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It was not the finest of weeks for Indiana Coach Bobby Knight. First, he was reprimanded and placed on warning by Big Ten Commissioner Wayne Duke for publicly criticizing conference officiating. Then the Hoosiers dropped into a first-place tie with Ohio State by losing to Michigan 69-56 and to Michigan State 62-54. After the loss to the Wolverines, Knight said, "This was a game of our mistakes. Michigan came out at us, and as the game went on, they wouldn't let us come back. They stayed in the game."
But Hoosier Forward Ted Kitchel, who was the Big Ten's leading scorer, did not. He left with back spasms 5:53 into the first half and never returned. The next day he was admitted to a hospital in Indianapolis with a lower-back injury and is probably lost for the year. With Kitchel sidelined, the Wolverines concentrated on the Hoosiers' other main man, Forward Randy Wittman, and held him to 18 points—including just four field goals. Wittman then shot a miserable 3 of 14 from the field and had only seven points against Michigan State. Two nights earlier the Spartans slowed Ohio State's drive to the top of the Big Ten with a 101-94 triple-overtime triumph. Spartan freshman Scott Skiles scored 35 points, hitting 12 of 19 from the field and a perfect 10 of 10 from the line. He converted six of those free throws in the final two minutes of the third overtime, which secured the Spartans' victory. But the Buckeyes finally tied for the lead by beating Michigan 81-71.
After Kentucky pounded out an 81-72 Southeastern Conference win over Georgia, Bulldog Coach Hugh Durham moaned, "Kentucky was playing with machetes. We might need some blood transfusions." Indeed, 56 fouls were called—27 against the 'Cats and 29 against the Dawgs—which prompted Durham and Wildcat Coach Joe B. Hall to rely heavily on their benches. Hall went to his more often and with greater results: Kentucky's reserves outscored Georgia's 30-5. The 'Cats clinched a tie for their 34th SEC regular-season championship with a 69-61 win over visiting Tennessee on Sunday.
Earlier, Dale Ellis, in his final game at Tennessee's Stokely Center, scored 35 points to lead the Vols past Auburn 82-74. But two nights later, against Vanderbilt in Nashville, the Commodores gave Ellis something to remember them by. Vandy upset Tennessee 69-68 on Phil Cox's two free throws with one second left. It was the Commodores' second one-point win over the Vols this season.
Virginia Commonwealth extended its winning streak to 14, defeating Jacksonville 65-58 and North Carolina Charlotte 73-71. Six-three Freddie (Throw-Down) Brown hauled in a career-high 16 rebounds to go along with 11 points to lead the Rams over the Dolphins, while Guard Calvin Duncan scored 20 points to pace Virginia Commonwealth past UNCC.
After Arkansas raced past Texas 84-67 in Austin, Longhorn Coach Bob Weltlich said, "We are like Clydesdales chasing quarter horses. They were dribbling with the ball faster than we could run without it." Texas committed 16 first-half turnovers but trailed only 38-32, thanks to 82.3% shooting (14 of 17) from the field. But when the Longhorns' shooting cooled in the second half, the Razor-back defense, led by Smothers Brothers Darrell Walker, who also scored 22 points, and Alvin Robertson, who had 20, helped convert 33 Texas turnovers into 39 Arkansas points. "I've never played against quicker guards in my life," said Longhorn Guard Craig Carlton. "I've never seen guards do a better job of cutting off passing lanes and trapping you." The Hogs tuned up for their showdown with Southwest Conference leader Houston by whipping Texas Tech in Fayetteville 77-63.
In the Big Eight, Missouri moved within one victory of becoming the first team in 49 years to win four straight championships. After routing Colorado 88-53, the Tigers rallied from a nine-point second-half deficit to edge Nebraska 54-51 and clinch a tie for the title. "I don't think there are many teams that could come back like that against a team as good as Nebraska playing in Lincoln." said Mizzou Coach Norm Stewart. Guard Jon Sundvold led the Tigers with 19 points, including 11 of Mizzou's last 13.
Wichita State's 72-62 victory over visiting Illinois State wrapped up the Shockers' second Missouri Valley Conference title in three seasons, but Wichita, which is on a three-year probation for recruiting violations, won't be going to the NCAA tournament. "Our goals are to finish 25-3 and finish in the Top 10," said Shocker Coach Gene Smithson. Earlier, Wichita State had won at New Mexico State for the first time since 1976, beating the Aggies 72-70. Xavier McDaniel was held to season lows of nine points and six rebounds, but he scored seven of the Shockers' last nine points, including a game-winning tip-in at the buzzer. They then beat Creighton 81-71, as Antoine Carr scored 24 points.
Louisville breezed past Division II Wright State of Ohio 71-55 and then had to overcome an 11-point first-half deficit to beat Western Kentucky 73-62. Florida State sent Memphis State to its fourth loss in six games, beating the Tigers 74-72 on Granville Arnold's layup with two seconds to go. Senior Guard Mitchell Wiggins, who has attained double figures in all 42 of his games as a Seminole, led Florida State with 37 points.