After St. John's defeated skidding Boston College 66-59 before a crowd of 11,325 in Boston Garden, swingman Chris Mullin was asked how he had rallied the Redmen from a 40-30 deficit with 15:58 to play. "Hey," said Mullin, "it's just a matter of playing the game right." Easy for Mullin to say. He scored a game-high 24 points and had eight rebounds in his first appearance on the Garden's parquet floor. "He came out, and he gave a performance," said Redmen coach Lou Carnesecca. "The Garden? That might've crossed his mind."
Until the final four minutes, BC seemed to have all the right moves. Despite the absence of center Trevor Gordon, who had lost his eligibility because he'd failed to complete a term paper in a fall semester business class, the Eagles frustrated the Redmen inside by alternately double-teaming 7-foot Bill Wennington and 6'8" skywalker Walter Berry. Meanwhile, Boston College's aggressive 1-2-2 zone defense kept Mullin so far from the hoop that he was actually out of his shooting range.
"They pushed me out like 30 feet from the basket," said Mullin. "I had to do something to get into the flow of the offense. In the second half, I started to look more along the baseline and down the middle." Mullin's strategy paid off; he got 16 of his points after intermission. "He's a player, that's all," said Celtics president Red Auerbach, who was in the stands. "He's got a quick release, great range and is just a competitor." Hey, Red, remind you of anyone you know?
After Connecticut dropped early-season games to lowly Fairfield and Providence, the annual Let's Fire Dom Perno chants were heard again throughout the state. But Perno is accustomed to such talk. Although he has guided UConn to one NCAA and three NIT tournament appearances since 1977-78, he has failed to keep talented Connecticut high school stars such as John Pinone and Harold Pressley ( Villanova), John Bagley, Jay Murphy and Michael Adams ( Boston College), Rod Foster ( UCLA) and Charlie Smith (Pitt) at home. Thus the Huskies' 70-68 upset of Syracuse before 30,161 fans in the Carrier Dome, which ran their record to 6-7, was a help. "I think it was a great win. I'm happy for Dom because it was a shot in the arm," says Lou Carnesecca. "It was a psychological boost. It says to the players, 'Hey, we can win.' " Well, at least it silenced the UConn boo-birds for a week.
Jerry H. Lewis has never, in his 18 years as coach at Tougaloo College, a small, predominantly black, liberal arts school in suburban Jackson, Miss., had the luxury of scouting high school talent almost every night. Lewis is getting in plenty of scouting this season, but he's quick to add, "I'm not proud of it." That's because Lewis and Tougaloo athletic director James Coleman canceled the Bulldogs' last 20 games of this season when they learned that nine of their 12 varsity players had failed to meet the school's scholarship standards during the fall semester.
The Tougaloo nine—eight sophomores and one junior—either fell below the minimum of 12 passing credits or failed to meet the minimum grade-point average the college requires of all its students. Though the school will lose no money because of the forfeitures, it did lose some pride. "When we told the guys, they were solemn and sad," says Lewis, who has a 266-225 record at Tougaloo, including a 3-4 mark this season.
The nine players are still in school and will retain their financial aid. But no Bulldog will be allowed to touch a basketball in Brownlee Hall until at least Feb. 22. "I don't know if there's a silver lining in any of this," says Lewis. "But if it helps them to realize the seriousness of their lives, and helps them to go on to get their degrees, it will be a silver lining for everyone. I will know we did the right thing."
Alabama-Birmingham coach Gene Bartow swears he's not superstitious, but his actions betray his words. During the last six games of the Blazers' current seven-game winning streak, including last week's 68-66 Sun Belt win at Western Kentucky, Bartow has worn the same navy-blue blazer, along with the maroon sweater he got at the Great Alaska Shootout in November. He has also continued to start 6'7" senior center Pipo Marrero, normally a crowd-pleasing reserve from Rio Piedras, Puerto Rico. Marrero has averaged just 7.8 minutes while playing in 13 of UAB's 19 games, but its record with him as a starter is 10-0. "We have some players that we think are better coming off the bench," says Bartow. As for his superstitions, he says coyly, "In the coaching profession, you can never be too careful."