BERKELEY — UCLA, conducting its annual bay-to-breakers marathon, won another race at the wire. After having swept past Stanford and then Cal, which they beat Saturday, 77-72, the Bruins once again share the Pacific 10 Conference basketball lead.
And everyone knows what that means, right?
"We hold our own destination in our hands," guard Montel Hatcher said, supplying a variation to the team-of-destiny cliche.
Since Thursday night, the Bruins have proved they can beat the good teams (Cal) as well as the bad (Stanford). And they did it in some unusual ways, too.
Against Cal, in the yearly grudge match, UCLA got 14 points from Reggie Miller but also received a game-high 21 from Charles Rochelin.
Know him? The Bruin who jumps center on the opening tip, the guy who will always be the Bruins' "other forward" as long as Reggie is wearing his blue T-shirt beneath his jersey.
Rochelin is not well-known in a lot of circles. Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps called him "the big kid who sounds like a tire company." The big kid didn't drive against Cal. He just stood there and shot.
Rochelin, who played 23 minutes, sent 9 of his 12 shots through the hoop to lead a UCLA offense that shot 63.3%, which was so upsetting to Cal Coach Lou Campanelli that he ditched his lucky blue sport coat.
The reactions were predictable. UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard said: "Obviously, I am pleased." Campanelli said: "Obviously, I am not pleased."
Obviously, Campanelli's jacket had tire treads left on it by the big kid. And even though Cal came back to within three points, Kevin Johnson's jumper was long with seven seconds to go and UCLA got out of hot, steamy Harmon Gym with a very cool 9-3 Pac-10 record.
Against Cal, it wasn't that simple, but as far as Rochelin is concerned, there isn't much to the Bruin offense either.
"Whoever is open, just shoot it," he said.
Now what could be easier than that?
Of course, UCLA has this habit of making things pretty difficult at the end. The Bruins are 15-5, but 10 of their victories have been by five or fewer points.
They led Cal by nine points at the half, 42-33, as, inexplicably, Jack Haley dominated the middle. Haley had nine points and five rebounds and had as many field goals as Miller.
Rochelin, who had 11 points at halftime, was consistently left open when Cal lengthened its defense to take out Miller. All that was left was for Pooh Richardson to get Rochelin the ball, which he did.
Richardson had 8 assists at the half and finished with 13. So Rochelin continued to shoot.
Rochelin said he wasn't nervous, even though he probably should have been.
"I was blinking the crowd out of my mind," he said. "I was just so open, I took the shots."
Three times early in the second half, Cal climbed to within two points, and each time Rochelin made the lead four again. Hazzard wasn't surprised.
"Charles has a lot of big games in his body," Hazzard said.
Fame may be catching up to Rochelin, but his mail probably won't. Born in Haiti, Rochelin has lived in New York, Montreal and Toronto. When he plays a game of around the world, he means it.
As good a game as Rochelin was experiencing, he had to sit down with three fouls in the second half. Then, the unusually silent Reggie took over.
Miller, who attempted only seven shots, didn't take his first shot of the second half until 7:11 remained in the game. His jumper, which followed two rainbow jumpers by Hatcher after two Richardson passes, got the Bruins a 62-57 lead.
Campanelli, who had been shuffling his guards in and out, finally got caught when Hatcher and then Dave Immel stole passes from the Cal backcourt. Reggie converted them both into baskets, and UCLA went out ahead, 66-57, with 6:06 left.
When Richardson made both ends of a one-and-one, the Bruins remained ahead by nine points. And, after a three-pointer by Johnson, Trevor Wilson also made his free throws in a one-and-one to bring the UCLA lead to 75-66 with 2:29 left.
It got close when Wilson threw the ball away, Johnson stole the ball from Richardson, and Hatcher and Immel shanked free throws, but Cal didn't get close enough.
The Golden Bears, who are 14-11 overall and 7-6 in the Pac-10, scored four points on offensive rebounds, again a UCLA weakness, and Johnson dropped in a pair of free throws. But after Immel missed the front end of a one-and-one with 16 seconds left, Johnson's jumper was long with seven seconds remaining. Immel rebounded and assisted Hatcher on a breakaway dunk.