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South Carolina celebrated the end of its first season as an independent by swallowing two cupcakes—Notre Dame 109-83 and Creighton 81-64—and earning an NCAA at-large slot. In what Coach Frank McGuire called "the best exhibition of shooting we've had in my years here," big Tom Riker celebrated his 22nd birthday by scoring 31 points against the Irish, hitting 12 of 16.
Although Florida State, another at-large NCAA starter, tied a school record for victories in a season when it beat little Biscayne 94-66, it came to earth against Cincinnati. Winning their 10th victory in the last 12 games, the Bearcats mauled the 10th-ranked visitors 88-64. It was all very embarrassing for a Cincy athletic department that had persuaded Coach Tay Baker to resign before he was fired. Cincy led 44-34 at the intermission as junior Derrek Dickey fired in 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Ironically, FSU's Hugh Durham had been one of the men mentioned for Baker's job. "Baker and his team deserve to go to the NIT," Durham said after the game. "He's one of the best coaches in the game. He had some unfair pressure."
All year every team that held the ball on Maryland had some success. Besides, Wake Forest Coach Jack McCloskey admitted after his Wednesday game with the Terps, "We sure as hell didn't want to run up and down the court with them." Losers by a missed final shot in their first game with Maryland, the Deacons this time carried the Terps into overtime before losing 64-56, as Bob Bodell sank six straight free throws.
Virginia, hoping to tie or beat North Carolina for the Atlantic Coast Conference title, threw the same sort of game at Maryland and learned a Wake Forest lesson: the Terps can be had in slowdown—almost. The Cavaliers lost 45-42 when Maryland outrebounded them an astonishing 38-12.
"We"ve come too far now not to win it all," Memphis State Coach Gene Bartow said before the Louisville game. And Memphis followed his script, putting down the Cardinals 80-65. Later, letting down themselves, they eased past Drake 70-69. Good 1-2-2 defense and ball-hawking kept tough Louisville at bay, but last-place Drake was another matter. With seven minutes remaining, the would-be spoilers had a 15-point lead. Luckily Larry Finch began hitting jumpers and scored 14 of the Tigers' last 20 points to finish with 27. This week Louisville and Memphis State decide between themselves who will represent the Missouri Valley Conference in the NCAA Midwest Regional.
For one loud week, Alabama threatened to tear the Southeastern Conference apart. The Crimson Tide first undid Tennessee 72-67, then took the measure of Kentucky 73-70. But that was the end of the underdog dramatics. Mississippi State deflated Alabama hopes in overtime 97-91 and Tennessee hopped into the SEC lead by slamming LSU 78-66 and Auburn 80-70, setting up for its big showdown with Kentucky.
1. N. CAROLINA (21-4)
After lusterless wins over Xavier, 63-55, and Tulane, 73-60, Marquette and the McGuires got caught in the white sands of New Mexico State. Ahead 65-60 with 3:08 left, the Warriors saw Aggie sophomore John Williamson score 11 straight points within 2� minutes to lead the Aggies to a 73-69 upset. Two points of the margin were technicals on Coach Al McGuire, who spent much of the game on the floor and at one point turned to the New Mexico crowd and shouted, "Is the NIT worth all this?" referring, of course, to State's still warm hopes for a bid to the New York tournament. Son Allie McGuire went into a rage when Truman Ward tied him up for a jump ball and had to be slapped by his father before calming down.