The state of Mississippi has made news with its cotton, the Klan, Miss Americas, freedom marches and football teams, but never with basketball. Last week, Ole Miss and Mississippi State nearly turned that reputation and the Southeastern Conference right around. Playing at Kentucky, the Rebs, who have not beaten the Wildcats since 1928, led at halftime 45-38. Coach Cob Jarvis' players had outshot Kentucky 67% to 37%, outrebounded it 21-18 and outhustled it with a rugged zone defense. Early in the second period Mississippi twice moved to nine-point leads before the Wildcats' trap zone began to work. Kentucky then went on spurts of 17-3 and 26-8 to ruin the Rebels 95-73.
Tennessee, the Wildcats' toughest challenger in the SEC, took on Mississippi State in Knoxville and also trailed at the half 36-30. There were only six minutes to play when the Vols' Jimmy England hit a corner shot to put his team ahead for good on the way to a 58-56 victory.
Night-owling by Purdue's Larry Weatherford and William Franklin may end up costing their team the Big Ten title. The pair were nabbed breaking curfew and suspended by Coach George King for one game. It turned out to be the league opener against Iowa, and Purdue, despite 53 points by Rick Mount, lost 94-88. Johnny Johnson and Fred Brown scored 28 and 26 for the Hawkeyes. Purdue's chief rivals, Ohio State and Illinois, won their first games. The Buckeyes, the hottest shooting team in the country from both the field and the foul line, hit on 33 of 62 shots in defeating Minnesota 78-71. The Illini made nine of 10 free throws in the final 65 seconds to outlast Wisconsin 74-69.
Highly favored Ohio started its Mid-America Conference season with a 78-52 victory over Kent State, Craig Love topping the scoring with 20 points. South Carolina won the Sugar Bowl Classic in New Orleans, defeating New Mexico 85-62 and Notre Dame in overtime 84-83.
1. KENTUCKY (9-0)
2. OHIO U. (9-1)
Last spring Big Eight coaches unanimously backed a new policy calling for strict enforcement of bench behavior rules. By the end of the conference tournament last week, most of them wanted their ballots back. Officials called 14 technical fouls in 12 games, most of them on the coaches for standing while the clock was running. Two of the technicals came in the final game when Colorado Assistant Coach Chuck Gardner and headman Sox Walseth were nailed one right after the other. The fouls resulted in two free throws for Oklahoma's Scott Martin, who made them both and helped the surprising Sooners win 73-72. Last in both tournament and conference races last season, Oklahoma is thriving this year on the strong rebounding of Garfield Heard and Cliff Ray, who pulled down 71 between them in the tourney. Ray's jumper with 2:15 to play put the Sooners ahead to stay in the title game, while Heard's 22 points earned him the most valuable player award. He also scored 24 in a 72-67 semifinal win over Kansas State.
Baylor, which earlier had knocked off undefeated New Mexico State, turned up a spoiler again. This time the Bears trapped unbeaten Wyoming at Waco and came away with an 86-79 victory. With regular Pat Fees bedridden by the flu, Tom Friedman moved up to the starting five and scored 22 points, including 12 of Baylor's 26 free throws.
As startling as the Oklahoma and Baylor performances was that of Niagara. The Purple Eagles, who won only half their games during Calvin Murphy's first two seasons, ran their record to 10-0 in the All-College Tournament at Oklahoma City. Not unexpectedly, Murphy led the way. In an opening-round 69-68 upset of Tennessee, he drilled in a 15-foot jumper with two seconds left on the clock. Then he scored 22 points in the finals even though foul trouble forced him to sit out 18 minutes in the 87-75 victory over Oklahoma City.