During the last five minutes of Niagara's 62-59 upset of St. John's, a good number of the 6,900 fans in the Niagara Convention Center stood five deep along the sidelines. When the final buzzer sounded, they burst through a meager cordon of security guards, pulled down one of the backboards and shattered it, just as their Purple Eagles had shattered the Redmen's previously perfect record.
The Eagle who did the most damage was 6'8" center Joe Arlauckas, who had 20 points and six rebounds while outplaying St. John's 7-foot Bill Wennington. "We knew we had to play our hearts out," said Arlauckas. "[ Purple Eagles coach Pete] Lonergan had us so mentally ready, we weren't going to be intimidated." Said Lonergan, while his team and some fans sipped beer out of a silver cup in the dressing room afterward, "This is a great win for our players and the program. But also for the Vincentians [an order of priests] at Niagara who hear it from the Vincentians at St. John's every year."
Georgia Tech guard Mark Price was the goat in the Yellow Jackets' first defeat of the season, a 60-59 loss to Georgia, but four nights later he found himself with a chance for redemption. Price had the ball with three seconds left to play and the score tied 64-64 in Tech's ACC opener against North Carolina State. His 20-foot jump shot from the right of the key gave Tech a 66-64 victory and dealt the Wolfpack its first loss of the season.
In Georgia's defeat of the Jackets, Joe Ward scored the Bulldogs' last six points, including two on a 15-foot jump shot with :05 left to give Georgia its second narrow victory over Tech in two seasons. Price made only three of 13 shots from the floor and made two costly errors in the waning moments. First he threw up a 35-foot brick, thinking that the 45-second shot clock was about to expire. Then he lost the ball to the Dawgs' Gerald Crosby, after which Georgia set up Ward's winning hoop. "I didn't know who knocked the ball away," said Price, "but I know it lost the game."
Louisiana Tech rolled to the Marshall Invitational championship by beating Alabama State 80-57 in the opening round and Marshall 69-63 in the title game. Tournament MVP Karl (Mailman) Malone delivered 20 points and 10 rebounds in each of Tech's victories.
Please excuse Virginia Tech if it's still in shock after an 86-75 upset loss to Tennessee in the championship game of the Volunteer Classic in Knoxville. On opening night the previously unbeaten Hokies had crushed Iowa State 80-53 by shackling Cyclone forward Barry Stevens. "The win was easier than I thought it would be," said Tech coach Charles Moir. "Our defense forced them to take some bad shots, and Stevens just had a bad night. Give [Tech forward] Perry Young credit for that." Young held Stevens, who had entered the game averaging 20.7 points per game, to a mere six while ramming home 28 of his own.
But Tennessee, led by guards Michael Brooks, the tournament MVP, and Tony White, shot the Hokies down and waltzed to its 16th Classic title in 19 years. Brooks and White combined for 45 points and outplayed Tech's backcourt tandem of Dell Curry and Al Young. Still, Vol coach Don DeVoe, who guided the Hokies from 1971 to 1976, thinks that this Tech team is the best in the school's history. "There comes a time in every season when you've got to beat someone better than you," he said. "This loss will make Tech work harder and make it a better team."
Louisville coach Denny Crum, whose Cardinals beat Kentucky 71-64, says, "There used to be a lot of hatred before we started playing each other. But now I don't think hatred exists. It doesn't hurt Kentucky to lose to us, and it doesn't hurt us to lose to them." If the loss didn't hurt Kentucky, it's because the Wildcats are getting numb from coming up short. Their record at week's end was 1-4, their worst start since 1926. In Kentucky's first game as a visiting team in Louisville since 1922, the 19,847 Freedom Hall fans waved CATBUSTERS posters as the pep band played the theme from Ghostbusters. Louisville's victory overshadowed an inspired performance by Kentucky's Kenny Walker, who scored 32 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.