Things were fairly quiet in the South. West Virginia, with impressive victories over St. Louis (87-86) and Kentucky (79-70) and the Kentucky Invitational trophy safely tucked away in its treasure chest, headed west to try its luck in Los Angeles, while Kentucky, Georgia Tech and North Carolina sadly nursed their bruises. However, things were looking up for Duke after the Blue Devils beat Navy 76-71 in the Birmingham Classic final.
Kentucky perked up a bit to outlast tenacious Temple 97-92 as veteran Bill Lickert pulled out of his slump to score 27 points. But the Wildcats had all kinds of trouble containing Bill (Pickles) Kennedy, who sifted through the Kentucky defenses for 29 points. With Ohio State and Georgia Tech in the immediate offing, Coach Adolph Rupp put his finger squarely on Kentucky's sore spot. "We just don't have that big and dangerous man," moaned The Baron. "We don't have anybody to go get 'em."
Mississippi's unbeaten string came to an abrupt end in the Wautauga Invitational at Johnson City, Tenn., where little East Tennessee State shocked the Rebs 79-60. But State's dream of success was shortlived. Virginia Tech, with Chris Smith commanding the boards and scoring 20 points, whomped The Buccaneers 74-56 in the final.
Louisville, beaten by Cincinnati 97-74, recovered sufficiently to trounce Alabama 84-54 and then was forced to a semifreeze to hold off rallying Wittenberg 59-46. The top three:
1. WEST VIRGINIA (8-0)
2. GEORGIA TECH (7-1)
3. DUKE (4-1)
Two coaches with a single objective—Ohio State's Fred Taylor and Utah's milk-guzzling Jack Gardner—matched fast breaks and precocious sophomores for 40 thunderous minutes. When it was all over, the faster Utes had tumbled the Buckeyes 97-92 and the sophs wound up in a Mexican standoff: 32 points and 17 rebounds for Ohio State's 6-foot 8-inch Jerry Lucas; 31 points and 17 rebounds for Utah's 6-foot 9-inch Billy (The Hill) McGill. Utah then took apart College of Pacific 72-58.
Brigham Young also cut itself a slice of fun, upsetting Michigan State 79-75 on Gary Earnest's two free throws and layup in the last 34 seconds. But BYU couldn't stand up to Ohio State and Lucas. The final score: 91 79. California guarded Michigan State half to death, overwhelmed the Spartans with hulking Darrall Imhoff and beat them 71-60 for its 22nd straight. The top three:
1. CALIFORNIA (6-0)
2. UTAH (8-0)
3. SANTA CLARA (7-2)