UCLA's basketball team betrays itself with the good spurts. The lapses into teamwork. The quick sprints when it shows signs of life. If it weren't for those little spurts, this team could be declared hopeless, and its fans could start talking about next season.
As it is, there is some reason for hope.
UCLA pulled itself together long enough Monday night to build a 22-point lead that held up for a 74-65 victory over Cal State Fullerton.
The Bruins' record went to 4-6 while the Titans, winless on the road, dropped to 3-5.
The optimistic Bruin fan will be happy to hear that UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard is finding good signs but is still waiting for the players to start getting it together as a team.
"We're still not sharp," Hazzard said.
Lest anyone get carried away with a victory over Fullerton, be warned that the Bruins' next game--Saturday against North Carolina in a nationally televised contest--could get embarrassing on a national scale.
North Carolina is not the kind of team that is best met with a team still trying to settle on a lineup.
Against Fullerton, Hazzard stayed with the lineup that he used against Stanford, with senior Craig Jackson playing at forward, alongside sophomore Trevor Wilson. And the super-sub, who at the start of the year was Kevin Walker before Walker became a starter, is now Kelvin Butler, a 6-foot 7-inch, 233-pound senior from Riverside North High School. Butler, who has played as both a forward and center in limited roles in the past, is making an impact when he replaces center Greg Foster.
Butler was instrumental in the rally at Stanford that brought the Bruins back from a 16-point deficit to send the game into overtime. And he was big in the streak against Fullerton that broke open a nip-and-tuck game.
Butler said: "It's hard to explain it. I don't know if it's anything about me, especially. I think it's more a question of combinations."
Asked what combinations he liked, he said that he feels very comfortable playing at the same time as Jackson.
"I just know that I want to play," Butler said. "It looks like we're going to be using 9 or 10 people to try to make something happen. . . . Over the last couple of weeks, things haven't been going too great for us, so the coaches have been telling me to be ready because they're going to start using more people."
The Bruins were forced to make one other lineup change against Fullerton--freshman Gerald Madkins played in place of senior guard Dave Immel, who has the flu. In his first start, Madkins scored 13 points and had 3 assists.
"I thought Gerald Madkins was excellent for us. He did an outstanding job on (Richard) Morton," Hazzard said. "I was proud of our effort off the bench. Our depth won it for us."
Hazzard first went to his bench just 1 minute 11 seconds into the game. It was Butler for Foster, then, after Foster was fed the ball underneath the basket for what every one of the 7,865 folks in Pauley Pavilion expected would be a dunk--and he lost the ball. At the other end, he "watched two offensive boards" in the words of Hazzard, and then found himself on the bench.
"There is one thing I'm not going to sit and watch," Hazzard said. "I'm not going to sit and watch someone not hustle. There is a certain level of effort demanded of everyone wearing a Bruin uniform."
One Bruin no one has complained about yet is junior guard Pooh Richardson, who is trying to be the floor leader of a group that has not yet responded.
Fullerton Coach George McQuarn figures Richardson as the difference in the game.
"Pooh Richardson dominated the game," McQuarn said. "I felt that he could do anything he wanted to out there. Score, penetrate and pitch . . . whatever. He just controlled the game. I think it was just a question of him getting going and realizing the effect he could have on the ballgame.
"When UCLA went up by 10, I think that took a lot out of us. When we were able to get it in single digits, we were still in the game."
UCLA led by just one point at the half, 32-31, and had led by no more than five at any point in the first half. But, with about 14 minutes left in the game, the Bruins picked up the pace and streaked to a 22-point lead.
Forward Charles Rochelin, one of the Bruins who looked good off the bench, found a spot he liked near the left corner and just kept putting it up. He went 7 for 7.
The Bruins shot 57.6%, which made up for their 6-for-15 free-throw shooting.
Fullerton, which did get big numbers from its stars--24 points from Henry Turner and 19 from Morton--shot just 44.2% from the field after a 37.5% first half.
Last season, Fullerton lost to the Bruins by one point. "They were struggling last year when we came in and they're struggling a little bit now," McQuarn said. "They turned out to be pretty good last year. If they could play 40 minutes the way they played for about 20 minutes tonight, they could be a very good team."