A new light was cast upon Kentucky, which dealt Vanderbilt its worst setback in 30 years, 113-73. In previous games at Rupp Arena the Wildcats had not shot well. But this time they were 54.9% marksmen, perhaps because the lights were softened in the outer reaches of the huge arena. Mike Phillips, Jack Givens and Rick Robey teamed up for 63 Wildcat points. Kentucky also beat Mississippi State 92-85. Alabama drubbed Vanderbilt 98-82, but had to go into overtime to defeat LSU 77-70. T. R. Dunn scored eight points in the extra period to ignite the Tide.
Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Miami of Ohio were tied for first in the Mid-American race. The Huskies beat Ball State 83-77, the Broncos nipped Eastern Michigan 56-53 and the Redskins split, outlasting Northern 99-91 in two overtimes and dropping a 72-68 decision to Toledo.
Conjuring up visions of Newberry ( S.C.) College, one might suspect the team is in a league with Woolworth and Kresge. But even though the Indians travel aboard a bus rented from the local Boy Scouts and even though they seldom practice more than 45 minutes a day, they are clearly no five-and-dime squad. What they are is No. 1 in the NAIA rankings. And undefeated. By beating Presbyterian 83-77 and Lander 62-50, Newberry brought its record to 24-0.
Leading the Indians is Coach Nield Gordon, who has more transfers than a cross-town bus driver. Scott Conant, a 6'10" center who is a 63% shooter and averages 17.7 points and 15.2 rebounds, started for Clemson. Other transplants are Guards Bobby Edwards (12.5 points), who attended South Carolina, and Joe Chatman (10.2), late of Southeastern JC. Former Seminole JC Guard Dave Hampton came to Newberry to visit a girl friend, stopped by the gym, got a tryout and is now the team's best defensive guard. From Anderson JC came the Creamer twins, 6'9" Ronnie and 6'10" Don, who have a combined 15.4 scoring average. The only upperclassman who is not a transfer student is Forward Bobby Griffin of nearby Whitmore, S.C, who leads the club with an 18.4 scoring average.
Gordon, who teamed with Frank Selvy at Furman to form the highest-scoring duo in the country in 1952-53, is in his 14th year at Newberry. Last season his Indians were 30-5 and got to the NAIA quarterfinals. Although he had to replace three starters, Gordon came up with more transfers and has kept on winning. He insists he has no ambitions to move to the big-college ranks, no desire to give up bus rides for jet flights or to replace "fun" practices with grueling sessions. Applauding his decision not to become a transfer himself are Newberry fans, who pack 1,200-seat McLean Gym for home games.
Another small-college coach having a high old time is Gene (Torchy) Clark of Florida Tech. His star player for several years was his son Mike, who set a Tech one-game scoring record of 43 points. Now that Mike has graduated, another of Torchy's sons, Bo, has caught fire. Bo had 51 points against Eckerd College and set an NCAA single-game high for this season with 70 in a 135-83 romp over Florida Memorial. Clark got his 70 by hitting on 33 of 47 field-goal tries and on all four of his free throws. Said Memorial Coach A. C. Robinson, "Maybe if we'd broke his arm...maybe if we'd broke both his arms, he wouldn't have scored but 50."
1. TENNESSEE (16-3)
2. KENTUCKY (16-2)
3. MICHIGAN (17-2)
"What kind of strategy could you possibly discuss when you're six points ahead and there's two seconds left?" asked Memphis State Coach Wayne Yates after an 88-82 loss at Cincinnati. "I called the time-out because he'd been a jackass," was the blunt retort from Bearcat Coach Gale Catlett. "He was up and down all night hollering at the officials." Another Metro Conference loss for State was less galling, first-place Louisville romping 111-92.
"I'd get a hernia if I shot from that far out," said Bradley Coach Joe Stowell, a 107-106 loser to Nevada-Las Vegas and its long-range bombers. Shooting from closer in, Bradley's Roger Phegley led all scorers with 46 points. For the Rebels, who had played just four away games all season, it was the start of a road trip that exposed their weaknesses. "They don't play defense," said Billy Lewis of Illinois State two nights later, after his 21 points helped end the Rebels' 14-game victory string 88-84. Indeed, Vegas' press was so ineffective that Coach Jerry Tarkanian abandoned it for the first time in two years. Illinois State then lost to Indiana State 100-84 as Larry Bird flicked in 40 points. For the Sycamores it was sweet revenge. A week earlier, on the day they had moved into the top 20 of a major poll for the first time since 1971, the Redbirds had beaten them 70-64.