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Spurring on the Friars were 6'9", 240-pound Bob (Big Beef) Misevicius and Guard Dwight Williams. Misevicius, who missed almost a month of preseason drills while trimming off 30 pounds and boning up on his studies, pumped in eight straight points during a 16-5 Providence spurt and finished with 16. Williams added 19 points as Coach Dave Gavitt pulled off an upset of a highly rated opponent for the ninth straight season.
Three days later, at Madison Square Garden, Williams and Misevicius again led Providence, as it won 60-58 over Seton Hall. Williams tied a school record by making six steals and again had 19 points. Misevicius scored only six, but tipped in the winning basket at the buzzer. Greg Tynes kept the Pirates in contention with 27 points.
Until the last 12 minutes of the title game at the Big Four tournament. All-America Guard Phil Ford looked like an Edsel. Although he had 23 points during a 79-66 first-round win over Duke, Ford missed 10 of 17 shots. After another slow start in the title game against North Carolina State, MVP Ford canned six field goals and 10 consecutive free throws as the Tar Heels overcame a 60-52 deficit and prevailed 87-82.
Wake Forest, which had swept the past three Big Four tournaments, came in last. A jumper at the buzzer by freshman Kenny Matthews enabled N.C. State to surprise the Deacons 79-77 in the opening round. Charles (Hawkeye) Whitney had 26 points for the winners, and Rod Griffin scored 32 for the losers. In the battle for third place, Duke fell 15 points behind before rallying for a 97-84 win over Wake Forest, despite Griffin's 31 points. Helping the Blue Devils to come out on top were 20 points and 11 rebounds by Mike Gminski, 19 points by freshman Eugene Banks and a team shooting percentage of .800 in the second half.
For the first time in a dozen years, Syracuse won an in-season tournament, taking the first Carrier Classic on its home court. The Orangemen, who tuned up for the event by drubbing Connecticut 101-61, knocked off LeMoyne 90-62 in the opening round. Michigan State advanced to the finals by polishing off Rhode Island 92-64 as Guard Bob Chapman made all 11 of his field-goal attempts and wound up with 30 points. Earvin Johnson, a 6'8" freshman for the Spartans, was also dazzling as he played both guard and high post, often brought the ball downcourt, put in eight of 13 shots, scored 17 points, had 11 assists, made three steals and grabbed four rebounds. Johnson, the tournament's MVP, had 12 points, six rebounds and five assists against Syracuse in the final. That was not enough, as the Orange broke a 63-63 deadlock and won 75-67.
Maryland captured the first Tip Off tournament at the Capital Centre in Landover, Md. with the help of 6'4", 200-pound sophomore Guard Billy Bryant, who has had to beg Coach Lefty Driesell to let him play. Bryant led the Terps with 14 points as they beat American U. 78-65 in a first-round game. In the final, Georgetown, which had disposed of Navy 71-56 the night before, trailed Maryland only 76-72 with 5:12 to play. That was when Bryant really proved he belonged in the lineup. In quick succession, he broke through to score on a pair of drives, delivered a perfect assist to Albert King and came out of a scramble with a loose ball as Maryland pulled ahead 86-79. Maryland went on to win 91-87, and Bryant, who had 26 points, was chosen the MVP. King, who took seven shots and had nine points in the opener, scored 22 in the championship game.
Another Terp guard, freshman Greg Manning, hit 10 of 12 shots as Maryland broke a 76-all tie and defeated Penn State 89-80. Also peppering the basket was Navy's Jack Stumborg, who made all seven of his second-half shots as the Middies shocked Princeton 60-57. Princeton then had its 18-game home win streak ended by St. John's 43-40. George Johnson gave the Redmen a 41-40 lead with 1:02 left when he sank a 20-footer.
Ronnie Perry of Holy Cross scored 25 points during an 86-67 win over St. Anselm's and had 27 more as the Crusaders downed Dartmouth 93-79. Vermont, which stunned Ohio State 77-76, beat Dartmouth 67-52. It was against the Big Green that the Catamounts erased Duke's two-day-old NCAA record for field-goal accuracy. Vermont's .750 shooting topped the Blue Devils' record of .745.