With the holiday jousting over, most of the nation's major-college teams settled down to the serious business of battling for conference titles. But some of the favorites were still having their troubles. After little more than a month of play only three teams—Ohio State, Mississippi State and Eastern Kentucky—were still unbeaten.
Villanova's Jack Kraft, the high school coach who succeeded retired Al Severance, was just as puzzled as anyone. His Wildcats, even with a superb jump-shooter in Hubie White, hardly figured to make much of an impression this year. But Kraft concentrated on teaching defense, sophomore Guards Wally Jones and George Leftwich perked up a fitful attack and Villanova won its first 11 games. The Wildcats easily pushed aside Seton Hall 99-67 for No. 12, but then the bubble burst at Morgantown, W. Va., where visiting teams almost never win. West Virginia's fast break and Rod Thorn's long set shots (for 29 points) scattered the Wildcat zone defense and the Mountaineers won 88-82.
All in all, though, it was a gratifying week for Philadelphia teams. Temple's silky-smooth little men refused to panic when they trailed St. John's by seven points. While 6-foot-4 Russ Gordon harassed 6-foot-10 LeRoy Ellis, the hustling Owls pecked away until they had a 46-45 lead with 5:11 to go. Then, Playmaker Bruce Drysdale plunked in six straight points for a 52-51 victory. St. Joseph's rallied in the last six minutes to beat NYU 59-55 and La Salle gave Manhattan's city slickers a lesson in ball-handling and whipped them 76-69.
Duquesne, too, was making a bid for national prominence. The Dukes turned little Willie Somerset loose for 29 points against St. Bonaventure and trounced the Bonnies 73-52. Jack Foley's shooting carried Holy Cross past Dartmouth 80-48 and Connecticut 79-70; Penn defeated Princeton 64-56 in an Ivy League opener. The top three:
1. VILLANOVA (12-1)
2. DUQUESNE (9-1)
3. TEMPLE (9-1)
It was beginning to look like a Kentucky year in the SEC. Georgia Tech's pressing defense gave the Wildcats some fretful moments, but only until brilliant sophomore Cotton Nash found the range. Nash poured in 35 points and Kentucky won easily, 89-70 Meanwhile, Mississippi State barely made it past Auburn. Mesmerized by the Tigers' interminable shuffling, State finally pulled out a 51-48 victory on Doug Hutton's fall-away shot with six seconds to play.
N. C. State, after 25 days of idleness, wasted little more time throwing the ACC into utter confusion. Attacking and defending diligently, the Wolfpack upset Duke 61-60 when John Punger lofted in a 15-foot jumper with four seconds left. The result left North Carolina, a 99-80 winner over independent Notre Dame, in first place. The top three:
1. KENTUCKY (10-1)
2. MISSISSIPPI STATE (10-0)
3. DUKE (9-2)