Ivy League champion Penn and Eastern Eight winner Villanova won first-round NCAA basketball tournament games yeasterday at the Palestra in what amounted to a typical Big Five doubleheader with one intruder ousted.
Penn, the host team, whipped a disarrayed St. Bonaventure club, 92-83, after Philadelphia rivals La Salle and Villanova played a delightful run-and-shootout in which ailing Keith Herron of Washington, D.C., made many key points in a 103-97 Wildcats victory. He led Villanova with 24 points.
Herron, former Mackin High athlete, was benched by Coach Rollie Massimino early in the second half, "because his mental framework was not in the game," then returned and led the Wildcats to an East Regional semifinal against Indiana on Friday at Providence.
Penn, which will play Duke at Providence, was led by a career-high 37 points by forward Keven McDonald. The Quakers played excellent team ball, resulting in 17 layups out of 38 baskets. Washington Greg Sanders scored 30 points for the Bonnies, but his ppor shor selection and 10-for-24 accuracy took them out of the game.
The La Salle loss was a blow to the East Coast Conference because it guarantees that the league, which includes American University, will not get an automatic bid next year when those go to the conferences with the top 16 records in NCAA tournament competition over the previous five seasons.
In the first game, Herron scored 10 of 19 Villanova points in a stretch during which the Wildcats expanded a shaky 75-72 advantage to 94-83 with 2:15 to play.
The game itself was a spectator's delight, a fast-paced, highly emotional contest in which every starter scord in double figures, led by La Salle cneter Mike Brook's 35 points. It was a struggle in which each side needed total effort from its entire team; that's why Massiminoyanked Herron so quickly at the start of the second half.
"I know Keith," the coach said, "He's like one of my sons. I know everything about him. His mental framework has to be in the game all the time. I know the moods and personalities of all may players. He wasn't in it and, pop, we were down five. So I took him out."
Herron said that his bad left knee, originally hurt in the first of the Wildcats' two victories over La Salle during regular season, was aching so much he did not have proper concentration.
So What did Herron do?
"I relaxed and just got myself together. When I did, I knew he'd put me back in."
The coach did, in about 90 seconds.
At this point, Herron, Villanova's all-time leading scorer, was unsure how much he would be able to shoot, he said.
"But I knew I could pass it off if I couldn't get my shot," he added.
He scored only three points in the next 8 1/2 minutes. Then he went to work. At 75-72, he gave the Wildcats teir first breathing room of the game. La Salle's Brook overplayed Herron and tried to steal Whitey Rigsby's pass. Herron took the pass, pivoted and drove to the hoop for what became a three-point play and a 78-72 lead.
When he connected on a 13-foot jumper and then a layup on a perfect pass from Rory Sparrow, Villanova had and 89-79 advantage.
But Herron was not Villanova's only hero on a day the Wildcats committed only nine turnovers in 90 possessions and were 55.3 percent marksment, including a 21-for'31 second half.
In the locker room, Herron downplayed his role and rattled off the name of every teamate for excellent play.
"What are you? A speech major?" said Sparrow, sitting next to him after scoring 16 second-half points.