"Payback Week" was what it was labeled by Michigan State Coach Jud Heathcote, who didn't like calling it "Revenge Week." Earlier in the season the Spartans had lost road games to Purdue and Illinois. Last week State paid back Purdue 73-67 as Gregory Kelser popped in 29 points. Another factor was a special zone defense that encircled the Boilermakers' Joe Barry Carroll and limited him to 10 points, 12 less than his average. Michigan State then bumped off Illinois 76-62, Kelser picking up 24 points and Earvin Johnson 21 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists. One of Johnson's feeds came on a shovel pass to Kelser that sailed half the length of the court.
With Ohio State and Iowa each winning once and losing once, Michigan State climbed into a three-way deadlock for the Big Ten lead. All of the contenders have two games this week, and should the Spartans remain tied with the Buckeyes and/or Hawkeyes, they will automatically get an NCAA berth because they have beaten both of them twice.
Ohio State gained sole possession of first place on Thursday, drubbing Illinois 73-55, while Iowa fell a game back when it was beaten 64-62 at Indiana. With Herb Williams pouring in 34 points and pulling down 13 rebounds, the Buckeyes had little trouble with the Illini, who suffered their ninth loss in 13 games since starting the season 15-0. Like Michigan State, Indiana did some paying back, Mike Woodson's 31 points helping to avenge a January loss to Iowa. The Hawkeyes then journeyed to Ohio State, got 31 points from Ronnie Lester and knotted up the race by paying the Buckeyes back for an earlier defeat with an 83-68 victory.
If there was anything that powerful Notre Dame needed, it was more productivity from Center Bill Laimbeer. Last week, Laimbeer produced: 14 rebounds and two blocked shots as the Irish beat Oklahoma City 88-60; and 19 points and nine rebounds during a 93-70 blowout of La Salle. In each game, the Irish also got 21 points from Orlando Woolridge.
DePaul's Music Man had the Blue Demons dancing in the aisles. The Music Man is Gary Garland, who is a cousin of Dionne Warwick and is contemplating a career of his own as a vocalist. It was Garland's basket with four seconds to go that gave the Blue Demons a 61-60 victory over Marquette in a battle of independents, both of which seem likely to receive NCAA bids. The win raised DePauls record to 20-4 and dropped the Warriors to 19-5.
Also angling for a tournament spot was 21-5 Detroit, which rallied for a 72-69 win at Loyola of Chicago. The Titans squandered a nine-point halftime bulge, trailed 59-54 and pulled the game out when Terry Duerod popped in eight points down the stretch.
Central Michigan was alone at the top of the Mid-American Conference, one game ahead of Toledo. The Chippewas got there by beating Ohio University 80-62 and Eastern Michigan 66-65.
Morehead State earned a berth in the Ohio Valley Conference's four-team tournament by-beating regular-season champion Eastern Kentucky 98-91. The Eagles, who last season were 4-19 overall and 0-14 in the conference, brought their records to 14-12 and 7-5 under first-year Coach Wayne Martin as Herbie Stamper scored 32 points.
Another vastly improved team is Tennessee State, which also has a coach named Martin. Ed Martin joined the Tigers in 1968 and soon had them reeling off 20-win seasons. The past two years, however, State slipped to 9-16 and 13-12. About the only thing in which Martin could take pride in 1978 was that he won his 400th game in 23 seasons as a head coach. But he was distressed by the Tigers' average of 22 turnovers. So Martin scoured junior colleges for ballhandling guards and found just what he needed in Kenneth Offutt of Columbia State JC in Tennessee and Craig Geter of Dekalb JC in Georgia. Offutt and Geter have helped State cut its turnovers in half this season. With 6'6" Forward Monti Davis leading the nation in rebounding with a 16.1 average, Geter picking up 117 assists and everyone in the starting five scoring in double figures, the Tigers have turned things around. Last week they whipped Tennessee- Chattanooga 81-64 and, despite Davis' 21 points and 18 rebounds, lost to Alabama State 84-81. All of which left State 20-6.