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Even the officials had trouble getting up for NCAA tournament-bound Long Beach State's listless 72-62 victory over Fresno State. "We were sloppy but I can't get mad at the kids," said Coach Jerry Tarkanian. "I didn't get up for the game myself. We played well until we got a 16-3 lead and then we fell apart. I even took my wife and daughter out to dinner, and I never do that before a game." The officials? Well, at one point a Fresno player had to step on a referee's foot before he could get his attention to call a time-out. And another time an official puffed three times before he realized he did not have his whistle in his mouth.
But it was different Saturday when Marquette came in. Tarkanian did not take his family to dinner, Long Beach State was all attention and so were the refs. Seven technical fouls were called, including two on Marquette Coach Al McGuire. Down by four at the half, State got 15 points from All-America Ed Ratleff after intermission and won 76-66.
Oral Roberts closed its season with a 116-79 victory over Pan-American, but Richard Fuqua's shot at 3,000 career points fell 16 short. "The record didn't mean that much," he said. Maybe he meant it. Fuqua did not even take a shot in the opening seven minutes of the second half. He scored 24.
Form being what it is, the expected four-way tie for the Western Athletic Conference championship instead became three upsets and a clear-cut title for Arizona State. And ASU won by only two points. Undone by the bottom half of the WAC standings were Brigham Young, Arizona and New Mexico.
At Fort Collins, Colo., Center Ron Kennedy scored on a layup with one second remaining to give Arizona State an 89-87 victory over Colorado State and all the shares of the championship. Earlier in the week the Sun Devils had won their first game ever in 10 trips to Wyoming 80-59.
The biggest surprise was Utah, a winner of only three previous WAC starts and of only seven games overall. The Utes forced 20 turnovers with a full-court press and jolted Brigham Young 86-71. Arizona was undone by Colorado State early in the week 79-72; and Saturday, playing at home, the University of Texas at El Paso took away New Mexico's championship hopes 63-60.
With their team sinking like the Titanic, Nevada at Las Vegas fans, appropriately enough, flooded the court with ice cubes. And so, with 2:25 remaining and Santa Clara leading 74-57, referee Ernie Filiberti blew his whistle and abandoned ship.
"If you believe the story of David and Goliath is a Biblical truth and not a myth, you know anything is possible," LSU Coach Dale Brown told his troops. And so, taking up their slingshots, they went forth to do battle with conference leader Tennessee. Score another win for David, this time 78-74. "The good Lord was on our bench," said Brown. Then, asked a heretic, why didn't he play Him? Later in the week, Tennessee was stunned once more, this time 86-74 by Vanderbilt, and the Southeastern Conference finally returned to normal: Kentucky on top. Their early season troubles apparently cured, the Wildcats, who were once 3-3 in the SEC, downed Alabama 111-95 and Auburn 91-79 and led the conference into the final week with a 13-4 record.