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"Maybe I shouldn't be the one to say it," said Penn Guard Steve Bilsky, "but you have to be impressed by a team that improves week after week for four months. Pressure, we love it." The young Quakers, with no seniors among their starters, took all the pressure Columbia's Jim McMillian could apply and still came away with the Ivy League championship 71-57. McMillian poured in 21 points in the first period to give the Lions a one-point half-time lead before Penn made a subtle defensive adjustment. In the second period Bilsky and backcourt mate Dave Wohl started playing deep to help out against the Columbia high scorer. That held McMillian to only 12 points in the second half. With Corky Calhoun stopping the Lions' other top shooter, Hey ward Dotson, with just nine points for the game, Penn had all it needed to swing the pressure its way. The Quakers also defeated Cornell 97-63 to finish the season with a 25-1 record, presently the best in the country and the best ever for a Philadelphia team.
As expected, Davidson proved far too strong for the rest of the Southern Conference in the league's postseason tournament. The Wildcats clawed through VMI 72-46, William and Mary 78-54 and Richmond 81-61 to take their third consecutive title. Davidson's Mike Maloy was named the tourney's most valuable player after scoring 47 points.
South Carolina, which still faces the tough Atlantic Coast Conference tournament before it can claim the league championship, wrapped up regular-season play by beating Wake Forest 67-51 and North Carolina State 85-69 for a five-game lead in the final standings. Duke showed it may be the Gamecocks' toughest opponent in the tournament by defeating North Carolina 91-83 and North Carolina State 71-69.
St. Bonaventure's Bob Lanier and Niagara's Calvin Murphy neared the end of their three-year reigns in upstate New York on off-notes. Lanier spent most of the game on the bench in foul trouble, watching his teammates bump Canisius 91-68. For only the fourth time in his career, Murphy was outscored by a teammate as the NCAA tournament-bound Purple Eagles topped Syracuse 91-83. Sub Mike Samuel tallied 28 points to 24 for Murphy.
Temple took the Middle Atlantic Conference playoffs by defeating St. Joseph's 63-59 as Paul Collins, who came into the title game with an 8.5 scoring average, broke loose for 28 points.
1. S. CAROLINA (23-2)
Like Iowa, Ohio University won its conference title—the Mid-American—with a tense one-point victory over its nearest rival. The Bobcats topped Bowling Green 77-76 as sophomore Guard Tom Corde, an often-used substitute, coolly dropped in a pair of foul shots with seven seconds showing on the clock, thus avenging an earlier 20-point defeat by Bowling Green, their only league loss of the year. They won by holding the Falcons' Jim Penix—who had averaged more than 20 points in his previous 11 games—to only 15.
Dayton, which backed into an NCAA tournament bid when Marquette refused to transfer to the Midwest region for an at-large berth, immediately made the selection committee look good—and bad. The Flyers pounced on Notre Dame 95-79, but the reason why Marquette's Warriors became disenchanted with the NCAA was that the committee rated Jacksonville and Notre Dame ahead of them. The Irish almost compounded the embarrassment when they nearly stumbled at Butler as well. With the Bulldogs' Tony Hinkle coaching his last game after a 41-year career at the Indianapolis school, Notre Dame came close to giving him a nice going-away gift before winning 121-114. Butler led the Irish midway through the second half and trailed by just two points with 3:32 left in the game. Hinkle ended his tenure with a 561-392 record.