"They're just unbelievable." said Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps after Kentucky had stomped his team 102-78. Kentucky shot 65%, Jack Givens leading the way by hitting 15 of 19 shots from the floor. Rick Robey, Mike Phillips and James Lee teamed up for 43 more points and took down 37 rebounds. After one Lee slam dunk, a coal baron bought drinks for 200 bar patrons, thereby establishing the value of Lee's feat at a cool $312. So impressive were the Wildcats and so ecstatic were their fans over the win against the previously undefeated Irish that Kentuckians began calling it their best team ever.
For the ninth straight year, Marquette swept the Milwaukee Classic. Clemson, which faced the Warriors in the first round, came to town with an 8-0 record and a 104.4-point scoring average. The Tigers lost 67-49 as 6'10" Jerome Whitehead held 7'1" Wayne (Tree) Rollins to two points. Clemson built up its scoring average in the consolation game, thrashing Boston College 128-76. Marquette disposed of Wisconsin in the title match 64-57 as MVP Butch Lee and Bo Ellis produced 30 of the Warriors' 33 points in the second half. On New Year's Eve, Lee and Ellis teamed up again to score all 40 of the Warriors' points during a 24-minute, 40-second span against Northwestern. Lee finished the game with 29 points, Ellis with 17 as Marquette won 66-53.
Alabama and Minnesota both brought their records to 9-0. The Tide toppled Western Michigan 83-74. while the Gophers took the Pillsbury Classic in Bloomington, Minn. by downing Cornell 84-54 and Montana 102-81. Kevin McHale, a 6'10" Gopher freshman, earned MVP honors by scoring 36 points.
Holy Cross lost for the first time this season, wiped out 101-85 by Florida in the Gator Bowl finale.
1. KENTUCKY (7-1)
2. MICHIGAN (6-1)
3. NOTRE DAME (7-1)
That there is no place like home for the holidays was proved by Providence, Maryland, UNC-Charlotte and Old Dominion, all of which won tournaments right in their own backyards. No one enjoyed ringing out the old year more than Providence, which stunned top-ranked Michigan to take the Industrial National Classic. En route to their championship matchup, the Friars bopped Texas 81-67 as Joe Hassett had 26 points; and the Wolverines, despite 32 points by the Rams' Sly Williams, dealt Rhode Island its first setback 95-85.
Before facing Michigan, Providence Coach Dave Gavitt was asked what his tactics would be. His reply: "Prayer." Also helping out were a variety of zone defenses, a patient offense, 10 blocked shots by Bob Cooper, 25 points and 10 rebounds by Bruce Campbell and 21 points by Hassett. At the end of regulation time both teams had 62 points, for Michigan 33 below its season's average. Each team scored a dozen more in the first overtime period, with Bob Misevicius of the Friars netting a field goal with 12 seconds to go to knot the score. In the second overtime period, Misevicius came back with another providential shot, taking a feed from Campbell and banking in an 8-footer with three seconds left for an 82-81 Friar lead. That margin held up when a final desperation shot by Michigan's Joel Thompson rimmed the basket. Wolverine sophomore Phil Hubbard, who had 27 points and 16 rebounds in the title game, was named the tournament's MVP.
"I ain't afraid of nobody," said Coach Lefty Driesell after his Terps won their own Maryland Invitational. What made Lefty feel right frisky was that his team had clobbered Xavier of Ohio 84-74 in the opening round and then belied its nickname by racing past a Syracuse squad that dared to run with it. In that 96-85 final-game triumph, Olympian Steve Sheppard was at his best as the Terps took their ninth straight since being dumped by Notre Dame in their opener. Sheppard, the tournament MVP, directed the Terps all over the court and scored 26 points.