The biggest news in the Southeastern Conference was not Tennessee's upset of Kentucky. Far more significant was the miraculous escape of three Wildcats—Rick Robey, Larry Johnson and Dwane Casey—from an automobile crash. On the way to catch a flight to Auburn, Casey's car skidded on an icy street, rolled down a 40-foot embankment and through a wooden fence. The car was totaled. None of the players was badly hurt, though, and Casey's life may have been saved by Robey. As the car began to flip, Robey grabbed Casey, the driver, and yanked him to the floor. All three played later that day as Kentucky won 75-68.
The Florida squad survived a scare, too. After a 92-82 loss at Tennessee, the Gators' DC-3 made an emergency landing in Macon, Ga. when one of the two engines malfunctioned and had to be shut off. So the Gators chartered a bus. Alas, the bus broke down and by the time the team got home it was 7 a.m.
Trouble-free Alabama knocked off Mississippi 101-88 and Mississippi State 65-63. State had earlier beaten LSU as two sophomores excelled, Ray White scoring 29 points and Wiley Peck pulling down 22 rebounds.
After Purdue's Bruce Parkinson suffered a broken wrist early last season and did not play in the rest of the games, a friend made up a sign: 1977 BIG TEN CHAMPIONS. That sign has hung in Parkinson's apartment ever since. Last week the Boilermakers moved closer to that goal by beating Iowa 87-76 and trimming previously unbeaten Minnesota in overtime, 66-64. Parkinson scored the first basket in the extra period to spur Purdue. Michigan geared up for this week's showdown with Purdue by romping past Michigan State 83-70 in a game in which 51 personal fouls were called.
1. MICHIGAN (10-1)
2. ALABAMA (14-0)
3. TENNESSEE (12-2)
"My pet peeve is when home fans start leaving the Ute Arena before the game is over, especially when we are behind and they seem sure we have lost," said Utah Guard Jeff Jonas. "I call it the Parking Lot Syndrome." Noting that fans were exiting with 1:12 left and the Utes trailing Colorado State 61-54, Jonas came up with a cure for the syndrome. He stole the ball three times and converted each steal into a basket, twice by passing off and once by scoring himself. Then, with six seconds remaining and Utah down 62-60, Center Buster Matheney rammed in an offensive rebound to send the game into overtime. Utah went on to win 67-64. The night before, the Utes took their Western AC opener by stopping Wyoming 84-76. Another two-time winner was Texas-El Paso, which beat Arizona State 69-60 and jolted Arizona 60-59 when Charles Draper sank two foul shots with seven seconds to go. Arizona continued to struggle on the road, but held off New Mexico 89-87.
"It was like playing the Celtics," said Pepperdine Coach Gary Colson after a 107-72 loss to San Francisco in a West Coast AC game. Most Celtic-like was Bill Cartwright. who took down 18 rebounds and scored 24 points. Next time out, the Dons defeated Loyola 90-63.
" UCLA played the kind of aggressive defense in the second half that any wrestling coach would be proud of," said Stanford Coach Dick DiBiaso, after his team lost 100-86. The Cardinals, after leading 49-48 at halftime, allowed the Bruins a 12-point spree in the second half, six by David Greenwood, who finished with 20. Greenwood had popped in 34 points in an earlier 82-74 trimming of California. That left UCLA in a four-way tie for the Pac 8 lead with Washington, Washington State and Oregon, all 3-1. Oregon ended Washington's 10-game winning streak 72-68 in overtime before losing to State 49-45. Oregon State dumped the Cougars 61-58 and lost to Washington 90-76.