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The two best teams in Dixie came together as expected in the finals of New York's Holiday Festival, and Madison Square Garden veterans had to go back to Bill Bradley's clash with Cazzie Russell in 1964 to match the excitement of South Carolina's 86-84 victory over Western Kentucky. Big Jim McDaniels awed the Gamecocks with his quickness and desire as much as his shooting touch (26 points), but South Carolina's big men, Tom Riker and Tom Owens, held off Mc-Daniels just enough to forge an 86-80 lead with 19 seconds left. Then, after Western's Jim Rose rushed downcourt for a basket, Kevin Joyce, a Gamecock sophomore who had scored 25 points, made his first mistake by passing inbounds to Western's Rex Bailey, who quickly scored. Instead of holding the ball for the final four seconds, Joyce then threw it again to Bailey, who passed to Rose, who passed to McDaniels, who scored—a moment too late to beat the final gun.
Two other acclaimed teams romped in Eastern tournaments, Penn beating Temple for the Quaker City title 76-55, and UCLA overcoming backcourt problems to defeat Pitt 77-64 in the Steel Bowl. Drake Coach Maury John thought he was back in one of those ancient Missouri Valley hothouse gyms when four of his starters fouled out as Niagara upset the Bulldogs 87-77 to win the Queen City (Buffalo) tournament. John was not enamored of Referee Joe Debonis. "I was intimidated by that big guy," he said. "He lectured me and threatened to put me up in the stands." Debonis, for the record, is the same official whom Niagara Coach Frank Layden blasted just nine days earlier after a loss.
1. PENN (8-0)
It is best not to invite Adolph Rupp and his old adversaries to the same party, particularly when they come from Marquette and Notre Dame. Marquette's Al McGuire has not taken his annual shot at the Baron yet (that might come later), but in Louisville last week the Irish's Johnny Dee objected to the ND-Kentucky game ball—an Adolph F. Rupp signature model. "It's fine for kids to buy one of these at the drugstore, but this is Mickey Mouse treatment," Dee complained. "My kids say the Rupp ball is lighter than the one we use. Kentucky should have sent us four or five to practice with. This is a sensitive game." Said Adolph, "I don't care what ball we use, just so it bounces. We'll get the ball through the basket somehow. Let the officials decide." The decision was for the Rupp ball, so Austin Carr went out and, sensitively, put Adolph's signature through the hoop for 50 points as the Irish won 99-92.
Handfuls of pro scouts turned up in the sun at West Palm Beach, waiting for the struggle between big men Artis Gilmore of Jacksonville and Cyril Baptiste of Creighton in the Gold Coast Classic. Neither was impressive as Jacksonville won 94-85, so little Charlie Davis of Wake Forest stole the tournament away from everybody. He scored a total of 60 points as the Deacons beat Georgetown, then upset Jacksonville for the title when John Orenczak hit a 10-footer with 25 seconds left.
While South Carolina was out of the state, Navy took the Palmetto championship at Charleston, and Arizona won the Poinsettia at Greenville. St. Bonaventure, playing without Matt Gantt, also took home Southern plunder: the Gator Bowl title after defeating Georgia Tech 70-68. Later, Rich Yunkus broke the alltime Tech scoring record (1,628 points) in an 82-72 win over Rice. Mississippi lost three games, but Johnny Neumann (135 points) continued to smoke. North Carolina and Duke took turns beating up on Penn State and Northwestern, while North Carolina State edged touring Santa Clara 82-79.