"I honestly think we can win," said Southern Cal Coach Stan Morrison before playing at UCLA, where the Trojans hadn't come out on top in 11 years. Among the requirements for victory, according to Morrison, were to "rebound effectively, cut off their fast break and not get fatigued." Although such wishes are seldom fulfilled this side of Fantasy Island, the Trojans, down by nine at the half, won the second-half board battle 16-13, throttled the Bruins' fast break and, using only seven players, kept up the pressure. Jacque Hill put USC in front 66-64 when he stole the ball and sank a basket with 36 seconds to go. Then Rod Foster of UCLA tied the score on a jumper 11 seconds from the end. Finally, with one second left, Mo Williams wrapped up a 20-point night with a 20-foot jumper to give the Trojans the long-sought triumph, 68-66. USC had begun the week with a 63-61 overtime loss to Washington, while UCLA had started off by drubbing Washington State 87-61.
Three victories put Oregon State alone at the top of the Pac-10. The Beavers' Steve Johnson was benched early in a game at Arizona for committing what Coach Ralph Miller called a "dumb" foul. Back in the game, Johnson poured in 32 points and latched on to 12 rebounds as Oregon State won 61-49. At home against Stanford, Johnson sank 12 of 14 floor shots for the second game in a row as the Beavers won 76-62. Johnson and Mark Radford each had 26 points in that one. California held Johnson to just three points, but Radford had 22, seven assists and four steals as Oregon State prevailed 80-53.
Arizona State was another three-time victor. Alton Lister popped in 23 points as the Sun Devils burned Oregon 104-64 and 26 in a 90-62 win at Washington. Sandwiched between those easy wins was a hard-fought 62-59 overtime victory at Washington State, where Arizona State took advantage of three turnovers in the second extra period to put the game away. Against the Huskies, Lister had his string of successful foul shots ended at 18. Such marksmanship is new for the Sun Devil center, who entered the season with a 55.9% career figure from the foul line. With the help of Coach Ned Wulk, Lister has learned to relax, concentrate and "get more leg" into his free throws. "I need to bend my legs to get them relaxed," he explained. "So I dribble the ball five times and then bend. Then I dribble five more times and shoot." It's paid off; Lister is shooting fouls at a 73% rate this season.
Utah's front line really piled up the points while beating Hawaii 100-87 and San Diego State 97-74: Tom Chambers scored 46, Danny Vranes 40 and Karl Bankowski 34. Brigham Young defeated the same teams, Hawaii 91-74 and San Diego State 84-73, as Danny Ainge hit for 64 points and Greg Kite added 35 more and took down 30 rebounds.
Arkansas continued to stand tall, but Texas A&M's Wall continued to fall. The Razorbacks, who swept past Texas Christian 85-51 in an SWC contest, have won their last three games by a total of 108 points. A&M, however, lost at Baylor 53-44 and at Texas Tech 72-70 to extend its losing streak to five games.
Meanwhile, the fortunes of Louisville and Missouri were rising. The Cardinals took a pair of Metro road games, defeating Tulane 73-53 and Cincinnati 83-68. Steve Stipanovich, who was supposed to give Mizzou a shot in the arm but on Dec. 27 accidentally shot himself in the upper arm with a pistol, proved he had made a rapid recovery. By coming off the bench to grab 12 rebounds and score nine points, Stipanovich helped the Tigers sink Navy 88-67.
Bradley and Tulsa were two-time MVC winners. While the Braves won on the road—88-86 at West Texas State in overtime and 83-58 at New Mexico State—the Golden Hurricane prevailed at home against Southern Illinois 85-67 and Wichita State 91-84.
Evansville beat Loyola of Chicago 73-70 in its Midwestern City opener, its 11th victory in 13 tries. For the Purple Aces it was their best start in 13 seasons.
In women's play, a 24-point performance by Lynette Woodard of Kansas during an 80-59 defeat of Stephen F. Austin made her the alltime top Division I scorer, with 3,206 points. The victory also marked the 111th game in a row in which Woodard scored in double figures for the Jayhawks.