In a game of errors, the man who can go and get the mistakes enjoys a certain advantage. Thus did USC defeat UCLA Friday night behind Derrick Dowell, who took 21 rebounds, blocked 4 shots, scored 24 points and won 2 jump balls.
Dowell beat the 6-10 Brad Wright for one jump ball and the 6-8 Gary Maloncon for the other. Maloncon beat Dowell for the center jump starting the second overtime, but Dowell rallied to score the first basket that put the Trojans ahead to stay en route to their 78-77 victory at the Sports Arena.
This would have been a nice night's work for a 7-footer. Dowell is a 6-6 sophomore forward.
"I've got all the tools," he said. "Big hands, long arms (a 37-inch sleeve), a decent jump (a vertical leap of 35 inches). I have a tendency all my life to go to the boards. People ask me how I find the ball. I just go for the gaps."
He created several, too. Matched against Maloncon most of the night, he dug in to good rebounding position while Maloncon pushed on him and UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard counted 1-2-3 seconds in the lane, in vain.
"Gary is a great player," Dowell said. "He has a beautiful personality. It's all in the game. When you're as aggressive as Gary and I are, there's going to be a lot of pushing and shoving. The ball goes one way or the other. Fortunately, it came my way."
What do you say when the man who practices shooting longer and harder than anyone on the team misses the big free throw? That's what happened to UCLA when Nigel Miguel missed with 18 seconds left in the second overtime, providing the Trojans with their final margin of victory.
"He just missed, that's all," Walt Hazzard said. "No big deal. That just raises the percentage for his next one.
"This was a tough loss, but we're still in the thick of things. Where none of you expected us to be."
Miguel was once more matched against the most important Trojan offensive player, in spite of a size mismatch, and once again did well. The man who held Joe Wallace, Chris Sandle, Eddie Smith and Detlef Schrempf to 9 for 42 was matched against Wayne Carlander, who at 6-8, 220 is two inches taller and 37 pounds heavier.
Miguel held Carlander to a 5-for-13 game and 12 points. Miguel went 50 minutes and scored 17 points, himself. Included was a basket off the rebound of his own circus try in the closing moments of the second overtime.
With USC leading, 76-73, and under strict orders not to foul, Miguel leaped in the air and threw up some kind of half hook. If he'd made it, he'd have become an automatic first round draft choice of Barnum & Bailey. He missed, but the ball somehow worked its way back to him. he went up again, made the shot and was fouled by Dowell, dug in as ever near the hoop.
When Miguel's shot dropped, it was 76-75 with :18 left. Miguel then stepped to the line and missed, long, off the back of the rim.
The Trojans rebounded. Larry Friend, fouled, made both ends of a one-on-one. Miguel scored on a rebound at the buzzer, but this time USC stayed out of his way.
The Bruins later offered Miguel the option of not appearing before the press. Miguel manfully stepped back up to the line.
"It wasn't the tension," he said. "I just shot it poorly. The pressure really didn't bother me.
"But it hurts. We had so many chances to win it. Me being a senior, I live for moments like this. It was right there for me, but I let it slip away. . . .
"Free throws. We missed our free throws. I did. Larry Friend and Glenn Smith made theirs. . . . You always remember the last one. I hope it comes up again against them at home. It'll turn out differently."
The Bruins missed nine of their 20 free throws. In one stretch in the first and second overtimes, they missed four in a row, including Montel Hatcher's miss on the front end of a one-on-one that would have given UCLA the lead with 1:57 left in the first overtime.
USC missed 15 of its free throws. The night went to the retrievers.