Brigham Young Coach Stan Watts was in Utah Valley Hospital recovering from a 13-hour cancer operation, but doctors let him listen to the radio play-by-play of his team's game with Utah for the Western Athletic Conference championship. It probably was good therapy, because the Cougars defeated the Runnin' Redskins 98-87. BYU's 6'10" import from Yugoslavia, Kresimir Cosic, had 24 points and 19 rebounds. Utah never did get warmed up, failing to hit well over BYU's zone (Cosic is a pretty fair zone all by himself). The Cougars (18-9) next must play Utah State (20-6) in the first round of the West Regional on State's court in Logan, where they lost earlier in the season.
Old enemies USC and UCLA set up their showdown for the Pacific Eight title by winning three games apiece. The Trojans beat Washington State 75-64, Stanford 83-74 and Cal 96-81, with Mo Layton scoring 49 points in the last two games. UCLA was even more impressive, defeating Washington in a tough game 71-69, then running away from Cal and Stanford 103-69 and 107-72. Center Steve Patterson crowed, "If we play the way we did against Cal I don't think any team in the country can come within 20 points of us." USC, with its one league loss to the Bruins ( UCLA has none), has to win at UCLA Saturday and repeat the win in a playoff game Monday night to get into the NCAA tournament. "No one helped us beat UCLA," said Layton. "Now we'll have to do it ourselves."
WCAC champion Pacific (21-5) finished its regular season by burying St. Mary's 116-71 and getting 6' 10" Center John Gianelli elected league MVP. It was the Tigers' 26th consecutive victory at home in Stockton.
1. UCLA (24-1)
2. USC (24-1)
Advantage of Home Cooking Department: Western Kentucky, which had beaten Austin Peay by 45 points at home, lost to the Governors 96-94 at a rematch in Clarksville, Tenn., even though Jim McDaniels had 39 points and 23 rebounds. Next, Western must play another past victim, Jacksonville, in the first round of the Mideast Regional. "I had hoped we'd draw Marquette for psychological reasons," said Coach Johnny Oldham. "You can get up for an undefeated team. The fact we beat Jacksonville once won't help us and certainly will give them something to shoot at."
Furman Coach Joe Williams will have to get out his double-breasted, vanilla-icecream suit for the NCAAs again. The Paladins, seeded fifth in the Southern Conference tournament, upset Davidson 83-79 in the second round, then beat Richmond 68-61 in the final to win an NCAA slot. Even more surprising, Furman won without its center, Russ Hunt, who was out with a bruised thigh. Williams coached Jacksonville last season and saw his team reach the NCAA finals. Furman will not climb as high—but give Williams a few more years.
North Carolina, picked by many to finish in the second division without departed All-America Charles Scott, clinched the regular-season ACC title by beating North Carolina State 97-81. Dennis Wuycik, the most accurate shooter in the nation, scored 25 points, made 13 of 13 free throws and took 14 rebounds. The Tar Heels, who must represent Dean Smith's best coaching job, thus are seeded first in the fratricidal ACC tournament. But Duke, conqueror of North Carolina 92-83 in the last regular-season game, enters the meet in high gear, with eight straight wins. South Carolina, winner over Wake Forest 88-73, was also flying with its ninth straight. "We are peaking," said Gamecock Coach Frank McGuire.
NIT-bound Tennessee won at Vanderbilt 79-69, despite a barrage of oranges, paper cups and other missiles, but the Vols could not handle SEC champion Kentucky in Lexington, losing 84-78. Kentucky had clinched its 26th league title earlier in the week with a 102-83 victory at Auburn. Will ailing Adolph Rupp be on hand when the Wildcats play in the Mideast Regional? "If his heart is beating, he'll be there," said the team doctor.