Texas A&M split a pair of games on the West Coast, beating San Francisco 69-65, losing to Santa Clara 66-55, came home to find it had to share the Southwest Conference lead with SMU. The Mustangs got there by outfiring TCU 79-73 and overtaking Arkansas 72-70 on Kim Nash's jump shot in overtime. The Aggies kept pace by drubbing Texas Tech 89-59. And only one game behind the leaders was Texas, a 98-77 winner over TCU.
New Mexico State's eight-game winning streak was broken by UCLA 66-56, but the Aggies took over first place in the Border Conference when Arizona State knocked off West Texas State 104-85. The top three:
1. TEXAS A&M (14-2)
2. SMU (12-4)
3. NEW MEXICO STATE (15-4)
USC's hopes of battling California for the Big Five title exploded in one mad weekend at Los Angeles. First, Stanford's "panic five" second-stringers ran the Trojans into the boards and the Indians won 82-71 when junior Forward John Hendry scored 11 points in the second overtime. Then, much-beaten Washington buried the weary men of Troy 59-49.
Now only UCLA, which beat Stanford 67-54, has a hope of catching Cal. But its chances seem slim. Big Five coaches, after watching Cal rally behind Darrall Imhoff and Earl Shultz to trounce Washington 68-53, nodded in solemn agreement: the Bears were better than ever.
Utah State and Utah moved almost effortlessly toward a Skyline showdown Feb. 27 in Logan. The league-leading Aggies clobbered Denver 99-69, crushed New Mexico 86-59. Utah polished off Colorado State 86-76 to take second place, stayed there with a 93-71 win over Wyoming.
St. Mary's got a lift from Veteran Tom Meschery, who played in a boxer's headgear to protect his jaw, fractured last December, rolled over Pepperdine 74-69, Loyola 60-51 to grab the lead in the West Coast Athletic Conference. The top three:
1. CALIFORNIA (17-1)
2. UTAH STATE (17-2)
3. UTAH (17-2)