There was trouble among the Ivies. Cornell caught league-leading Penn with its defenses dragging and beat the Quakers 78-76. Princeton was treated even more rudely when it came to Ithaca after downing Columbia 86-63. Bill Bradley sank 21 free throws without a miss and 37 points in all against Cornell, but the Big Red stopped the other Tigers and won 73-67. The top three:
1. ST. JOSEPH'S (12-3)
2. NYU (9-2)
3. PITT (11-2)
Mississippi State's Babe McCarthy was a man who knew what he was talking about before his team played unbeaten Georgia Tech at Starksville. "Boys, there won't be any upset tonight," he told his squad. " Mississippi State is the best team, and Mississippi State is going to win." So it did, 81-69. W. D. Stroud, a quick-handed guard, and Leland Mitchell, a big rebounder, made McCarthy's prediction look good scoring State's first 22 points in the second half. By the time they stopped shooting they had a game total of 55 points, and the Bulldogs led the Southeastern Conference. Mississippi was State's next foe, and succumbed, 78-64. But Auburn, an 81-78 winner over Alabama (which earlier lost to Florida 69-67), was still hot after McCarthy's team.
Meanwhile life was becoming more difficult for Kentucky's Adolph Rupp. Here it was only January and already his Wildcats had five losses, four of them at Lexington, where they usually lose about once a decade. Tennessee nibbled away at a Kentucky 16-point lead until it got to a 63-63 tie and then beat the Wildcats 78-69 in overtime.
While Duke's players were busy with exams, they acquired some company in the Atlantic Coast race. Wake Forest drew even with the Blue Devils by beating Virginia 82-62, and North Carolina was only a game behind, sweeping past Maryland 78-56, North Carolina State 67-65 in overtime, and Virginia 86-81.
In the Southern Conference, however, there wasn't anybody about to catch up with West Virginia. After warming up with an 89-73 win over Penn State, the Mountaineers fiddled around fitfully against Virginia Tech's 2-3 zone but still held off the ambitious Gobblers 86-83. The top three:
1. DUKE (12-2)
2. WEST VIRGINIA (12-3)
3. MISSISSIPPI STATE (12-3)
Missouri Valley coaches had their attention focused on Bradley's gym at Peoria last week. They agreed that if Cincinnati couldn't be stopped there, where they hadn't won in five years, the chase was hopeless. Bradley tried hard, using a baseline zone and later a 2-3, but Cincy still won 52-46, its 32nd in a row. The Bearcats, paying strict attention to their own meticulous defense, put George Wilson on Bradley's Mack Herndon, who got only 12 points. Their disciplined offense was just as dedicated, Tom Thacker and Ron Bonham each scoring 18 points.