Massachusetts upset Holy Cross 77-76 on a 24-foot fadeaway by Eric Williams at the buzzer. In the wild final 13 seconds of the game, each team had the ball stolen, UMass missed a free throw, a jump ball was called and Williams hit his shot.
Holy Cross had been recovering from a slump, winning four games in succession, including a 91-70 decision over Brown. After the UMass loss, the Crusaders promptly began another recovery with a 100-88 victory over Hofstra. Providence was in the midst of a three-game losing skid when it righted itself by beating Rhode Island 79-59.
Meanwhile Fairfield was quietly establishing itself as the best team in New England. After winning by scores of 82-78 over Manhattan and 89-83 against Boston University, the Stags were 17-2.
Penn continued to dominate the Ivy League, winning its 11th game in its last 12 by outscoring Columbia 29-0 at one point during an 81-58 rout. Columbia had defeated Princeton 38-36, but the Tigers rebounded with an 88-50 drubbing of Cornell. St. John's became the latest in a succession of teams to beat Cincinnati. The Redmen's sixth straight win came by a 75-66 score.
When Mercer visited North Carolina, the Tar Heels assigned their little-known opponents to the locker room usually given to visiting jayvee teams. Mercer responded by nearly dressing down Carolina in a 73-70 loss to the heavily favored Heels. Four days later Furman succeeded where Mercer had failed, knocking off Carolina 89-83. The Purple Paladins outscored the Tar Heels at the free-throw line by 28 points and benefited from a pair of technicals called on the North Carolina bench. Center Jonathan Moore, who scored 19 points for Furman, said, "Those technicals were the key to the game." If they weren't, the fact that Furman outscored Carolina 18-0 late in the game, after trailing by 11 points, probably was. The next night the Paladins also knocked off N.C. State 68-67.
In the ACC. Wake Forest destroyed Duke, which was playing without its injured star. Center Mike Gminski, 79-60, and handled Virginia 74-62. The Cavaliers had a nail biter against Maryland, pulling out a 66-64 win when freshman star Jeff Lamp hit two free throws with nine seconds remaining.
Virginia Tech handed Syracuse its second straight loss with 17 unanswered points in the second half. The Orangemen lost that one 87-71 but bounced back with a 100-73 victory over Siena.
VMI (16-5) won its seventh and eighth straight, as senior Ron Carter became the first Keydet to score 2,000 career points. Carter got 54 in a 110-90 defeat of Richmond and a 61-47 win over Roanoke. He now has 2,043.
Rutgers seemed to be over its early-season streakiness, beating West Virginia 80-61 and Connecticut 78-70. Those were the eighth and ninth wins for the Scarlet Knights in their last 10 games.
Marquette won 73-60 at Penn State and 69-66 in double overtime at South Carolina, where emotions ran high over rumors that university officials were trying to ease out Coach Frank McGuire.