While people turned down their thermostats because of the natural-gas shortage, Northwestern, which seemed to have been playing most of the season with its thermostat off, suddenly heated up. The Wildcats, losers of 13 of 17 games, burned Michigan 99-87. Three weeks earlier they had lost at Ann Arbor by 37 points. This time Northwestern got 29 points from Billy McKinney and beat Michigan at its own game by utilizing an effective full-court press. Michigan also had troubles in two earlier games, scoring the final 12 points to beat Ohio State 92-81 and holding off Wisconsin 69-64. Wisconsin and Illinois did their darndest against Purdue. The Badgers used a zone, but the Boilermakers countered with a three-guard offense and won 81-71. Huge snowdrifts nearly prevented the Illini from reaching West Lafayette, but after traveling over four highways their bus got there. So, remarkably, did almost 13,000 fans, who saw Purdue sink 28 of 32 free throws and win 66-63. Minnesota beat Michigan State 75-70, Indiana 79-60 and Ohio State 77-67. At week's end the Big Ten standings were: Michigan 8-1, Purdue 7-1, Minnesota 6-1.
Fans at Rupp Arena laughed when the electric power mysteriously faded and caused the scoreboard to flicker in the closing minutes against Mississippi, implying that Kentucky was, indeed, shooting the lights out. The Wildcats' 63.1% marksmanship led to a 100-73 Southeastern Conference victory. When Kentucky came to Alabama, all 120 state legislators and Governor George Wallace were there to cheer on the Tide. The Wildcats, though, had Jack Givens, Mike Phillips and Rick Robey. With Givens scoring 23 points and Phillips and Robey adding 32 more, Kentucky won 87-85. Earlier, Alabama beat Georgia 78-74 in overtime. First-place Tennessee stopped Mississippi, Bernard King and Ernie Grunfeld scoring 51 points.
1. TENNESSEE (14-2)
2. KENTUCKY (14-2)
3. MICHIGAN (15-2)
Wake Forest Coach Carl Tacy, who believes in seat-of-the-pants tactics, and Clemson Coach Bill Foster, who believes in not sitting when he can lead cheers, both relished wins over North Carolina. During practices, Tacy's Deacons wear trunks with DEFENSE written on the backsides. The Wake Forest defense held the Tar Heels to their lowest point total of the season and that, coupled with clutch shooting by the Deacons, brought them from 15 points down to a 67-66 win. When Carolina journeyed to Clemson, Foster exhorted his team with late-game cheerleading. In the process, he dislocated his shoulder. Foster didn't mind; his Tigers handed the Tar Heels their third loss in their last four games 93-73 as Wayne (Tree) Rollins had 15 points and 19 rebounds. That left Wake Forest (5-1) ahead of Clemson and North Carolina State (both 4-2) and Carolina (5-3) in the Atlantic Coast race. Maryland overcame a 17-point N.C. State advantage to pull out a 75-73 win. State then beat Virginia 73-67, while Maryland lost 86-76 to outsider George Washington.
Workmen setting up the marquee early in the week for the Madison Square Garden Classic did some prognosticating about the finals. Their prediction: Holy Cross vs. Rutgers. They were half right, as Holy Cross advanced by downing Manhattan 82-64 and beat Seton Hall 82-77 in the finale.
"This Villanova team has been around for four years and the chickens are coming home to roost," said St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca after a 65-63 loss to the Wildcats. His allusion to "fowl" play was quite apt, for among those who led Villanova were Larry (Swan) Herron, who scored three points in the closing 25 seconds, and Rory Sparrow, who sank all five of his floor shots. Another Herron, Swan's brother Keith, added 20 points. Villanova (13-3) then beat Wagner 83-49 and St. John's downed Oregon 61-51.
Columbia moved into first place in the Ivy League with a 4-0 record. The Lions stopped Yale 71-44 and then sank 41 of 54 free throws to defeat Brown 103-91. Princeton avenged an earlier loss to Penn with a 69-56 verdict that left both one game back of the Lions.
Syracuse beat Buffalo 91-71 and Temple 76-67, while Providence downed Canisius 86-69 and then won in overtime, 71-63 from Niagara.