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It was the hot shooting of Forward Kelly Tripucka that enabled Notre Dame to upset undefeated DePaul and kept the Irish from being toppled by Dayton. Tripucka flicked in eight of his 28 points as Notre Dame sped to a 12-4 advantage over the Blue Demons. DePaul, down 32-31 at halftime, went in front with an 8-0 spurt after the intermission, then fell behind 45-43 when the Irish ran off 11 straight points. The score was 64-64 at the end of regulation time and 70-70 after Rich Branning of Notre Dame hit on a jumper with seven seconds left in the first of two extra periods. Orlando Woolridge of the Irish scored the game's decisive two points on foul shots with 19 seconds to go, for a 76-74 decision that ended DePaul's 26-game winning streak. It was the fifth time in 12 years that a team ranked No. 1 had lost at South Bend. Tripucka then scored 22 points as the Irish (22-5) held off Dayton 62-54. DePaul won its next outing as Mark Aguirre, who had 28 points at Notre Dame, pumped in 40 during a 97-81 romp over Illinois State. On the Blue Demon bench for that game was Center Jim Mitchem, who the day before the Notre Dame contest had slipped on ice and fractured a bone in his left hand, an injury that limited him to two points.
Two wings and Center Jonathan Moore helped Furman take the Southern Conference playoffs by beating Marshall 80-62. With the wings—Michael Hunt and Ronald White—playing two steps farther down the baseline in the second half, the Paladins overcame a 36-32 halftime deficit. Hunt finished with 22 points, White with 16 and Moore with 16, plus 11 rebounds. For the second year in a row Moore was the tournament's MVP. He also became the first player ever named four consecutive times to the all-Southern and all-tournament squads.
In the Mid-American Conference Toledo beat Bowling Green 85-70, Jim Swaney scoring 31 points, Harvey Knuckles adding 20 and Dick Miller latching on to 20 missed shots. The Rockets (23-5) knocked off Ball State in the semifinals as Swaney tossed in 27 points and Knuckles 26. Murray State and Western Kentucky, which tied for first in the Ohio Valley, met for the tournament title. Western downed Murray for the third time, coming back for a 54-51 victory after trailing 31-19 at halftime. Led by MVP Edmund Sherod, fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth took the Sun Belt tournament. Sherod scored a total of 68 points, 19 as the Rams beat top-seeded South Alabama 74-72 and 22 as they defeated Alabama-Birmingham 105-88 in the finals.
1. DePAUL (26-1)
"I knew we were flat as we walked down the runway to the court," Kansas Coach Ted Owens said after the Big Eight tournament final game against Kansas State. Flat, indeed; as flat as the unfortunate Jayhawk doll that was slammed to the floor by Wildcat cheerleaders at halftime. Even the printed signs that were flashed from the Kansas bench to designate plays, such as 3 SCREEN could do nothing to revive the fading Jayhawks, who lost 79-58. Kansas may well have suffered a downer after having stunned regular-season champ Missouri 80-71 the night before. For K-State, Guard Rolando Blackman's 22 points, Forward Ed Nealy's 17 and Coach Jack Hartman's "green zone" defense were decisive. Hartman also has blue, red and brown zones. Nealy, who came into the tournament in a dreadful shooting slump, got hot and made good on a Big Eight-record 17 consecutive field-goal tries during one stretch as the Wildcats won three games. All told, Nealy hit on 22 of 29 shots, scored 52 points, pulled down 29 rebounds and had seven assists. MVP Blackman scored a tournament-record 60 points, snatched 16 rebounds and fed off for seven assists. Kansas State barely survived the semifinals, nipping Nebraska 60-59 when Blackman scored a basket with 18 seconds remaining and then blocked the final shot by the Huskers.
"Our press gets to people only when we really jump in their shirts, and that's what we started doing," said Guard Jerry Eaves after Louisville overcame Florida State 81-72 in the Metro Conference tournament title game. The Seminoles led 42-35 early in the second half when the Cardinals began to apply their devastating shirt-to-shirt pressure. During the next 5:39 Louisville outscored State 20-3, Poncho Wright flipping in nine Cardinal points and Darrell Griffith eight. Griffith, the tournament MVP, had 30 points in the game.
When Texas A&M Guard David Britton was not exasperating Arkansas with his shooting during the wrap-up of the Southwest Conference playoffs, he did it with his ball handling. Britton fired in 23 points, 17 in the second half, and put on a virtuoso dribbling and passing performance when the Aggies went into their four-corner delay with 11:57 to be played. The Razorbacks scrambled back in the waning moments, but A&M hung on for a 52-50 verdict. In the semifinals the Aggies defeated Texas Tech 61-51 behind Vernon Smith's 20 points and Arkansas skimmed past Texas 64-62 as U. S. Reed scored 25 points.
Bradley, which earlier seemed to be going nowhere fast—the Braves were 5-6 in December after tying for last place in the Missouri Valley the season before—completed a dazzling comeback. The Braves wound up in first place this time and earned their first NCAA berth since 1955 by winning the conference tournament. Bradley brought its season's record to 23-9 with three victories during the playoffs, the last a 62-59 decision over West Texas State in which Mitchell Anderson came through with 16 points and 12 rebounds.
Larry Smith, as usual, was very busy as Alcorn State took the Southwestern AC playoffs. During a 116-92 victory over Southern University, Smith had 27 points and 20 rebounds. In the finals against Grambling, Smith scored 16 points and got 19 boards to lead the Braves to another lopsided triumph, this time by an 81-63 margin.