"Our defense has been responsible for our success," Halliburton says. "While the other team is still congratulating itself on a basket, we're crawling up its back." With entertainment like that, who needs Andy Williams or Jack Bailey or Ronald Reagan or Steve Allen? What's more, the Bulldogs have stayed in town.
Sandy Grady, a Philadelphia Evening Bulletin columnist, recently described how Villanova got its Field House. "The truth is," he wrote, "50 years ago some guys were putting up a telephone booth on Lancaster Avenue. They made a mistake and put in two hoops."
The Field House has not grown since. It seats 3,200, and if the hoops in the place now number six, last month only two of them had nets attached. Fortunately, Villanova plays all but five of its home games away—at Penn's Palestra, which is not exactly the Ritz of Roundball either—and unfortunately for those who would beat the Wildcats, the team's star, Howard Porter, could play basketball superbly anywhere, even in a phone booth. Porter has led Villanova in scoring and rebounding in each of his varsity years, and his coach, Jack Kraft, claims he is "the best all-round big man we've ever had." Porter was 15th in the nation last year in rebounding and had a 22.2 scoring average. His best single-game performance was against St. Peter's, when he scored 37 points and took 32 rebounds.
But Porter is not the entire Villanova show. He will get some help from Forward Clarence Smith, who could be more aggressive under the boards; from Hank Siemiontkowski, a combative junior who will break the collective hearts of linotype setters everywhere and who moves into the starting lineup for the first time; and from Chris (Hot-dog) Ford, who returns at guard. Ford loves his role as the team's showboat. "After I score I raise my hands and the fans go wild," he says. But Kraft is wilder about Ford's subtler assets, such as his passing. Last year against St. Peter's (alas) he set a regular-season Madison Square Garden record with 14 assists.
Sophomore Tom Ingelsby, who averaged 21.9 points a game with the freshmen, is being counted on heavily to replace Fran O'Hanlon, the departed team leader. If he is the ball handler Kraft thinks he is, Ingelsby will free Ford for duty up front. Sophomore Ed Hastings, probably the best of the newcomers on defense, will then move into the backcourt, with Bob Gohl, Joe McDowell and John Fox helping out.
Last season, en route to a 22-7 record, including a 64-62 victory (in its own gym, of course) over St. Bona-venture, Villanova's primary weakness was its inability to adjust from a running game to a patterned offense when the initial attack bogged down. This was particularly noticeable in the early season, when Villanova traditionally is vulnerable. Kraft plans to stick to his free-lance offense and man-to-man and zone press defenses and hopes he has everything working smoothly by late December when the Wildcats have to go against Kansas in the Jayhawk Classic at Lawrence, Kans. and Illinois in the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu. If they get by those formidable hurdles, the Wildcats can retreat to Philadelphia and defend themselves nicely in their telephone redoubt.
Eventually, Bob Boyd will win a national championship. He has to. Heritage Hall, the new building going up to house athletic offices, locker rooms and trophy cases, should be ready this spring, and every USC sport from football to mumblety-peg will have an NCAA championship knick-knack to throw into one of the cases. Except basketball. USC has won 49 national championships in six sports (not including four mythical football titles), but none of them have come in Boyd's game. When he returned to his alma mater four years ago as head coach, Boyd looked across town at UCLA and saw a sophomore named Alcindor. He could have been forgiven had he decided to hibernate for the next three years, but what he did do was plot against Alcindor during every practice. He finally defeated UCLA in the last regular-season game of Alcindor's collegiate career, and in March of this year he beat John Wooden's Bruins again. So USC has defeated UCLA two of the last three times the teams have met; no other college can say that.
Boyd's boys have been eager and exciting—the average attendance at home games has increased from 2,500 to 6,000 recently—but their performances have been spotty. After beating strong teams like LSU, St. John's and Florida State, they tend to turn around and lose after being ahead by 17 points with seven minutes to go, or when their best foul shooter misses both tries with the game tied and no time left. "How do you lose that one?" asks Boyd. Angrily, one might answer.