After endless team scrimmages and after crushing a Swedish club team in an exhibition game earlier in the week, UCLA basketball Coach Walt Hazzard said his team was eager for a "real game."
Friday night's season opener against Oral Roberts, however, failed to offer real competition, to provide a real test for the Bruins or indicate what this Hazzard team can really do.
UCLA beat ORU, 119-79, in the first round of the Big Apple National Invitation Tournament before a tiny crowd of 2,641 at Pauley Pavilion. It was the smallest crowd ever for a UCLA men's game in the 22 years they have been played in Pauley.
The Bruins seemingly didn't need spurring on. Among the more eager players was junior guard Jerome (Pooh) Richardson. He didn't have a particularly good game against the Swedes, and Hazzard predicted that Richardson, "a player with a great deal of pride," would redeem himself in this game.
He did, getting 23 points and 11 assists. "That's Pooh Richardson," Hazzard said, indicating those numbers are going to be de rigeur for Richardson this season.
Not all games will be like this, however. When Hazzard said earlier in the week that ORU Coach Ken Trickey had "put the program on the map," he was referring to the work Trickey did a decade ago to bring Oral Roberts into basketball respectability.
Trickey is in his second go-round at ORU, having coached in 1969-74, when he compiled an .837 winning percentage. He left to coach at four schools before returning to Oral Roberts this season.
Trickey inherited a team that had consecutive losing seasons behind it and only three lettermen returning.
Trickey was succinct in analyzing his team: "We played badly and we shot the ball terribly."
It was immediately clear that Oral Roberts was not going to have an exemplary night shooting. In the first half, the Titans shot 31% and were only marginally better at the line, making 33%.
Oral Roberts fared slightly better in the second half and pulled its percentage from the floor up to 36%.
The Titans either rushed their shots in the first half or, more often, took low-percentage, off-balance shots.
The Bruins scooped up the rebounds of those shots and launched their break. In addition, the Titans' running game was a perfect foil for the Bruins' own fast break.
Richardson was in complete control of the UCLA offense. In the middle of a 12-point tear by UCLA midway through the first half, Richardson picked up a loose ball and threw a pass to Gerald Madkins, who scored. Madkins was fouled on the play and made the free throw to complete the three-point play and give the Bruins a 36-20 lead.
Minutes later, Madkins showed some style with what may be best described as a scoop-a-loop--an under-handed shovel shot. His basket gave UCLA a 20-point lead, 43-23. It was a cushion that may have accounted for some of the more daring (and risky) shots the Bruins attempted. No doubt, the Bruin coaches would hope for more discipline and fewer antics.
Most of the Bruins' starting five didn't have the playing time to try much of anything fancy. UCLA had a 58-35 lead at halftime, and Richardson had already scored 17 points. Hazzard was pleased with his team, even given the lack of pressure from ORU.
"One thing I was able to conlcude was that we have a lot of people who can help us," he said. "We have a lot of mixtures and combinations."
Trevor Wilson scored 23 points and Kevin Walker 21. Kenzie Scott led the Titans with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
This is UCLA's first appearance in the NIT as an early-season tournament. The Bruins have gone to the postseason NIT twice; they beat Indiana to win the championship in 1985 and lost in the first round to UC Irvine in 1986.
The Bruins will play New Mexico at Albuquerque in the second round Monday night. New Mexico beat Weber State, 88-72, Friday night.
The semifinals and final will be played at New York's Madison Square Garden Nov. 27-28.
This was only the second meeting between these teams. On Dec. 29, 1984, the Bruins beat the Titans, 69-61, at Pauley. . . . Oral Roberts is in its first year as an independent, having left the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. . . . Sophomore forward Kevin Walker stunned the fans with a one-handed jam for the Bruins in the first half. The 6-foot 10-inch Walker is better known for his baseline shot. . . . Richardson's 23 points were a career high, as were Greg Foster's 12 rebounds.