931, also fell before rejuvenated NYU 80-66.
Villanova and St. John's, the first two teams to accept NIT bids, enjoyed mixed success. Villanova moved safely past St. Francis (Pa.) 80-69 and Canisius 57-48, but St. John's bowed to neighboring Fordham 79-77 in overtime. St. Bonaventure slipped past St. Francis (Pa.) 72-68 to avenge its only loss and whipped Detroit 85-64; St. Joseph's defeated Penn 80-77 and Wake Forest 76-67; Manhattan outscored Syracuse 71-53 and Canisius 76-67.
Dartmouth and Princeton, still unbeaten in the Ivy League, moved inexorably toward their showdown games Feb. 21 and 27. Fast-breaking Dartmouth ran Harvard into the boards to win 71-50 and fought off Yale 76-72; Princeton had no trouble beating Columbia 86-71 and Cornell 70-52. But Columbia made the biggest news. After 17 straight defeats, the Lions finally found their claws and upset Penn 87-77.