St. John's Coach Joe Lapchick was sure that his team could beat Villanova—even after the Wildcats had whomped Duquesne 82-63 in Philadelphia. But for a few nervous minutes Lapchick fretted and fumed on the bench in New York's Madison Square Garden. Villanova's zone defense surrounded 6-foot-10 LeRoy Ellis in the pivot; Hubie White, a sinewy 6-foot-4 jumping jack, flipped in seven points and the visitors led 14-6. Then Lapchick put in Willie Hall to play White, and his disposition improved. Hall took care of White on defense, Kevin Loughery spread the Cats with jumpers from the sides, and Ellis, with more room to maneuver, began to rebound and hit with tap-ins and short hooks. When it was all over, Ellis had 32 points and 20 rebounds, the ubiquitous Hall had limited White to only 12 more points and St. John's had won 79-66. Two nights later the Redmen let down a bit, but still managed to beat stubborn Niagara 67-66 in double overtime.
NYU's rough spots were still showing against smaller Temple but playmaker Mark Reiner developed a hot hand and bailed out the somewhat wilted Violets. Reiner tossed in a dozen points, mostly from far out, in the last 6� minutes to force a 67-67 tie, added eight more in overtime to finish with 35, and NYU won 78-73. The Violets were smoother against Army and beat the Cadets 69-61.
With tournament time near. Providence, Holy Cross and Navy were straining to make the selectors sit up and take notice. The Friars, with big Jim Hadnot operating from a single post, spurted past Le Moyne ( N.Y.) 53-46, Boston College 70-68 and Assumption 56-42. They have now won 10 in a row. Holy Cross trounced Seton Hall 111-84 as Jack Foley outshot Nick Werkman 38 points to 26, then beat Syracuse 76-67. Navy whipped Pennsylvania Military College 76-40 and then William & Mary 71-59 for its seventh straight. Yale and Cornell were still running neck and neck in the Ivy League. Yale beat Harvard 77-68 and Dartmouth 85-72; Cornell edged Princeton 45-43 and Penn 60-50. The top three:
1. ST. JOHN'S (15-4)
2. VILLANOVA (16-5)
3. DUQUESNE (16-3)
Duke found it couldn't get along without Art Heyman and suddenly the Atlantic Coast race was alive again. Wake Forest and North Carolina State were closing in on the apprehensive Blue Devils. While Heyman nursed a sprained ankle, N.C. State harassed the other Dukes with a tenacious defense, hit 11 of its first 17 shots, and sent the league leaders tumbling 71-55. Heyman recovered and, significantly, so did Duke. Heyman scored 25 points and the Blue Devils trounced Virginia 101-75.
Meanwhile, Wake Forest, making the most of Len Chappell's usual stretch push, beat fading North Carolina 87-80. The Tar Heels couldn't get around Chappell in the corner of the Deacons' 1-3-1 zone and they couldn't stop the big fellow from pushing in 36 points and snaring 14 rebounds. Marveled Carolina Coach Dean Smith: "When he gets underneath, he just goes home. Nobody can stop him."
Although Mississippi State was still winning in the SEC, Coach Babe McCarthy was plainly worried about the future. His Bulldogs got by Tulane 70-59 and Tennessee 91-67 but they had to face Kentucky Monday in Lexington, where they hadn't beaten the Wildcats in 60 years. It didn't help McCarthy's peace of mind, either, when Adolph Rupp turned his Wildcats loose in a fast break and they ran over Mississippi 83-60 for their 16th straight (see page 52).
It was all over in the Southern Conference. West Virginia turned back George Washington 87-62 to clinch the regular-season title, but the Mountaineers will have to do it all over again in the conference tournament at Richmond March 1-3 to earn an NCAA invitation. Western Kentucky's Ed Diddle got a hand from son Ed Jr., whose Middle Tennessee team upset Morehead 72-69 to help keep his pappy's Hilltoppers in the Ohio Valley lead. Independent Louisville thought it had a big one in the bag, but Bradley's Chet Walker, who had already shot in 38 points, put in a rebound in the last second and the Cardinals lost 80-79 before 17,347 at Freedom Hall. The top three: