The word for the week was oops! Seven of the nation's top 10 teams lost, including the only two unbeaten ones, Cincinnati and Loyola. It was enough to send NCAA and NIT officials, ready to issue invitations to the lush postseason tournaments, back to their worksheets.
All season long Wichita had been waiting to get Cincinnati into its Roundhouse. The last time Cincinnati was there they lost by one point. Now they had won 37 straight and, when Wichita's Ralph Miller bravely predicted, "We have the balance and manpower to beat them," he wasn't taken too seriously. After all, Cincy had beaten the Shockers 63-50 earlier in the season. With 3:30 to play, Cincinnati held a six-point lead despite 39 points by Wichita's Dave Stallworth. Usually such a lead is more than enough for the Bearcats, but this time it wasn't. Tom Thacker fouled out, and Tony Yates and Ron Bonham each had four fouls. Perhaps because they tried to be careful, Cincy's impeccable defense came apart. Seven straight points by Stallworth put Wichita ahead 65-64 and down went the Bearcats, winning streak and all.
Loyola showed signs of being in trouble earlier in the week, barely beating Marquette 92-90 on Jerry Harkness' two baskets in overtime. Admit it or not, and Loyola Coach George Ireland was trying not to, the Ramblers were hurt when scholastic deficiencies cost them their two strongest substitutes. What's more, Bowling Green had at last recovered from a disheartening string of injuries. The Falcons clamped down on Loyola's fast break with a withering full-court press. Howie Komives shot over the Ramblers for 32 points, 6-foot-11 Nate Thurmond controlled both boards and scored 24 and Bowling Green won 92-75.
Illinois, too, got caught up in the week of upsets, and suddenly the Big Ten had a race again. First Wisconsin slowed down the Illini with a zone and beat them 84-77. Indiana was less meticulous in its approach. The Hoosiers, paying hardly any attention at all to Dave Downey, who scored 53 points, outran and outshot Illinois to win 103-100. All of which put Ohio State, a 75-68 winner over Michigan, in a first-place tie with the Illini. Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa were close behind.
Colorado, surprised by Iowa State 73-60, had company at the top of the Big Eight. Oklahoma State moved up to share the lead with the Bulls after beating Kansas 54-53 and Nebraska 51-41. But Kansas State and Iowa State were close enough to make it a four-team race. The top three:
1. CINCINNATI (19-1)
2. LOYOLA OF CHICAGO (21-1)
3. OHIO STATE (15-3)
Nothing pleases Mississippi State's Babe McCarthy more than to beat Kentucky's Adolph Rupp in Starksville. Last week he enjoyed every minute of a 56-52 victory over the Wildcats. But, just when McCarthy thought his Maroons had another Southeastern Conference title cinched, they stumbled over Florida at Gainesville. The Gators matched State's ball-control game with one of their own, made their foul shots (39 for 45) when the Maroons became too eager and upset them 73-52. Auburn, running instead of shuffling, defeated Florida 88-59 and LSU 82-57 to tie State for the SEC lead, and Georgia Tech, a 78-73 loser to independent Louisville, was only a game behind.
West Virginia, without Rod Thorn (ailing with the flu), wasn't quite up to holding off Pitt, even at Morgantown. The Panthers beat the Mountaineers 69-68 on Paul Krieger's two foul shots with 12 seconds to go.