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UCLA Has Close Call, Hangs On : Washington State Misses at the Buzzer and Loses, 61-60

February 02, 1987|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

What is it called when Reggie Miller plays a game and has just as many fouls and turnovers as points?

"Pretty weird," Reggie said.

What should have happened Sunday afternoon in Pauley Pavilion right after Washington State showed up?

"We should have beaten that team by 15 points," Pooh Richardson said.

And what do you call it when a team that scores exactly three points in the last 8:39, commits a turnover to let the other team take a potential winning shot, then watches in relief as it bounces off the front side of the rim with one second left?

Call it UCLA.

The Bruins keep hearing their best days are ahead of them, which must be true because they just got one of their worst out of the way. The Cougars, who have been busy "wallowing in mud," according to their coach, Len Stevens, would have upset the Bruins if an 8-foot jump shot by Brian Wright had been a couple of inches farther.

But it wasn't, so UCLA escaped with a 61-60 victory before 8,172 fans that watched in semi-silence. When it was over, the audience acted as though it had just witnessed a defeat and not a victory.

Maybe it was the quality of the opposition. After all, Washington State hadn't won a Pacific 10 game in 43 days. Everybody was beating them. Even USC, which nipped the Cougars by a mere 29 points on Thursday night.

The Bruins these days are not blowing people out, blowing them over or any of those violent things. What UCLA is doing is more like holding on for dear life and hoping that some of those better days which Coach Walt Hazzard talks about get here pretty soon.

"It's kind of late in the season to be talking about potential," Hazzard said. "It's time to deliver."

This was one game in which Miller clearly was not making his usual rounds, although no one seemed to know why. Reggie finished with four points, four fouls, four turnovers and what was more unusual, put up only seven shots. In his last game, he had 32 points and shot 25 times.

"I could have shot the ball a little bit more," Miller said.

So why didn't he?

"It was just one of those weird games," he said. "I know everyone has been beating them bad and here we screech out of here, so we have to be concerned about what's going on."

After taking an uninspiring 35-32 lead at halftime, the Bruins finally appeared to be close to shedding the Cougars when UCLA took a 12-point lead. Richardson's driving layup, following successive three-point plays by freshmen Trevor Wilson and Kevin Walker, shot the Bruins out to a 58-46 margin with 8:39 to play.

From then on, the Bruins were in trouble. They managed only three more points, a jumper by Miller at 6:20 and a free throw by Montel Hatcher at 1:08. The rest of the time, Washington State was doing the scoring.

Forward Brian Quinnett, who lit up both Charles Rochelin and Wilson in the first half, got hot again and helped the Cougars close to within 60-57. Hatcher missed his second free throw and Joe Wallace's three-pointer with 51 seconds left narrowed the Bruin lead to 61-60.

Then the Cougars got the ball right back when Wallace stole the ball from Richardson on a triple-team as Pooh tried to get a pass to Wilson.

"I thought he was open," Richardson said. "I didn't see the other guy (Wallace) at all, but I guess he was ducking. He was sneaking. I should have done something else, I guess."

As it turned out, it didn't matter. Stevens had already used all of his timeouts, so the Cougars got the ball with 45 seconds left and didn't try to move toward the basket until Wright drove with four seconds left.

He actually got off a good shot, better than Stevens expected, but it was short. The buzzer sounded, Wright dropped to the floor and lay on his back. Under the basket, Wilson emphatically slammed the ball to the court, and the Bruins walked off. They won't be back for a while, either.

This isn't the best time for an inconsistent team to hit the road, but that's where the Bruins are heading. They play at Stanford Thursday night and at Cal Saturday afternoon.

"It's about time to start doing something," said Richardson, who led the Bruins with 13 points. "I guess everyone was pretty restless about this game, but for us to lose to Washington and then still win the next game, well, that's still good. We're still on the road to where we want to be. I'm not concerned."

There may be no problem for Pooh, but the Bruins still seem to be in a mid-season slump at a very poor time. Five of their next seven games are on the road.

"We still have half the season left," Miller said. "Right now, I'm just glad we got through this. We can worry about the rest later."

Bruin Notes

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