Parting was such sweet sorrow. Pauley Pavilion said goodby to the UCLA seniors, and to one of Oregon State's, who won't be missed as much. That was A.C. Green, whom they held to a mere 17 points and 11 rebounds, enough to keep the dream alive in Westwood.
The Bruins held the entire Beaver team without a field goal for 9:22 of the second half, ran up a 14-point lead and cruised to a 59-51 victory Thursday night.
UCLA is 15-12 overall, 11-6 in the Pacific 10 and in a three-way tie for third place with Oregon State and Arizona.
Saturday, the Bruins will end the season at Oregon's McArthur Court. Sunday, they're hoping to hear from the NCAA tournament selection committee.
Still to be determined is what would happen if they lose and hear from the NIT committee, instead.
"We have one game left," UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard said. "If we win it, I think they (the NCAA) should give us a bid. People all around the nation have been calling to tell me we don't look like the same team that was blitzed by DePaul, Memphis State, St. John's."
The Bruins didn't even look like the same team that opened the conference season at Corvallis with a 59-49 loss. They got the Beavers down, and when Oregon State started fouling--surprise!--the Bruins made their free throws, 19 of 22 in the second half. Forgotten was the night when Hazzard walked into the press room after a game and asked: "Is there a free-throw shooter in here?"
Then the seniors said goodby to the crowd. A UCLA publicist trying to fetch Gary Maloncon to the interview room found him in a knot of friends, sobbing.
The night started with Hazzard and his wife, Jaleesa, escorting Maloncon and his mother to a ceremony at midcourt. The other seniors, Nigel Miguel and Brad Wright, came out with assistant coaches. This was no coincidence.
"He's my first captain," Hazzard said. "And this hasn't been the easiest season in the world for him. But he held up like a man. He faced all the adversity. He is a man."
Adversity, for Maloncon Thursday night, included playing seven minutes in the second half.
"I'd have liked to have seen Gary end up on a better note," Hazzard said. "But we got something going, and I couldn't change it. We wanted to win the game."
Maloncon, the lone returning starter this season, had lost his starting job to freshman Craig Jackson six games ago. By all accounts, he accepted it wonderfully. An assistant coach, asked about Maloncon's reaction right after the demotion, said: "He's taking it like a prince."
When Jackson broke a bone in his right hand Monday in practice, Hazzard decided to let Maloncon try to handle A.C. Green. Maloncon didn't shut out Green, but Green didn't eat him up, either. At halftime, the Bruins led, 24-22. Green had eight points, six on Maloncon, two against freshman Kelvin Butler.
In the second half, Hazzard tried his do-everything defender, Nigel Miguel.
"Briefly," Hazzard said. "One play, a three-point play."
"It was no contest," Miguel said, laughing. "By the time I started to think of my game plan, the ball was inside. It was like a tornado hitting. A.C. is a pro. I don't know who taught him to post up and wheel and that stuff. If it was Coach (Ralph) Miller, he did a heck of a job."
That was Butler again, the roly-poly freshman, who had 218 pounds of his own to match against A.C.'s 219. Butler had better success this time, at least for that 9:22 spurt.
"All I know," Butler said , "is he's big back here and hard to guard."
Butler also gave whatever credit was due to volunteer assistant Sidney Wicks, against whom he'd worked all week.
Hazzard: "He told us, 'A.C. Green is a good basketball player, but he's not Sidney Wicks.' "
Butler: "If he (Wicks) got his wind, he could take A.C. now. I know on the offensive end, I don't think A.C. could guard him."
With the Bruins in command, Hazzard pulled his seniors one by one. Maloncon's last play in Pauley was a drive along the baseline, on which he was called for charging. After the game, Maloncon, Wright and Green walked off the floor, with their arms around each others' shoulders.
"That was an emotional game," Miguel said later. "The guys said before the game, the last two are for the seniors. I was pumped up so much, I felt like I was in slow motion. My mouth was all cotton-mouthed.
"I'm not sentimental. The three years before this were kind of disappointing. But this night made up for everything for me."