EUGENE, Ore. — With 9,074 frenzied fans rocking the wooden stands in old McArthur Court Saturday afternoon, Oregon's basketball team closed out its season with a surprising 80-65 upset of UCLA.
UCLA finished the regular season with a record of 15-13 overall, and Coach Walt Hazzard decided that it was good enough for the Bruins to accept a bid to defend their NIT title.
Immediately after the game, Hazzard said that he would have to talk with his school's administrators, as well as with his players, before a decision could be made on whether the Bruins would play in the NIT. But by the time he had talked with his players on the trip back to Los Angeles and had learned that UCLA Athletic Director Pete Dalis had said, "Whatever Walt wants to do, we're going to do--I'm leaving it up to him," Hazzard was ready to announce that his team wanted to continue.
NIT bids will be officially issued today, but Dalis has talked to NIT representatives, and he said he expected the Bruins to play their first game of the tournament Thursday at Pauley Pavilion.
Hazzard had seemed to be on the brink of saying that his team would not compete in the NIT, no matter what the Bruins did in their last two road games, but after winning at Oregon State, he seemed more open to the idea. He held off on making a decision because he wanted his team to have the incentive of earning the berth in its final game.
The Bruins weren't very impressive Saturday afternoon. But Hazzard wasn't blaming that on lack of effort.
Hazzard tried hard not to say too much while he waited for the adrenaline to stop flowing. But he did not need to consult the statistics for the numbers he thought told the whole story.
UCLA was whistled for 31 personal fouls, to 16 for Oregon. And UCLA scored just 9 points on free throws, to 28 for Oregon.
In a 15-point ballgame, a difference of 19 points on free throws gets a coach's attention, especially when his star forward shoots no free throws in the entire second half.
Asked how Oregon had managed to hold Reggie Miller to just 18 points (Miller has an average of more than 26 points a game and was coming off a 41-point performance), Hazzard at first said: "No comment." But he added: "It was pretty obvious. He's not a physical player. He was physically manhandled--probably away from the official."
When asked how Oregon, which narrowly escaped finishing last in the conference and which finished with an overall record of 11-17, was able to beat the Bruins, Hazzard said: "We ran out of players. Everyone knows our bench is not that deep, especially on the front line. We ran out of manpower."
UCLA center Jack Haley fouled out with 3:58 left in the game, and UCLA guard Montel Hatcher, who led the Bruins with 22 points on 11-of-16 shooting, fouled out with 3:17 to play.
Miller finished with four fouls.
Oregon's defense seemed to do a pretty good job of denying Miller the ball, but Hazzard argued the point, noting that Miller took 16 shots, just a couple under his average.
Oregon Coach Don Monson said of his team's defense on Miller: "He kept going to (guard Kevin) Mouton's side most of the game, and we kept picking him up no matter which side he went to. We did a good job on Miller, and then (Montel) Hatcher hurt us."
Monson also cited the importance of the fans in the game. "We were on regional television, but maybe the best thing again was our fans," he said. "What a great place and what a great bunch of people to play for."
The crowd did figure. Even Miller admitted that.
The crowd was hit with the first of the three bizarre technicals called Saturday afternoon.
UCLA had jumped out to a 17-6 lead before Oregon reeled off six straight points to start the Ducks' rally. Excited fans hit the court with a roll of toilet paper, and the officials hit them with a technical.
But it didn't really squelch the rally. By halftime, Oregon was ahead, 40-33.
Oregon was up, 59-51, in the second half when UCLA picked up a technical for having six players on the court. Apparently, Kelvin Butler did not realize he was supposed to be coming out of the game on a substitution. He tried to do a quick fade into the bench, but it was too late.
Oregon was ahead, 70-57, and was trying to put the ball inbounds when official Richard Ballesteros told Miller to back up enough to get his left foot on the inbounds side of the baseline. Just before Ballesteros handed the ball to the Oregon player, he stopped again and told Miller, again, to get his foot back. Just as Ballesteros started to hand the ball over for the third time, he saw that half of Miller's left foot was out of bounds. He called the technical.
Miller said he knew he had to give the offensive player room to inbounds the ball, but he argued that the man could have backed up if he needed more room.
As usual, it was Miller's direct defiance of the official that cost him.
Oregon was led by forward Anthony Taylor, who had 23 points, and by senior center Jerry Adams, who had 19 points and 16 rebounds.
It was one of Oregon's best games of the season. But it was not a good showing by the Bruins.
Confronted with the suggestion that UCLA had not looked good, had not made the kind of showing expected of a team that was bound for a tournament, Hazzard said: "I disagree with that statement. I don't think we played that bad. . . . The circumstances made it difficult for us to compete."
UCLA finished with a road record of 2-10 and a Pac-10 record of 9-9 . . . Oregon was just 6-12 in the Pac-10, but it won all six games by double-figure margins. . . . Before losing Saturday, UCLA had won seven of its last eight games at McArthur Court.