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Should the National Association of Basketball Coaches decide one day to emblazon a motto on its coat of arms, there will be little need to call upon the linguistic flair of such talented fraternity brothers as Ken Loeffler and Dr. Forrest C. Allen. Already available is a good, serviceable, solid phrase which has withstood the test of time and the rules committee: "A good big man," it goes, "is always better than a good little man."
It has a nice catchy sound and the coaches, ignoring ugly rumors that the expression originated not on the basketball court at all but in some dark and alien spot like the prize ring or the football stadium, have long since adopted it for their very own. But last week, as they have throughout a rather amazing season, a handful of good little men stuck out their jaws and dared anyone to stop them with a quotation—or anything else. They stormed across courts all over the country, setting up plays, stealing passes, scoring points, faking good big men onto the seats of their good big pants and—as a matter of record—winning a lot of ball games.
Not the least among these was a pixie-faced Wyoming guard with the pertinent name of Joe (The Jet) Capua. Popping away like a 5-foot-10 machine gun, Capua scored 51 points in a 93-69 victory over Montana, grabbed 11 rebounds and was personally responsible for three opponents occupying seats on the bench after they fouled out trying to guard him. The next night, just to prove his new Skyline Conference scoring record was no fluke, Capua tossed in 32 more against league-leading Utah, and Wyoming won again 59-54.
Capua, however, may not even be the best big little man in the conference. Across the mountains they have another candidate: Terrible Terry Tebbs, the 5-foot-9 magician from Brigham Young. A slender little guy with big hands and long arms, Tebbs has one of the most delicate shooting touches in basketball. Saturday night, as Brigham Young took over first place in the Skyline Conference with an 81-65 victory over Denver, Tebbs scored 32 points, kept his season average near 20 per game.
It was happening all over. A 5-foot-6 midget from Cornell named Chuck Rolles smashed every scoring record in sight by tossing in 42 points against Syracuse, brought his scoring average close to 23 per game, ranking him with much taller national leaders. His most dangerous Ivy League pursuer, Columbia's Chet Forte, is 5 feet 9 inches and the reason why the Lions remain undefeated league leaders. In the Midwest Robin Freeman (5 feet 11 inches) drove Indiana wild with his famed jump shot, scored 41 points in a 100-82 Ohio State victory, and ran his season average to 33.8, second (by three tenths of a point) in the entire nation. High-scoring Ed Harrison (5 feet 10 inches) led Richmond to its surprise victory in the Southern Conference over West Virginia; Pachin Vicens (5 feet 9 inches) sparked Kansas State into undisputed possession of the Big Seven lead; and Gary Thompson (5 feet 10 inches) was a major factor in putting Iowa State back into contention in the same conference race.
On the Pacific Coast there is George Selleck (5 feet 8 inches), Stanford's big hope to overtake UCLA; at North Carolina State, speedy Vic Molodet (5 feet 11 inches) frequently outscores his 6-foot-8 All-America teammate, Ron Shavlik; Xavier ( Ohio) has phenomenal little Jimmy Boothe (5 feet 7 inches); once-beaten Temple's No. 1 point producer is Hal Lear (5 feet 11 inches); Bill Ridley (5 feet 9 inches) has helped Illinois to the Big Ten lead, and Joe Belmont (5 feet 11 inches) is one small but impressive reason Duke finished the week atop the tough Atlantic Coast Conference. None of this has led coaches to cancel the scholarship of even one 6-foot-7 forward, but many, for the first time in years, are admitting once again there is a place in basketball for the little man—if he is just good enough.
"You can have too many of 'em," grins Richmond's Les Hooker with a fond glance at Ed Harrison, "but a little man can be invaluable at times."
Midwest. Illinois solved a Minnesota zone defense to win 95-84 and remain unbeaten in the Big Ten. Only threat to the Illini 5-0 record appeared to be preseason favorite Iowa, 4-1 after a slow start. Kansas State won two games, scooted off alone for the Big Seven lead with a 5-1 record. The big night was Saturday when Kansas State beat Colorado 82-51 and Iowa State stopped Kansas 79-63. Nationally ranked St. Louis improved its Missouri Valley Conference lead and made it six victories without a defeat in league play by coming from 13 points behind to beat Wichita 90-88, later breezing past Tulsa 73-66. Among the independents, Dayton bounced back from its first defeat of the year at the hands of high-scoring Louisville to beat Loyola ( Chicago) 75-37 and Loyola ( New Orleans) 82-62; little Defiance was knocked from the unbeaten list in its 12th start by Adrian 82-77; Hubert Reed scored 30 and 33 points in two Oklahoma City University victories, and Cincinnati ran its record to 13-3 by taking St. John's of Brooklyn 93-78. Si Green scored 37 points as Duquesne defeated the Quantico Marines 88-84.
South. Vanderbilt held on to its lead in the hot Southeastern Conference race with a 69-56 win over Georgia, but both Alabama and Kentucky remained close to the 7-0 pace. Alabama was unbeaten in five conference games after stopping Georgia Tech 93-60, and once-beaten Kentucky also won over Tech 84-62 before squeaking past Auburn in a game that ended in a near riot. But Kentucky won another during the week which, although it didn't help in the conference standing, was pleasant to see on the record—a victory over Atlantic Coast Conference leader Duke. Bouncing back from the loss to the Wildcats, Duke outscored North Carolina's fine young team 64-59 and ended the week with a 7-1 league record. North Carolina was second at 8-2. West Virginia, despite its loss to Richmond, retained the Southern Conference lead by half a game over George Washington. Louisville, gunning for a postseason berth in the NIT, remained the No. 1 southern independent (18-1) by beating Toledo 93-64 and brash little Kentucky Wesleyan 116-82.
Far West. San Francisco took San Jose State 67-40 before the largest crowd in Pacific Coast basketball history (14,297 at the Cow Palace) and then moved past Loyola of Los Angeles 68-46. The two victories left the Dons with a 16-0 record for the year and a consecutive winning streak of 42 games. In the Pacific Coast Conference, UCLA beat challenging Washington twice and breathed even more easily when Southern California split two with Oregon. USC (6-2) and idle Stanford (6-2) were closest to the Uclans, unbeaten in six games. Utah's two startling losses to Colorado A&M and Wyoming sent Brigham Young into the Skyline Conference lead for the first time this season.