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As Minnesota coach Jim Dutcher sees it, Michigan, not his Golden Gophers, was the team looking at tall odds last Thursday. How's that? Dutcher had to know that the Wolverines were top-ranked, undefeated and had handled teams better than Minnesota, which was 0-3 in the Big Ten. Why was Dutcher so confident, then?
"They had to play us here," he says, in explaining Minnesota's 73-63 win. "Our fans get involved and give us quite a lift. Our three conference losses all came on the road, you know. It's nice to come home."
Be it ever so humble, the Gophers' 12-6 overall record bears Dutcher out. Minnesota has not lost in 10 games in Williams Arena. Of course, to beat Michigan, the Gophers needed more than familiar surroundings. Guards Marc Wilson and Todd Alexander together scored 40 points on a combination of torrid outside shooting and fast-break layups. "We haven't been a great rebounding team, so our guards dug in and knocked the ball loose," said Dutcher. " Michigan does not have great team quickness."
Two days later, Michigan survived 6-for-21 shooting by vaunted guards Gary Grant and Antoine Joubert to beat Iowa 61-57. "If we're going to be a factor in the NCAA tournament," said Wolverine coach Bill Frieder, "our shooting must improve." Should Big Ten officials start throwing yellow flags at the Wolverines? Hawkeye coach George Raveling thinks so. "They have those two big tackles, Richard Rellford and Butch Wade.... But I think there are rules about holding and hand checking," said Raveling.
DePaul got a split the hard way. After hitting what coach Joey Meyer hopes was rock bottom—a 90-75 loss at home to Cleveland State—the Blue Demons regrouped to hustle a 70-61 win from visiting Alabama-Birmingham. With De-Paul guard Tony Jackson holding the Blazers' high-scoring Steve Mitchell to two field goals, Meyer won a game he wasn't supposed to. That hadn't happened in his two years as head coach. "I wanted this game more than any other," he exulted. "I was ready to play tonight. I swear I was ready to go out and play."
Halfway through its game with Syracuse at the Capital Centre last Wednesday, Georgetown looked as if it would be carrying three Big East defeats on its slate for the first time since 1982-83. Rony Seikaly, the Orangemen's second-year, 6'10" center out of Lebanon, via Greece, had put on a 20-minute clinic for his Hoya counterpart, Ralph Dalton, getting eight points and nine rebounds as Syracuse took a 34-31 halftime lead.
But grad student Dalton and his gang—fellow big men Grady Mateen, Ronnie Highsmith and Johnathan Edwards—spent the next 20 minutes preying on Seikaly's inexperience, holding him to two points and two boards. Underdog Georgetown won 73-70, but Hoya coach John Thompson refused to call it an upset. "If they come down here, we should beat them," said Thompson. Orange coach Jim Boeheim identified one of the keys to the game: "Rony got his fourth foul and stopped playing defense." Indeed. Hoya big men combined for 29 points and 15 rebounds.
Having tasted defeat for the first time this season, Syracuse wasted no time succumbing again. In Louisville Saturday, with a national TV audience and a host of pro scouts pumping up the home team, the Cardinals dumped the Orange 83-73. Louisville's Milt-(Ice) Wagner made seven of his eight first-half shots. Seikaly had two points and no boards in the first 20 minutes. Wagner, who missed last season because of a fractured foot, has shaken off his early-season rust. He has hit 22 of his last 27 shots. The Cards, whose four losses came on the road against highly ranked Kansas, St. John's, Kentucky and Memphis State by an average of five points, are a team to watch closely.