Isiah Thomas continued to get banged up, but Indiana nevertheless kept giving its opponents black eyes. Thomas, who two weeks ago needed 20 stitches over his left eye to close a gash he suffered during a game, took four more over his right eye after a dormitory scuffle. Battle-scarred but obviously not battle-scared, Thomas popped in 13 points and had three steals during Indiana's 75-72 victory at Michigan State. Mike Woodson scored 20 points in that game and 24 more as the Hoosiers beat Michigan 65-61 after letting a 17-point lead slip away. Home teams have won 60 of 80 Big Ten games so far, but Indiana has now won its last three road encounters. That's why Michigan Coach Johnny Orr insists that the Hoosiers, with Woodson playing superbly after recovering from early-season back surgery, are No. 1 in the country.
Still tied with Indiana for first place in the Big Ten was Ohio State, which was twice a shaky winner at home. The Buckeyes led last-place Northwestern by only two points with 3:17 left. It was then that Kelvin Ransey, who had 20 points, took command, passing off for a layup, converting two free throws and firing in a jumper. Following that 68-59 triumph, Ohio State blew a 10-point lead against Iowa and trailed 69-68. It took a lay-in eight seconds from the end by Herb Williams to pull the Buckeyes through 70-69. Williams finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds and nine blocked shots; Ransey with 16 points and nine assists. That gave Ransey 155 assists for the season.
A 75-64 loss at Michigan dropped Purdue one game back. The Boilermakers then got 28 points from Joe Barry Carroll to knock off Illinois 72-68.
"You can talk about X's and O's all you want, but you can't diagram what Mark did. It was unbelievable." So said Joey Meyer, DePaul's assistant coach, after Mark Aguirre sank 10 of 13 second-half shots and ended up with 40 points and 12 rebounds to stop La Salle 92-75. Michael Brooks of the Explorers snatched 15 rebounds and broke Tom Gola's school scoring record; his 24 points raised his total to 2,477. After drubbing Wagner 105-89 at Madison Square Garden, the Blue Demons returned home to defeat Loyola of Chicago for the third time. It was no easy task, but Aguirre rallied his team from a 56-50 deficit and finished with 41 points as DePaul won 94-87.
Big Blue Wildcat, Kentucky's towering mascot, broke a stilt during a time-out in a game against Mississippi State and had to be dragged off the floor. Although Big Blue was through for the night and although Rickey Brown had 35 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulldogs, Kentucky prevailed 71-65. Louisiana State also had to scramble, but with DeWayne Scales getting 32 points and 12 rebounds held off Mississippi 77-74. All of which left Kentucky and LSU tied for first place in the Southeastern race with only a Sunday matchup in Baton Rouge left. There the Wildcats avenged an earlier loss to the Tigers, winning 76-74 when Kyle Macy scored the only points in overtime by swishing an 18-foot jumper with one second to go.
Macy, the NCAA foul-shooting leader, thus atoned for having failed to convert two free throws in the final 3:28, only his seventh and eighth misses of the season. Kentucky trailed 36-35 at halftime, moved in front by eight with 6:23 remaining but fell behind 74-72 when Ethan Martin of LSU drove for a basket. Wildcat freshman Sam Bowie squared matters at 74—all with a layup with 30 seconds to play to send the game into overtime. Bowie then tied up Greg Cook of the Tigers with 27 seconds left in the extra period and controlled the ensuing jump ball. Kentucky took a time-out to set up the game-winning basket. Martin, who connected on 12 of 15 field-goal attempts, had 29 points for the Tigers, while Fred Cowan led the Wildcats with 27 points.
In a battle between major independents, Marquette jarred Notre Dame 77-74. Sam Worthen tossed in 30 points, 18 of them in the second half, as the Warriors improved their record to 16-8.
Alcorn (Miss.) State, which began the week with the most prolific offense (92.0 points a game) and the widest average victory margin (18.9 points a game), upped its record to 24-1. With Larry Smith scoring 43 points, the Braves won 108-77 at South Carolina State and 71-68 at Arkansas-Little Rock.
1. DePAUL (25-0)
2. KENTUCKY (26-4)
3. INDIANA (18-7)