Most of the hosts had a better time than their guests in the ever-growing number of year-end tournaments, but Alabama, living it up before beginning the Southeastern Conference season on the road at Vanderbilt and Tennessee, embarrassed Louisville 65-55 in the finals of the Cardinals' new Holiday Classic. The Crimson Tide's defense was the key, holding Wesley Cox and Allen Murphy to 21 points combined, and the presence of Kentucky's SEC champion team in the Freedom Hall audience further inspired Alabama. "We knew they were there," said Guard Ray Odums. "They'll see a lot more of us, too."
The Wildcats should be anxious for any league contest after losing their fourth game of the season the following night to an unbeaten Notre Dame team that is solid muscle. Kentucky is a team without a center and therefore no match for the likes of John Shumate and Adrian Dantley, who scored 25 and 22 points from the inside. When the Wildcats switched to a zone to offset their deficiencies underneath, the Irish's Gary Brokaw burned them for 22 points from the outside. Notre Dame will conserve its considerable strength by playing only once more before meeting UCLA on Jan. 19 at home in South Bend.
In Milwaukee, sixth-ranked Marquette took apart young and dynamic Arizona 76-62 in the semifinals of its co-sponsored annual tournament, but ran into more trouble from co-host Wisconsin. The Warriors, who have not lost to Wisconsin since 1969, needed two overtimes to get past the Badgers in last year's title game. This time they were only slightly more efficient. A jump shot by reserve Jerry Homan saved the game, 49-48, in a single overtime.
Missouri, which has finished second in the Big Eight three years in a row, won its third straight conference tournament in extremely unorthodox fashion. Supposedly crippled by graduation this year, the Tigers had 30 turnovers against conference favorite Oklahoma, were outshot by five baskets against Colorado and trailed Iowa State by 12 points in the first half, yet somehow beat all three teams. A seldom-used 6'11" center, Gail Wolf, brought Missouri back against the Cyclones in the championship game by scoring 14 second-half points, only one point fewer than he recorded all last year.
The big boys from Long Beach State ran their record to 9-1 by beating two of the nation's toughest small college teams, Assumption and Evansville, 84-61 and 75-67 in the Evansville Invitational. Freshman Cliff Pondexter was named Most Valuable Player. In non-tournament action, Ohio University defeated Ohio State 84-79 behind Walter Luckett's 23 points. Northwestern freshman Billy McKinney hit five of six shots at the start of the second half to sink St. Joseph's of Indiana 83-65. The victory was the Wildcats' fifth of the season, matching their entire 1972-73 output.
1. NOTRE DAME (7-0)
2. MARQUETTE (9-0)
St. John's, no great surprise, made it into the finals of the E.C.A.C. Holiday Festival in Madison Square Garden for a record sixth time, and back as the Redmen's leader was Lou Carnesecca, who had deserted them for three years to coach the pro Nets. The team had managed to mask its decided lack of height with a combination of speed, shooting and ball handling, and it beat Jacksonville twice and Alabama once and, in the tournament, Illinois and Princeton. But then it met old rival Manhattan, a club it had not played in 11 years because Manhattan had wearied of losing. This time, though, the Jaspers were ready with the ingredient St. John's lacked—height. Manhattan opened in a 1-3-1 zone designed to shut off the outside shooting of Kevin Cluess and Mel Utley and never had to abandon it as 6'10" strong man Bill Campion took care of the middle on defense and scored 19 points in a 74-65 triumph. He was named MVP.
Canisius' Larry Fogle, a transplant from Southwestern Louisiana and the nation's leading scorer, had a magnificent night against George Washington, scoring 51 points, 21 of them on free throws, and getting 21 rebounds. The Golden Griffins won the opening game of the Queen City Invitational in Buffalo 100-89, and watching the performance was Coach Bill Foster of UNC Charlotte, who forthwith announced his strategy for the final. "We are going to play Fogle straight up, stand in front of him and hope we get some charging calls," he said. The plan worked.