"It was a real ambush. Western style," said Utah State Coach Dutch Belnap after gunning down visiting Cal State-Fullerton 85-70. A tenacious man-to-man defense held Fullerton to 34.7% shooting, and the Aggies got hot performances from Dean Hunger, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds, Keith McDonald, who scored 21, and 6'10" freshman Leo Cunningham. He amassed 10 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots in just 10 minutes. For the Aggies, who have also licked Weber State, Utah, Brigham Young and Long Beach State, it was another impressive victory over a strong Western team. Utah State then disposed of UC-Irvine 65-54 and moved into a first-place tie in the PCAA with Fullerton, which was beaten by San Jose State 84-80.
Just when Weber State got recognition, having been voted No. 19 in the UPI poll, the Wildcats were handed their first Big Sky loss 70-63 by hot-shooting Boise State. Weber then thrashed Idaho State 85-68 as Richard Smith poured in 31 points. Lawrence Butler of the Bengals, the No. 2 scorer in the nation with a 28.4 average, had 26 points.
1. UCLA (16-3)
2. SOUTHERN CAL (13-6)
3. UTAH ST. (15-6)
When Michigan States Earvin Johnson severely sprained his right foot, the Spartans were leading Ohio State 32-21. The medical report was that Johnson probably would miss the rest of the game, but when he heard on the training-room radio that the Buckeyes had gone ahead 41-40, Johnson said, "You can't wait until tomorrow. If we lose, the season's over." Hearing that Johnson could play if need be. Spartan Coach Jud Heathcote "meditated a third of a second and sent him in." Johnson scored nine points in nine minutes to force a 64-64 tie at the end of regulation time and added six in overtime for a total of 23 as the Spartans won 84-79. That, plus a 61-50 win over Northwestern, put Michigan State back in the Big Ten race with a 6-4 record.
Ohio State, which began the week 8-0 in the league, lost again, 70-62 at Indiana. Buckeye Coach Eldon Miller, who said his squad had not been "playing with enough early intensity," found this to be the case against the Hoosiers. who sped in front 32-20.
Iowa, which has won 13 of its last 15 games, tied Ohio State for first place by winning two road games. In knocking off Wisconsin 70-64 and Minnesota 97-71, the Hawkeyes got 42 points from Ronnie Lester.
There was also a shakeup in the SEC, where Alabama fell from first to third after blowing a 32-22 lead and being jarred 83-77 by Tennessee. The Vols had a 38-28 rebound margin, got 26 points from Reggie Johnson and sank 17 of 22 free throws while 'Bama missed eight of 13.
Vanderbilt was also upset at home, losing 90-87 to Florida in overtime as Mark Giombetti scored 23 points for the Gators. The Commodores then won 66-58 at Mississippi to tie Louisiana State for the No. 1 spot, half a game in front of Alabama. LSU won 84-78 at Tennessee and beat Kentucky 70-61. The Tigers hit on 30 of 35 free throws against Kentucky. During the final 12 minutes, LSU made only two field goals, but canned 24 free throws. Durand Macklin, LSU's best player, who has been out since Nov. 30 with a broken foot, decided to save a year's eligibility by sitting out the rest of the season.
After breezing past Brown 80-53 and holding off Xavier of Ohio 66-57, Notre Dame had to scramble to defeat Dayton. The Flyers, who got 32 points from Jim Paxson, were up by nine early in the second half. Notre Dame, however, wore down the Flyers, who had only one field goal in the last 8:45. Kelly Tripucka of the Irish scored 37 points—17 in a row during one dazzling stretch—and set a school record by sinking 23 of 26 free throws as Notre Dame won 86-71.