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Fidel Castro deserved assists as Tulsa upset Missouri Valley Conference favorite Cincinnati 57-50 and defending champion Louisville 85-69. It was because of Castro that Al Cueto, now the Hurricane center, fled Cuba several years ago. A surprisingly agile 6'8" and 235 pounds, Cueto pulled down 14 rebounds in two games and scored 23 points. Also helping out were Larry Cheatham, who played despite a torn ankle ligament and scored 23 points, and Bobby Smith, who scored 45 points and was the catalyst in the team's new souped-up offense. Defensively, the Hurricanes switched from a zone to a man-to-man in the second half against the Bearcats, held them to just 15 points in the final 20 minutes and rallied for their ninth win in 11 tries. They then limited the Cardinals, who had been 9-0, to their lowest output of the season. Worst hit was Butch Beard of Louisville, who had 52 points in two earlier wins against North Texas State and Wichita State, but made good on only six of 22 shots against the Hurricanes. Cincinnati, which had led Tulsa 35-28 at the half, squandered an identical lead against Wichita State and lost 67-66. The only other MVC team unbeaten in the conference was Drake, which boosted its overall mark to 11-0. The Bulldogs took their first two MVC games by beating Memphis State 73-71 on a jumper by Willie McCarter in the final 42 seconds, and then drubbing St. Louis 104-65.
Kansas won the Big Eight tournament in Kansas City, defeating Oklahoma State 56-45, then narrowly averted a loss to Nebraska in the conference opener. The Corn-huskers used a sagging man-to-man to clog the Jayhawk shots under the basket in the second half and took a 50-49 lead with 1:50 to play. Bruce Sloan of the Jayhawks missed a drive-in but scored on a follow-up, and Kansas prevailed 56-52. Colorado, rearing up as the most potent threat to Kansas in the Big Eight, easily took care of Oklahoma 80-56. Another roadblock for the Jay-hawks could be Kansas State, which finally got its fast break untracked and outscored Iowa State 13-4 in the closing two minutes of a 75-65 victory.
"The Big Ten championship will be won with upsets," said Northwestern's Larry Glass. Big Ten teams, though, were upsetting only outsiders last week. Minnesota ended Detroit's win streak at ten games 85-80, despite 34 points by Spencer Haywood. ( Marquette also beat Detroit 85-71, as Haywood had 35 points.) And Wisconsin—which earlier in the season had upset Kansas and had lost by just one point to Notre Dame—shocked Kentucky 69-65. With 6'9" Craig Mayberry, a JC transfer, on hand this season, the Badgers have moved Jim Johnson from center to forward, and his 27 points and 15 rebounds were instrumental in defeating the Wildcats. But then the Big Ten season got under way, and both the Gophers and Badgers lost. Illinois out-rebounded Minnesota 41-25 en route to an 80-58 win, while Rick Mount scored 33 points as Purdue beat Wisconsin 86-80. Although he did not score any points, a $1.50 toy bulldog was credited with helping Northwestern. He has been sitting on the team bench since an opening game loss to Stanford and presumably watched the Wildcats beat Michigan State 85-71 for their ninth win in a row. Ohio State, after being jolted by Washington 64-59, began defense of its Big Ten title by defeating Indiana 90-82.
Notre Dame had no trouble with American University, but had to come back from a 10-point halftime deficit to beat St. Peter's ( N.J.) 85-71. That game was the first the Irish had to play without Austin Carr, the team's leading scorer and playmaker. Carr broke his left foot in practice and is expected to be out for six weeks.
After strutting through the Midwest, LSU, Davidson and Duke came home, basked in the reflected glory of their respective wins over Duquesne, Michigan and Iowa—and then promptly fell flat on their faces. The Tigers, fresh from winning the All-College Tournament in Oklahoma City where Pete Maravich scored 53 points against Duquesne in the finals, were staggered by Alabama 85-82. Pistol Pete, who had been shooting less this year in an effort to feed teammates and build victories, pulled the trigger 49 times against Alabama. He hit on 19 tries and wound up with 42 points—all to no avail. A botched-up play by St. John's worked out well enough to lead to the downfall of Davidson, which lost 75-74 in the last two seconds of overtime. With the Wildcats leading 74-73 and seven seconds to go, they lost the ball to the Redmen because they were unable to pass inbounds within the allotted five seconds. St. John's then carefully set up one last play, but instead of the ball going to John Warren in the corner, it went to 6'10" Bill Paultz, who was almost 30 feet from the basket. Paultz let fly with a desperation shot, the ball went through the net and Davidson became a first-time loser. For the Redmen, who had beaten North Carolina in New York's Holiday Festival, it was the second straight week they had defeated one of the country's top-ranked teams. In Duke's case, faulty strategy by an opponent proved just the stuff of victory. With 51 seconds left, Iowa decided to play for one last shot. It never came, as Fred Lind of the Blue Devils stole the ball with eight seconds left. Randy Denton of Duke, who had 25 points, added two foul shots in the closing moments to give the Blue Devils an 85-82 win. Then, like LSU and Davidson, Duke returned to the Southland and was defeated 94-70 by North Carolina as Charlie Scott scored 34 points for the Tar Heels.
LSU was not the only team to be upset in Southeastern Conference play. Tennessee was dumped by Mississippi State 58-57, and Vanderbilt lost to Georgia 104-80. Kentucky struggled to a 69-59 victory over Mississippi when Randy Pool came off the bench to score six straight points. The Wildcat bench, though, was weakened considerably when Greg Starrick, a 6'2" guard and the No. 6 man on the squad, quit the team because he felt he was not playing enough.