Calvin Coolidse was President the last time Oklahoma State's Henry Iba used a zone defense. Over the past 42 seasons Iba's teams have worked strictly man-to-man and this year, after the Cowboys won their first nine games, it hardly seemed likely that they would change. But suddenly, with his Cowboys trailing Kansas State 19-13 in the first half of an opening-round game in the Big Eight tournament in Kansas City, Iba shifted to a zone. That shocker almost brought victory to Oklahoma State, as K State won 51-49 on a steal and five points by Jerry Venable in the last 1:52. Said Iba, who will retire at the end of this season, "I never used a zone because I never had a bunch of midgets before. I've always played man-to-man because I thought I could do a better job with it. Tonight I didn't think so."
Kansas, which entered the tournament with five consecutive wins and was picked to take the championship, was upset in the first round, losing to Oklahoma 68-64 in overtime after leading by 11 points with just under five minutes of regulation time remaining. Garfield Heard sparked the Sooners' comeback with a steal, the tying jump shot and a block of a Kansas layup in the closing moments. Preseason Big Eight favorite Colorado defeated Nebraska 72-60 behind Cliff Meely's 27 points.
Houston finished a holiday party with visitors from California by beating Long Beach State 76-69. The win made the Cougars four out of four over West Coast teams, including impressive victories over highly rated Santa Clara 91-76 and Southern Cal 77-73.
1. HOUSTON (9-0)
2. COLORADO (6-3)
Portland's Far West "Classic" finished only its first round last week, yet it showed signs that it could become a tournament worthy of its self-proclaimed title. Three of the four opening games were classy. Southern California and Washington went at it to determine who should rank as UCLA's toughest challenger in the Pacific Eight, and the Huskies came out ahead 90-86. George Irvine led the hot-shooting Huskies with a career high 41 points, including 16 of 20 from the floor. Washington's 66% accuracy, strangely, gave encouragement to Trojan Coach Bob Boyd. He figures that Washington will not be able to duplicate that effort once league play begins in January.
Also in that first round, Washington State, which had lost 85-76 to New Mexico earlier in the week for its only defeat, stopped unbeaten Illinois 59-58. Illini Greg Jackson led all scorers with 20 points, but the Cougars had better balance with four starters in double figures. Oregon, the Classic's defending champion, defeated Michigan State 87-82, even though it was the Spartans' sophomore Ralph Simpson who made the game special. "He's the best sophomore I can remember seeing, with the exception of Lew Alcindor," said Oregon Coach Steve Belko of the 6'4" Simpson, who scored 40 points. "He's the closest thing to Oscar Robertson I've ever seen."
The West Coast got a look at LSU's Pete Maravich, and Maravich got an unpleasant view of UCLA. Both sides came away impressed. Maravich scored 38 while his Tigers lost 133-84 to the Bruins and then 46 more in a 76-68 victory over Oregon State. "Fabulous," said UCLA's Johnny Wooden of Pistol Pete. "They don't belong here. I think they should join the NBA," said Maravich of Wooden's team. The Bruins also defeated Georgia Tech 121-90.
Oregon State Coach Paul Valenti said before the Beavers' game against LSU, "We'll play Maravich one-on-one." The unlucky defenders assigned to guard Maravich hacked him repeatedly. Two of them fouled out, and Maravich scored on 30 of 31 free throws. "We lost to the greatest basketball player in America," said Valenti after the game.