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The University of Nevada, Las Vegas remained the nation's only unbeaten major college team, but it had to struggle at home against two lower-echelon PCAA opponents. The Rebels were sluggish in an 85-79 victory over last-place UC-Santa Barbara. "It was one of those nights," said UNLV Guard Jeff Collins. "It's hard to get up for UC-Santa Barbara. That's been our problem. We're playing teams that aren't supposed to beat us."
One of those teams, UC-Irvine, almost did upset UNLV the next night. After freshman Eldridge Hudson sank a pair of free throws with 15 seconds remaining to give the Rebels a two-point lead, Irvine's George Turner missed a three-point attempt that left UNLV with a shaky 70-68 win. Vegas Center Sid Green had 47 points and 22 rebounds in the two games.
When asked why UCLA has so much trouble getting started against its opponents. Bruin Coach Larry Farmer said, "Maybe this is the kind of team that has to have its back against the wall or be threatened before it responds." He may be right. With Washington State leading 85-84 with 1:03 left in overtime, the Bruins were in danger of losing to the Cougars in Pauley Pavilion for the first time. But Bruin Forward Kenny Fields, who scored nine of his 26 points in OT, hit a turnaround jumper with 52 seconds left to put UCLA ahead 86-85, and then converted a three-point play with 16 seconds left to give the Bruins an 89-87 victory. On Saturday, UCLA, again paced by Fields who had 22 points, extended its lead over the second-place Cougars to 1½ games by whipping Washington 84-65, while Southern Cal was upsetting Washington State 56-49.
After Tulane upset Memphis State 58-56 to snap the Tigers' 29-game homecourt winning streak, Memphis State Coach Dana Kirk dourly said, "You're supposed to smile a lot when you win and smile a little when you lose. But I can't find much to smile about."
Kirk could thank the Green Wave's Paul Thompson and John Williams for that. Thompson, a senior forward, and Williams, a sophomore center, combined for 31 points and 14 rebounds. Williams held the Tigers' Keith Lee, who had scored at a 28.6 clip in his three previous games, to 14. Memphis State had a miserable 43.1% shooting percentage. "Our players missed shots they haven't missed in two years," Kirk said.
Kirk and the Tigers had reason for joy earlier in the week, when Memphis beat Virginia Tech 73-64 to avenge the Tigers' first defeat of the season. Lee had 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots. After Metro Conference leader Louisville won a 79-73 victory at Cincinnati, it hosted another flock of Cardinals from Lamar and walloped the Southland Conference leaders 85-60. Playing before their parents, Thomas and Shirley, Rodney and Scooter McCray combined to score 27 points and grab 20 rebounds.
Three Missouri Valley Conference games took unusual twists for Illinois State. The Redbirds won 56-55 at Bradley by intentionally allowing an easy basket. With three seconds to go, the Braves needed a three-point field goal to tie the game, but upon Abounding the ball from under their own basket, Barney Mines instinctively passed to a wide-open Roosevelt Davison for a harmless two-point layup as the buzzer sounded.
"I knew they couldn't beat us inside," said Illinois State Center Rick Lamb. "I figured they'd throw it outside and go for three. What they did was stupid, because there was no way they could win from there."