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Hospitalized because of an appendix flare-up, Louisville Coach Denny Crum had plenty of time to think about a road game against dangerous Drake. Between antibiotic shots Crum decided to replace the Cardinals' man-to-man defense with a three-two zone. As it turned out, the shots prevented a trip to the operating room for Crum, and the zone prevented a drop from first place in the Missouri Valley standings for Louisville. "A 20-point victory beats the hell out of penicillin any day," said Crum after the 86-66 win.
Exceptional defense is nothing new to New Mexico State, which ranks second nationally in that department. "We've been having our problems on offense," Coach Lou Henson said, "but our defense has been tremendous. Defense can't carry you all the way, but it has kept us in the Missouri Valley race." The Aggies stayed right behind Louisville by beating West Texas State 73-53 and North Texas State 73-59. They led the Buffaloes by only two points early in the second half before three steals, leading to easy layups, broke the game open.
In Jack Hartman's opinion, his Kansas State team has a slippery grip on co-leadership in the Big Eight. The Wildcats trailed last-place Colorado by nine points before a 20-6 spurt lifted them to an 80-66 victory. Things got worse against Oklahoma, with State losing 78-71. Hartman cautioned, "We'd better take a long look at those standings in the newspaper because we're not going to be where we are very long if we keep playing the way we did." Kansas gained a first-place tie with a 76-62 win over Iowa State and a 59-57 victory against Oklahoma State.
Texas A&M defeated Arkansas 62-60 in a showdown of Southwest Conference leaders. Air Force upset Pan American 90-66 when the Broncs could make only 22 of 74 field-goal attempts. Creighton topped crosstown rival Nebraska-Omaha 62-53 and Oklahoma City 68-56. Memphis State whipped UC-Santa Barbara 74-62 and Wisconsin- Milwaukee 81-69.
1. LOUISVILLE (17-2)
UCLA all but clinched its 13th conference title in 14 years by repeating the previous week's sweep of Oregon and Oregon State. The Ducks were devastated 95-66, the Beavers merely beaten 74-62. "There's little doubt that UCLA is better than last year," said Oregon Coach Dick Harter. The Bruins made a convincing case by zooming to a 42-9 first-half lead. Andre McCarter played a leading role with 14 points and 12 assists in his finest game of the year.
Arizona State and Arizona withstood a challenge to their Western Athletic Conference supremacy in games against Utah and Brigham Young. On Friday night the Sun Devils won 96-90 and the Wildcats triumphed 91-81. The teams changed partners on Saturday night, with Arizona State beating the Cougars 99-79 and Arizona topping the Utes 93-89.