Another game, another win, another fight, they're all in a day's work for UCLA, which battled its way to a 75-68 victory over California Saturday afternoon and now finally gets to the main event.
The Bruins will play Washington, which beat Oregon, 70-56, in the other semifinal, at 1 p.m. today at Pauley in the championship game of the Pacific 10 tournament. UCLA got there by decisioning Cal in a semifinal bout that featured UCLA's third fight in its last five games.
Think UCLA is ready to take on the Huskies?
"Whoever we play, they're going to have a fight on their hands," UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard said.
That certainly seems possible, although Hazzard didn't mean it that way. Still, Cal joined Oregon and Louisville on the list of opponents who have had on-court disagreements with the Bruins and gone on to lose the game.
Cal wasn't counted out until the last two minutes, when UCLA lengthened a 67-65 lead with seven free throws, four by Reggie Miller, a spinning drive and inside basket by Trevor Wilson and a pair of clutch offensive rebounds by Wilson and Jack Haley.
But the game seemed to turn earlier in the half, right after Miller scored on a layup. Reggie, however, spun around and said something right in front of Cal forward Jon Wheeler.
What was it? "He said, 'Face, baby,' " Wheeler said. "I said, 'Why don't you just shut up? You got the hoop.' "
In an instant, Wheeler and Wilson were pushing each other and pointing at each other's faces, then Hazzard left the bench and tried to pin Wheeler's arms. This was the cue for Lou Campanelli, so the Cal coach came running from his bench and had to be restrained by official Charles Range.
Clearly, it was just the type of exposure the conference sought in its first tournament. There was Hazzard, the 1987 Pac-10 Coach of the Year, tangling with another team's player, while Campanelli, the 1986 Pac-10 Coach of the Year, was being held back by the tail of his expensive sports jacket.
"My Irish was up," said Campanelli, which surprised some since he isn't Irish.
Both coaches of the year were contrite afterward. Hazzard explained that he had only tried to keep Wheeler away from Wilson. Campanelli said Hazzard chose the wrong team.
"I don't like other coaches to grab my players," Campanelli said. "They should grab their own players."
Said Hazzard: "I didn't want a fight to start, so I grabbed Wheeler . . . but let's talk basketball and not that nonsense."
UCLA's third victory over Cal this season was accomplished more at the tempo of the Golden Bears, who forced the Bruins out of their fast-break game.
At halftime, even though the score was tied at 35-35, Cal had the advantage on the backboards. Greg Foster's free throw broke a 49-49 tie, and Wilson's short jumper after he rebounded Foster's second free throw put UCLA up by four points.
The Bruins made only two three-pointers, but they came within a minute of each other. One by Dave Immel got the UCLA lead to 56-50, and after two free throws by Immel and a short jumper by Cal's Eddie Javius, Miller's 24-footer sent the Bruins to a 61-52 lead with 9:08 left.
UCLA managed to pull ahead even though Pooh Richardson (13 points, 7 assists) was on the bench because of foul trouble.
Kevin Johnson, who made only 4 of 12 shots but matched Javius with 13 points, started a Cal comeback on two free throws. Dave Butler and Wheeler brought Cal within 63-60, but UCLA got four shots on its next possession.
The final one was a rebound basket by Miller, who finished with 28 points and 8 rebounds. That's the same number of rebounds as Wilson had, although Cal outrebounded UCLA, 37-31.
Chris Washington's three-pointer with 2:34 left cut the Bruin lead to 67-65, but Cal didn't score again until Johnson hit a three-pointer with 27 seconds left.
Haley made one free throw (68-65), but when he missed the second, Wilson got the rebound. Wilson shot and missed, and Haley rebounded. UCLA ran the shot clock down to three seconds before Wilson drove the lane and scored for a 70-65 lead with 1:25 remaining.
Cal hasn't had its starting center since Leonard Taylor was injured early in the season, so Campanelli has often tried to compensate by playing a lot of guards.
Wheeler led all players with nine rebounds, and Butler had seven, but Cal couldn't keep UCLA off the offensive boards down the stretch.
UCLA isn't necessarily a strong rebounding team, but Wilson said that could change.
"We know we're capable of having a good rebounding club," he said.
UCLA may find out how far they've come as soon as they play the Huskies.