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It appeared to be all over for Ohio State in the Big Ten race, though the Bucks beat Illinois 67-64 in their last game. Iowa had trounced Minnesota 91-72 to hold half a game lead, and all the Hawks had to do was beat seventh-place Michigan Saturday at home and they were in. But OSU Coach Fred Taylor, speaking at the school's annual Appreciation Dinner, remembered that four years earlier, in similar circumstances, the Bucks had backed into a tie when Purdue upset Michigan. "I sent Coach Ray Eddy a varsity 'O' for that one," recalled Taylor. "I'll send one to Dave Strack, too, if he can win." So Strack's Michigan team surprised Iowa 71-70 to give Ohio State a tie for the title and force a playoff Tuesday at neutral Purdue for a place in the NCAA Mideast Regionals. Presumably, Strack will get his "O."
Kansas State earned the Big Eight championship the hard way. Even after his Wildcats edged Iowa State 63-61 on Gene Williams' tip-in with two seconds to go to clinch a tie, Coach Tex Winter worried. "We're feeling the pressure," he said. "We can't go out there and play with abandon." He was right. Against Oklahoma State, K-State hit just two of its first 18 shots and had to stall out the last 2:20 to win 49-47. Runner-up Kansas, an NIT selection, finished strong. The Jayhawks took Oklahoma 85-80 in overtime and Iowa State 91-58.
Louisville's last game was a cakewalk. The Cards battered Bellarmine 107-58 as Westley Unseld scored 30 points. After the game, a 220-pound, 14-tier (one for each Missouri Valley win) cake was hauled out in Freedom Hall and 12,535 fans feasted.
Historical note: Houston, with Elvin Hayes scoring 39 points and grabbing 21 rebounds, murdered West Texas State 107-76 to complete its first unbeaten season. "I'm glad it's all over," sighed Coach Guy Lewis.
So was Texas at El Paso's Don Haskins, but for another reason. His undersized UTEPs muddled through their ninth loss, 67-51 to Seattle, and then Haskins told his players to have some fun and keep it "loosey-goosey" against Arizona State. Nate Archibald, a skinny little sophomore guard, got 22 points and the Miners ended a disappointing 14-9 season with an 85-81 win. "I'm leaving in the morning to comb the junior colleges for good, big boys," promised Haskins. "We're goin' after 'em."