As his TV show opened a week ago, Texas Coach Abe Lemons was shown lying on the floor in a dark suit, his hands folded on his chest, clasping a carnation. An organ was playing funeral music. Then Lemons slowly got up, turned to the camera and shouted, "We're not dead yet!"
A resurrection it was. Arkansas, the Southwest Conference leader, had been upset by Houston, enabling Texas to tie the Razor-backs for first. Two days later Texas beat SMU 82-74 to clinch the SWC co-championship. Swingman Ron Baxter scored 18 of his 30 points during an early second-half surge that lifted Texas from a 41-41 deadlock to a 17-point lead. Still, Lemons was not about to get cocky. "I think we've got a guardian angel," he said. "I just hope he doesn't fly away." Arkansas iced its half of the co-championship by outclassing Texas Tech 58-49.
"We had trouble living with prosperity in the past," said Florida State Coach Hugh Durhan. "Whenever we'd move up in the rankings, we'd play a bad game." Not this time. Led by David Thompson's 45 points, the Seminoles swept a home-and-away series with Georgia Tech, 78-72 and 85-82, to nail down the Metro 7 title. Coming off three straight road losses and a nosedive from No. 9 to No. 20 in the AP poll, Louisville drubbed Ball State 104-84 and Memphis State 115-97. Against the Tigers, the Cards' Larry Williams had a career-high 31 points.
Creighton locked up the Missouri Valley championship with a 62-56 win over Southern Illinois, and DePaul ran its record to 23-2 by winning 54-41 at Air Force. Kansas, the Big Eight champ, rolled over last-place Colorado 70-60.
1. ARKANSAS (27-2)
2. KANSAS (23-3)
3. FLORIDA ST.(21-4)
Shortly after arriving on the floor for Kentucky's rematch with Alabama, which had handed the Wildcats one of their two losses, Coach Joe Hall turned cheerleader, waving his arms and whipping Kentucky students into frenzy. Then Hall's team gave the fans plenty to roar about, uncorking a 12-0 scoring binge late in the first half that allowed the 'Cats to coast to a 97-84 win. Jack Givens sank nine of 10 field-goal attempts, Rick Robey hit on six of six and Mike Phillips canned five of seven as the Wildcats shot 67% from the floor. "We're back now," Hall cheered, referring to some lackluster Kentucky play of late. "I think we'll be back from now on. I feel good about the rest of the season."
Later Kentucky secured the Southeastern Conference championship and an NCAA playoff bid by defeating Tennessee 68-57. Givens again led the Wildcats with 18 points. Even though the Vols lost, Johnny Darden of Tennessee, which trailed by only three points with six minutes to play, thought that Hall's good feelings were ill-founded. " Kentucky's big and slow," he said. "I don't think it can go all the way."
No. 1-ranked Marquette was headed for a fall in the ratings after being tripped up by a late Notre Dame rally in a 65-59 loss. The Warriors led from the opening tap—they were once ahead by 17—until, with 2:50 left to play, Irish Guard Don Williams drilled in a jumper to give Notre Dame a 58-57 lead. Freshman Forward Kelly Tripucka, who had been held scoreless in the first half, paced the Notre Dame resurgence with 15 points.