PULLMAN, Wash. — How often do you see a team come back from an eight-point deficit with slightly more than two minutes left in a double-overtime game?
UCLA did it Saturday afternoon, scoring nine straight points against Washington State, climaxed by guard Montel Hatcher's 24-foot shot with four seconds left for a stirring 81-80 win at Friel Court.
If the Bruins hadn't won, they would have been second-guessing themselves for not putting the Cougars away when they had the chance.
"We gave them the opportunity to stay alive five times," UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard said. "We just couldn't ice it. It was a much-needed win because we haven't been playing well."
Nevertheless, the Bruins got their first road victory of the season and stayed respectable in the Pacific 10 race with a 2-2 record. They're 7-4 overall.
When WSU center Brian Quinnett drove for a layup and a 80-72 advantage with 2:04 remaining in the second overtime, it seemed that the Bruins were finished. What did Hazzard think at the time?
"I thought we'd score nine straight points to win it," he said smiling, his hoarse voice almost becoming a whisper because of the emotional circumstances.
"I also told my players to not quit after we came out of a huddle. I think they showed a lot of character."
UCLA forward Reggie Miller ignited his team's surge with five straight points on two drives and a free throw. He wound up with a career-high 35 points, making 13 of 16 from the foul line.
Hatcher then took over the offense. He buried a 20-foot shot and came back with four seconds remaining to hit his bomb from the left side.
Corey Gaines was in the game at the time, replacing point guard Pooh Richardson, who had fouled out.
"The play that was called was for me and Reggie to pop out on either side," Hatcher said. "We knew that they would be in a zone. Corey got me the ball, and Jerald Jones set a nice screen."
While UCLA rallied, Washington State went cold from the free-throw line. Guard Keith Morrison, forward Joe Wallace and guard Brian Wright all missed on the front end of one-and-one attempts with 1:16 left.
The Cougars called time out after Hatcher's shot, and then Coach Len Stevens and his players complained bitterly when the clock showed only two seconds remaining. They thought they had more time.
Morrison threw a long inbounds pass to 7-foot center Todd Anderson near the foul line. He got off a shot, but it wasn't close.
It has been nervous time for the Bruins in recent years in the Palouse country. UCLA has played three overtime games here in five years, winning two of them.
Hazzard said that several of his players came of age Saturday afternoon, notably junior center Jack Haley. He grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds while playing 44 minutes.
Haley, a 6-10 junior, who had lost his starting job to Craig Jackson until this weekend, is coming on at the propitious time. The Bruins haven't had a stopper in the middle. Now, they apparently have one.
"Jack Haley is our center," Hazzard said. "He was born today."
Stevens was even more emphatic, saying: "Haley just killed us on the boards. He was very active and very aggressive. It was as if he knew the only time he was going to get his hands on the ball was on a rebound."
Haley started against Washington Thursday night in Seattle and virtually disappeared as UCLA was routed, 90-65. He got only one rebound and two points while playing a quiet 13 minutes.
"Sidney Wicks (a UCLA assistant coach) told me after the game to not worry about making mistakes and play like I do in practice," said Haley, who didn't play organized ball until he went to junior college. "Coach Wicks said if I didn't play hard, I'd have to play against him in practice."
Haley also talked about a long bus ride across the state of Washington to Pullman that brought the team together as a unit. More about that later.
The euphoria in the UCLA locker room was tempered by an injury to forward Kelvin Butler.
Butler strained a stomach muscle when Quinnett got WSU'S final points on a layup in the second overtime. He was carried off by his teammates on a stretcher.
Later, he was grimacing in pain as another stretcher took him out of the arena to an ambulance headed for Pullman Memorial Hospital. He didn't stay in the hospital for long, but it's believed that he'll be sidelined indefinitely.
There is momentum in losing as well as winning. Hazzard noted this when he said, "If we had lost, it could have been a big, long slide in the wrong direction."
The Bruins began sliding with 33 seconds left in regulation play. Miller made two free throws for an apparently safe 61-57 lead. But guard Brian Winkler cut into the lead by hitting two foul shots with 29 seconds left.
Richardson then inbounded the ball, but his pass intended for Miller was picked off by Winkler, who was fouled and converted a pair of free throws with five seconds on the clock.