Kentucky's 6'11" freshman, Melvin Turpin, was so hyped up for the season opener against East Tennessee State that he trotted onto the Rupp Arena floor when the P.A. announcer introduced teammate Charles Hurt. Wildcat fans got a chuckle out of that, which was quite a different reaction from the one Kentucky's 38.2% field-goal shooting or 48-38 rebounding deficit got. The Wildcats led 41-25 with 14:53 left in the game, but the Bucs whittled the lead down to 56-53 with 45 seconds left, thanks to a ferocious fullcourt press and some poor Kentucky foul shooting—10 misses in 16 attempts. The Wildcats finally pulled away as Dirk Minniefield and Jim Master sank foul shots and Chuck Verderber scored on a lay-up, clinching a 62-57 victory.
After 20 years as an assistant coach at Alabama, Winfrey (Wimp) Sanderson took over as head man for the Crimson Tide. "People label this as a new era for Alabama basketball, but the only thing new is that we are going to play our guts out every minute of every game," Sanderson said. The Tide did exactly that while winning 93-66 over Northern Iowa, which began a new era of its own by moving up to Division I. An aggressive defense and Eddie Phillips' 23 points eased the way for 'Bama. New era or not, Sanderson could not help recalling the day in 1960 when he and his wife, Annette, moved from Carbon Hill, Ala. to Tuscaloosa, hauling their possessions in a borrowed coal truck. "We had a couch we bought for $5 and an old refrigerator that froze everything, even lettuce and ketchup," he said. "And we had a $10 stove and used covered orange crates for tables in our living room."
Six of the Big Ten's strongest teams won, three of them handily. Minnesota, with Trent Tucker scoring 22 points, beat North Dakota State 99-64. Mark Smith of Illinois had 20 points, eight assists and six rebounds in 26 minutes during a 98-65 romp over Loyola Marymount. "I'm shell-shocked," said the Lions' new coach, Ed Goorjian. "I wish I had a steel helmet." Purdue's new coach, Gene Keady, had a happier start as 6'10" freshman Russell Cross got 25 points during a 72-59 defeat of Colorado State.
Indiana, Iowa and Ohio State, however, did not have such easy going. The Hoosiers, playing without Guard Isiah Thomas, who had a pulled groin muscle, trailed Ball State five times in the first half before earning a 75-69 triumph. Six Cardinal points came after time had run out. Three of them were scored by Mark Thurston, on a goaltending call at the buzzer and a resulting free throw. This so infuriated Indiana Coach Bobby Knight that he drew two technical fouls, giving Ball State four more free-throw opportunities. Ray McCallum sank three of them for a game-high 25 points. Iowa, which led freshmen-laden Northern Illinois 22-20 at the half and only 44-41 with 6:59 left, came on strong to win 61-47. The Hawkeyes finally got some breathing room when they went ahead 50-41 as Steve Krafcisin sank a basket, Vince Brookins scored on a steal and a layup, and Kevin Boyle hit a pair of free throws. Ohio State was bedeviled by Cleveland State Guard Franklin Edwards' 32 points and eight assists. Nonetheless, the Buckeyes, who trailed 36-35 late in the first half, were 89-81 victors as Clark Kellogg had 23 points, pulled down 14 rebounds and passed off for eight baskets. Herb Williams and Carter Scott also boosted Ohio State's offense, combining for 35 points.
Central Michigan, winless in its last 12 games on opponents' courts, twice won big at Michigan State's Spartan Cutlass Classic. Mike Robinson had 20 points coming off the bench as the Chippewas beat Detroit 93-70 and 26 as a starter in Central's 89-66 title-game win over Michigan State.
During a pregame skit at Pauley Pavilion, a likeness of Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps, a mortician's son, was "buried" by UCLA students. It took a bit longer for the Bruins to inter the Irish, who streaked to a 24-12 lead in their try for a fifth straight win at Pauley. The Bruins came to life in the next two minutes and five seconds, scoring 10 points in a row. At the half, Guard Rod Foster had 18 of his 22 points, and UCLA led 45-40. There were other factors in UCLA's eventual 94-81 victory: the shooting of Mike Sanders, who had 24 points, and the play of freshman Ralph Jackson, who took over at point guard with the Irish leading 17-8. Jackson scored eight points, had five assists, made five steals and took care of the playmaking so that Foster was able to concentrate primarily on his shooting. The shorter but quicker Bruins also surprised Notre Dame by matching the Irish in rebounds, 31-31. A day earlier, the Bruins had beaten VMI 99-61.
After Washington's two tallest regulars got their fourth fouls, Brigham Young moved inside and turned a 60-59 cliff-hanger into an 86-70 victory. Danny Ainge had 24 points in that game and 22 the next night at Oregon State, when the Cougars lost 75-68. BYU could not cope with 6'10" Steve Johnson or Jeff Stoutt. Johnson rarely saw the ball in the first half, but sank six of seven shots in the second and finished with 18 points. Stoutt hit on seven of 11 field-goal tries for 14 points.
"I hate to win with a zone," said Nevada-Las Vegas Coach Jerry Tarkanian, who nevertheless did just that in beating Pan American 78-62. After being outrebounded 28-13 and being held to a 38-all halftime score, Tarkanian switched from a man-to-man defense to a zone, which limited the Broncos to 22.5% second-half shooting.