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DePaul also won another squeaker, 75-74 at Furman, after trailing by 12 late in the first half. That was the third one-point win—and the fifth by five or fewer—for the Blue Demons in their past eight games.
Before Kentucky's game at Louisiana State, a man dressed as the Tigers' mascot emerged from an opening in the ceiling above the court and climbed down a rope to the floor. After that performer—a state policeman trained to make rescues from tall buildings—shucked his tiger suit, LSU climbed all over the Wildcats. In slightly less than six minutes, the Tigers scored 21 straight points to zip in front 41-23 before the half. In the second half the Tigers finally came down from their high; they led by 30 before cooling off to win 94-78 behind Howard Carter's 29 points. Three days earlier, Kentucky had made up for a January loss at Mississippi State by controlling the tempo, forcing the Bulldogs into 11 first-half turnovers and winning 71-54.
It was all part of a week in which the three top teams in the SEC each lost at least once. When the conference chase was over, Tennessee and Kentucky were tied for first, one game ahead of Alabama. The Tide, which beat Auburn 74-72, missed a chance to make it a three-way tie when it lost 80-63 at Vanderbilt. Willie (Hutch) Jones of the Commodores did in 'Bama by ramming home eight dunks and scoring 37 points. Tennessee, alone at the top at the week's start, was jolted at home by Georgia 64-63 and then at Auburn 56-54. Dominique Wilkins' tip-in with eight seconds to go gave the Bulldogs their victory. Then, in a game delayed three and a half hours because officials weren't aware of a change in the starting time. Auburn pulled off its surprise. The finishing touch in that one was supplied by Alvin Mumphord, who sank two free throws one second before the final buzzer.
Minnesota and Iowa were deadlocked for the Big Ten lead (page 20), but the suspense was over in the Sun Belt and Mid-American conferences. Alabama-Birmingham, the regular-season winner in the Sun Belt, took the conference tournament by beating South Florida 66-56 and Virginia Commonwealth 94-83. Last season, Ball State shared the MAC title with four other teams. This year, the Cardinals won it outright, clinching first place by defeating Bowling Green 71-58 as John Williams scored 21 points.
DePaul Coach Ray Meyer spoke of "the perfect blend of the team" following Sunday's 81-69 triumph at Notre Dame. Terry Cummings, the main man in the Blue Demons' 21st straight victory, had 28 points and 14 rebounds.
"We expected to have the advantage because they had just played two overtimes in beating Santa Clara, a very physical team. We thought they'd tire." That was the opinion of San Francisco Coach Peter Barry last Saturday after losing at home 106-100 to Pepperdine, which got much of its pep from guards Boot Bond (26 points) and Dane Suttle (24) and Forward Orlando Phillips (23). Not only did the Waves not wash out, they rallied with 61 points in the second half, from a 63-53 deficit, to clinch the WCAC championship. They also overcame Quintin Dailey's 42 points. ( Dailey had pleaded not guilty when arraigned Friday on five felony counts.) At Santa Clara on Friday, jumpers by Bond and Suttle sent the game into overtime. Suttle's late corner shot forced a second extra period. And then four points by Suttle and a bucket by Bill Sadler with three seconds remaining brought the tireless Waves from behind one last time for a 76-74 win.
Oregon State, which never tires of playing tenacious defense, sewed up its third straight Pac-10 title by defeating UCLA 72-58 and Southern Cal 45-36. A 26-point effort by Forward Danny Evans—only the fourth time in 15 conference games that a Beaver had scored more than 20—helped end the Bruins' 12-game winning streak. So did 18 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals by Guard Lester Conner. USC led 26-21 at half-time but then scored just 10 second-half points against an Oregon State defense that at one point held the Trojans scoreless for 11:08, forcing five consecutive turnovers. UCLA came back to swamp Oregon 88-66, getting 35 points from Rod Foster.