It has been a rough start for the UCLA basketball team this season. But the Bruins had a pretty rough start last season and they ended up winning the Pacific 10 Conference title.
The Bruins just hope it happens again.
"I wish we could follow that formula," UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard said. "This team has good talent, but we're still trying to grow together."
Tonight's opponent, Cal State Fullerton, was one of the teams that UCLA beat last season to start the big turnaround.
Last season UCLA started 3-4, and among the four losses were the first two conferences games, both on the road. The Bruins then came home to win four straight at the start of a nine-game winning streak.
At this point, the Bruins are 3-6 and just back from a trip that included two conferences losses on the road. They will play Fullerton tonight at 7:30 in Pauley Pavilion in the first of five home games.
But this is not an easy stretch of home games.
Besides Fullerton, a team that is 3-4 this season, UCLA will play North Carolina on Saturday and then three conference opponents--Oregon State, Oregon and USC.
"There are no gimmes on this schedule," Hazzard said.
After the Bruins lost their conference opener at California last Monday night, Hazzard made another change in the starting lineup, replacing sophomore Kevin Walker with senior Craig Jackson for the game at Stanford. The Bruins lost that game in double overtime, but Hazzard liked the way the team pulled together to come back from a 16-point deficit in the second half, and he has decided to stick with Jackson in the starting lineup, for now.
Jackson had previously been the starter before Walker took his job. Walker came off the bench at Stanford to play 25 minutes, getting 11 points and 3 rebounds. "Kevin is more comfortable coming off the bench," Hazzard said.
At the beginning of the season, the starter at that forward position was Charles Rochelin.
"We're still trying to identify some roles," Hazzard said. "But I still think that when we finally get it together, this is going to be a good group."
There will be no telecast of tonight's game, but the game will be broadcast on KMPC (710). . . . Cal State Fullerton is 3-0 at home, 0-4 on the road. . . . Fullerton, which has been plagued by injury and illness all season, has had only one player start all seven games--6-foot 4-inch senior guard Richard Morton, who is averaging 25.1 points a game. The only other player averaging in double figures is 6-7 senior forward Henry Turner, with 17.8. . . . If senior Eugene Jackson is unable to start at point guard for Fullerton because of problems with his lower back, the starter will be sophomore Marlon Vaughn.
In their only other meeting, UCLA beat Fullerton last season, 72-71, at Pauley Pavilion. . . . Cal State Fullerton was 17-13 overall last season and finished tied for fourth place in the Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. . . . UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard and Fullerton Coach George McQuarn were roommates when they attended UCLA. . . . Sophomore forward Trevor Wilson continues to lead the Bruins in both scoring (16.7-point average) and rebounding (9.4). Guard Pooh Richardson leads the Bruins with 74 assists and 20 steals.