After a lapse of nearly four decades during which their basketball histories took divergent routes, Loyola Marymount University and UCLA will hook up Friday night at Pauley Pavilion.
It's been 37 years since the two met, in UCLA Coach John Wooden's first season, 1948-49. Reportedly, they haven't played since because of a rift between Wooden and Loyola.
Since then, UCLA and Wooden went on to an unprecedented string of national championships and All-American rosters. Loyola has not had a really good year since 1967-68, when Lew Alcindor was leading UCLA to its second straight NCAA title and fourth in five years.
If their programs moved in opposite directions, there are some similarities these days. Loyola, off to its best start at 5-2 since that 1968 team that won 19 games, is searching for respectability and trying to prove it can play with the better teams on the West Coast. Loyola has not beaten a Pac-10 team since 1977, a stretch of seven games, and hasn't beaten UCLA since 1942.
UCLA, meanwhile, has suffered a slide since Wooden retired with his 10th national title in 1975. The Bruins, under the tutelage of second-year Coach Walt Hazzard, a two-time All-American under Wooden, are 3-2 and have lost to the two ranked teams they played, North Carolina and St. John's.
The matchup is also important for the West Coast Athletic Conference, which has had poor representation in recent NCAA tournaments. League officials hope some interconference victories will help. So far this season two WCAC members have beaten Pac-10 teams--Pepperdine beat Washington State and Portland beat Oregon State.
Loyola's two losses entering the week came against Cal State Fullerton--the best team Loyola has played so far but not nationally ranked.
The Lions have a scheduling disadvantage, coming off a Wednesday night game against UC Irvine while UCLA will be playing on six days' rest.
'Terrific for Program'
Loyola Coach Paul Westhead is looking forward to the game, however. "It's terrific for our program and for L. A.-area collegiate basketball for us to be playing UCLA," he said. "It should help create more college basketball interest in Los Angeles. We should do more of that.
"We will have only one day to prepare for UCLA. . . . They will be a challenge to keep up with. It will be a game where we'll try to set the pace. In other words, it will be a fast-paced game. The Bruins have pretty good speed and quickness. We'll match up pretty good."
Despite UCLA's yardlong list of past All-Americans, Loyola enjoys rare advantages in its matchup with these Bruins. Loyola has a bigger starting lineup, and 6-8 junior center Vic Lazzaretti is a more accomplished player than 6-10 UCLA center Jack Haley, the only Bruin with notable height.
UCLA has one All-American candidate in 6-7 junior swing man Reggie Miller, the most valuable player in last year's National Invitation Tournament. He is averaging 23 points.
Loyola has two All-American candidates and potential high pro draft choices in 6-7 Forrest Walton-McKenzie and 6-4 Keith Smith, both seniors. McKenzie, who sat out last season, is averaging 20 points and is within 110 points of the school's career scoring record.
Smith, averaging 25.4 points, needs 156 points to break the Loyola scoring mark. (Jim Haderlein holds the record of 1,706.) Each owns a WCAC scoring title.
Both teams are playing a freshman guard. Loyola is starting 6-4 Enoch Simmons, who is averaging 10.3 points. UCLA is not yet starting Jerome (Pooh) Richardson but appears to play better when Richardson is in at point guard.