Nothing like it had ever happened before. Not even Adolph Rupp was prepared for the sudden disintegration of his Kentucky forces. Vanderbilt provided the first inkling that this year's Wildcats may be harmless tabbies. The Commodores clogged up the middle to snarl Kentucky's drives, moved sparingly ahead on Bill Depp's 17 points, then held on for a 64-62 victory. Next, LSU, which had succumbed meekly to Kentucky for 25 years, outmuscled the Wildcats on rebounds to win easily, 79-59. Moaned Rupp: "They whipped us so bad off the offensive boards that even I cried." Tulane was no more considerate of the Baron's bruised feelings. While Adolph fretted and fumed, Wayne Pearl and big Jack Ardon peppered the weary Kentucky defenders for 39 points and the Greenies won 72-70. It was the first time that Kentucky had lost three straight in the Southeastern Conference.
The Wildcats weren't the only ones suffering in the mixed up SEC. Vanderbilt, after 14 straight, lost for the first time. Mississippi State, with Jerry Graves scoring 29 points (21 of them from the free-throw line for a new conference record), whomped Vandy 74-65 to tie Florida, a 58-53 winner over Auburn, for first place. Georgia Tech edged past Georgia 89-80 in overtime but stumbled against Mississippi. The Rebels held Roger Kaiser to 10 points and upset the Jackets 69-67.
Virginia Tech, after beating Furman 77-72 and VMI 78-63, ran into trouble at Williamsburg. Burly Jeff Cohen out-scored (33-18) and outrebounded (20-14) the Gobblers' Chris Smith and William and Mary won 74-60. The Citadel, which earlier had edged William and Mary 64-63 in overtime, won another cliffhanger from Davidson, 74-73, moved up to share the Southern Conference lead with Tech and West Virginia.
Despite his difficulties with the NCAA (see page 5), North Carolina's Frank McGuire still found time to plan some special strategy for Wake Forest. He sent York Larese into the pivot, moved Doug Moe to backcourt and it paid off handsomely. Larese scored 26 points, Moe added 19 more, and the Tar Heels beat the Deacons 83-74. The same two players were just as hot against Virginia, and North Carolina won 92-70. But victories were coming harder for Duke. The Blue Devils had to rally twice to beat Virginia 92-90 in overtime and Maryland 70-62. Wake Forest, still hanging on in the Atlantic Coast fight, came back to defeat North Carolina State 76-66. The top three:
1. NORTH CAROLINA (10-2)
2. DUKE (13-1)
3. LOUISVILLE (13-1)
"It doesn't take any courage to throw the ball at the basket," insists defense-minded Tex Winter. But after his Kansas State team hit only 26% in the first half and trailed Oklahoma 22-21, Tex was looking for some sharp-eyed cowards. He eventually found them, and K-State went on to win 69-57. Meanwhile, sharp-shooting Kansas, led by big Bill Bridges and Wayne Hightower, slapped down Oklahoma State 73-68, Iowa State 90-59 and is eager to test Winter's theory when the two teams meet January 20.
There were no surprises in the Big Ten. While undefeated Ohio State ran away from Northwestern's slowdown to win 79-45, Iowa ambled past Wisconsin 76-68 and Michigan State 86-72; Indiana trounced the Spartans 79-55; Purdue, helped by Terry Dischinger's 29 points, outlasted Minnesota 65-54.
DePaul and Louisville, both unbeaten, met and DePaul won its 11th game, 78-70, as little Howie Carl dazzled the Cardinals outside and M. C. Thompson wrecked them inside. The top three: