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"Now maybe you'll believe we're pretty good," Coach John Thompson told the media after his Georgetown team beat Syracuse 87-81 for the Big East title. For Thompson, irked when the wire-service polls overlooked the Hoyas after they had shocked the highly ranked Orangemen 52-50 two weeks earlier, it was a sweet victory and Georgetown's 13th straight, equaling the school record. Choosing his words carefully, Thompson refused to say he felt his squad "deserved" increased recognition, declaring, "The word is 'earned.' "
Helping Georgetown earn its triumph were tournament MVP Forward Craig Shelton. who scored 18 points, Center Ed Spriggs, who came off the Hoya bench to provide much-needed inside strength (13 points and 10 rebounds), and Guards Eric Floyd (21 points) and John Duren (12 points, seven assists), who kept the offense flowing. Syracuse was hounded into 25 turnovers, 15 of them on steals—six by Eric Smith, who also scored 17 points. Georgetown made it to the Big East finals by whipping Seton Hall 60-47 as Floyd tossed in 22 points, and by jarring St. John's 76-66, thanks to 21 points by Shelton and 20 more by Floyd. After a first-round bye, the Orangemen had unleashed their offense by walloping Connecticut 92-61.
"At halftime we just talked about punch inside, punch inside, punch inside, and that's where Gminski and Banks were operating well," explained Coach Bill Foster, whose Duke team had trailed Maryland 37-33 at the intermission of the Atlantic Coast finale. In the second half the Blue Devils did some inside punching. Gene Banks wound up with 21 points, and Mike Gminski held Buck Williams of the Terps to just one second-half rebound. Gminski finished with 13 points, including the decisive basket on a tap-in nine seconds from the end. Invaluable, too, was Vince Taylor, who scored 19 points, passed off for six assists and twice stole the ball in the final two minutes. That completed a remarkable turnaround for the Blue Devils, who had entered the tournament with five losses in their past seven games. On the way to the finals Duke defeated two other Top 20 teams. North Carolina State 68-62 and North Carolina 75-61. Against State. Banks had 24 points and Gminski 22. The Blue Devils then got 24 points and 19 rebounds from Gminski as they avenged the 25-point loss that the Tar Heels had inflicted upon them six days earlier. Maryland started off by squeezing past Georgia Tech 51-49 in overtime on a close-in shot by Albert King with only four seconds to go. King then came through with 38 points and 10 rebounds as the Terps beat Clemson 91-85.
LaSalle and Villanova won conference tournaments with three wins each. Michael Brooks pumped in a total of 51 points to lead the Explorers to the East Coast title, while the Wildcats, en route to Eastern Eight honors, got a total of 58 points and a tournament-record 39 rebounds from its standout performer, Alex Bradley.
Three Eastern collegiate AC tournaments were also settled by three-time victors. Iona, with Jeff Ruland netting 72 points and grabbing 26 rebounds, took the Metro Division championship after racking up 16 victories in a row, the longest streak in Division I. Ron Perry's 71 points helped Holy Cross come out on top in the Northern Division. Perry, a senior guard and the most prolific scorer in New England history, has now netted 2,500 points. And Ronnie Valentine ran his string of consecutive games of scoring in double figures to 100 as Old Dominion took the South title. Valentine kept his streak going in the finale against Navy when he popped in six points in overtime for a total of 14 as the Monarchs prevailed 62-51.
Princeton and Penn tied for first place in the Ivy League, forcing a playoff game this week. Superb free-throw shooting by the opposition led to a pair of overtime losses for the Quakers. Dave Blatt of the Tigers canned all eight of his foul shots in the extra period to upend Penn 78-69. Then Columbia, which converted 29 of 32 free throws, got eight points from Richie Gordon and six from Darren Burnett in overtime to surprise the Quakers 55-51. Following a 67-47 defeat at Cornell, Princeton dumped Columbia 57-47, while Penn kept pace by drubbing the Big Red 67-42.
Kentucky's Sam Bowie, who at one point had stood jaw-to-jaw arguing with Louisiana State's De Wayne Scales during the Southeastern Conference tournament showdown, had nothing but praise for the Tiger forward when it was all over. "Scales should be able to act as he pleases tonight," Bowie said. "He deserved the MVP award. He made shots when he couldn't even see the basket." Scales did that and more, pouring in 26 points and bringing down eight rebounds as LSU won 80-78. It was his eight points in a row that overcame a 64-63 Wildcat lead. And it was Scales' 27 points—16 in nine minutes during the second half—and 11 rebounds that did in Alabama 73-66 in the semis. Describing one of his shots, Scales said, "I got me an Astronaut [that's his nickname] slam dunk and drummed it home." In its first game of the tournament LSU drubbed Florida 95-82. For his part, Bowie scored 66 points for Kentucky, which had started the tournament by knocking off Auburn 69-61 and then laboring past Mississippi 70-67.