Roughhouse Kentucky rolls along undefeated as the No. 1 team in the nation and Indiana State, by no means physical, tries to keep up. The Sycamores are doing a good job.
It doesn't have the muscle, the big names, the glamour schedule or the exposure, but they are the only other undefeated major college team and they have a Player, Larry Bird, who could be as good as anyone on any team.
Bird, a smooth 6-foot-9 junior forward, amassed 35 points in a 63-57 victory over Bradley, to improve Indiana State's record to 13-0. Bird had 45 poits against Drake and is averaging 30.2, fourth best in the country. He is also averaging 11.7 rebounds.
Bird also is averaging five assists and three steals.
He was equally impressive last season, leading the Sycamores to a 25-3 record and a berth in the NIT.
He was third in the nation in scoring with a 32.8 average and eighth in rebounding with a 13.3 average. His scoring and rebounding averages gave him the best combined finished in those two categories since Spencer Haywood led the nation in rebounding and was fourth in scoring at the University of Detorit in 1969.
"He'll definitely be a top pro. He'll be as good as he wants to be," said Indiana Pacer assistant coach Jerry Oliver who knew and watched Bird play in high school.
"The things that impress me the most are that he's a great shooter inside, moves all the time, sets picks and rolls off and when he sets the pick he can take the punishment.
"Some pro scouts say he's a half-step slow. I say he is a little slow up and down the court, but he is quick inside.
"Defensively he needs a little work, but he'll be O.K.," Oliver added. "He's isn't a super jumper, but he positions himself well."
Bird was a high school sensation in French Lick, Ind., and with offers from 250 schools, decided on Indiana. He stayed there a week and after feeling lost among 33,000 students, dropped out. he returned to French Lick and worked on a garbage truck for a year and then enrolled at Indiana State.
The talent that coach Bob King has assembled at Indiana State doesn't stop with Bird. The other forward is 6-foot-7 Harry Morgan with a 19.1 average.
Known as the Larry and Harry show in Terre Haute, Bird and Morgan have put up 552 of the 951 shots the Sycamores have taken.
The other starters are 6-11 center DeCarsta Webster, 6-5 swingman Leroy Staley and 6-3 point guard Jim Smith. All except Staley, a transfer from Florida College, a junior college in Tampa, were starters last year.
Smith handles the ball in the Sycamores' one-guard offense, a nonpattern, free-lance style.
They Sycamores are out rebounding opponents by an average of 49-41 and limiting them to 40 per cent shooting, third best in the nation.
Indiana State is averaging 85.5 points and limiting its opponents to 64.8, making its point differential the second best in the nation.
It was not long ago that Indiana State was no better than the fourth best team in Indiana, behind Indiana, Purdue and Notre Dame. Now, it is ranked above all of them (fourth in the Associated Press poll and fifth in United Press International).
The Sycamores' biggest game, the second of the season, against Big 10 title favorite Purdue, was no contest. Indiana State rolled to a 94-63 victory and has been rolling since.
Its closest game against Bradley. The Sycamores have two tough road games this week before returning to Hulman Civic Center on Jan. 26. They have won 30 in a row at home.
They play Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Ill., tonight and at Illinois State, 14-2, Saturday.