By all rights, UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard should have put things in perspective after the Bruins' 79-73 victory over Arizona State before a crowd of just 5,427 at Pauley Pavilion Thursday night by saying something like: "We got the break on a lot of key calls tonight but, when you play on your home court, you have to expect that."
Of course, he didn't say that. What coach would say that? And he didn't seem to notice that UCLA shot 28 free throws to 11 for Arizona State.
It was left to Arizona State Coach Steve Patterson to mention the officiating. And he didn't get to it until after he said how good he felt about the way his team played.
After all, the Sun Devils--playing without two starters who were left home because of illness--came back from nine points down to go ahead, 71-69, before the whistles started shrieking.
The Sun Devils were in position to build on that lead when Ron Richardson called a blocking foul on Mark Carlino that sent the game to the other end of the court for Dave Immel's one-and-one. Immel made the first one, but Craig Jackson came down with the rebound of the second and scored to give the Bruins a 72-71 lead.
Mere moments later Carlino, again going for a rebound under his own basket, was called for another blocking foul. This time, Trevor Wilson went to the line to make the front end of a one-and-one.
Patterson was, by that time, chastising the officials with a vengeance, but they were ignoring him. They'd given him his technical foul earlier in what he considered another in a series of amazing calls.
After giving credit to the Bruins for "doing what they had to do" and hitting their free throws down the stretch, Patterson said: "This is a tough place to play, regardless of the other circumstances. . . . I think the best team won tonight, but it seems like you can't get a break here. You can't get a call. We had a two-point lead when Richardson made that blocking call, and that was maybe a five-point turnaround. . . .
"I was pretty puzzled by the technical. I've been trying all year to get a technical, but, believe me, I wasn't trying then. I've said a lot worse things than I said when I got the technical."
Patterson logically would not have been asking for a technical at the time got it--with his team down by two points but holding the ball with 48 seconds left in the first half. After Immel made the two free throws, the Bruins used their automatic possession to score when Emory Lewis was called for goaltending on a shot by Kelvin Butler.
Patterson's final word on the officiating: "It's a shame to see your team taken out of your game by an official."
Hazzard had no ire left for the officials by the time he finished with his team. He checked the box score and noted: "We turned the ball over 16 times, we made 14 of 28 free throws, we shot less than 42% and somehow, we managed to win the ballgame. The key was that Trevor (Wilson) and (Craig) Jackson got 27 rebounds between them.
"But there were a lot of things I didn't like. We're going to have to play much better basketball on Saturday."
On Saturday, the Bruins will be at home against Arizona, the No. 3 team in the country.
Arizona, which beat USC Thursday night to run its Pac-10 record to 13-1, will have a chance to clinch the title against the defending champion Bruins.
UCLA (12-12, 8-5) moved into a three-way tie for second place in the conference standings with Stanford and Oregon State.
Arizona State (13-11, 6-8) is starting to look to the future.
In announcing some lineup changes earlier in the week, Patterson said: "We need to correct some problems, which include a lack of consistency, a lack of consistent effort, a lack of defensive intensity, a lack of cohesion and a lack of sacrifice for the team. There has to be a passing of the flame. We're making way for the new generation."
Senior forward Eric Holloway was left home because of strep throat and sophomore center Mark Becker, who led the Sun Devils in scoring the last time they played the Bruins, stayed home because of bronchitis.
But senior guard Arthur Thomas was on the trip--and playing off the bench--as Patterson passed the flame.
Freshman center Emory Lewis (from San Bernardino High) had his career-bests with 14 points and 7 rebounds, and junior forward Torin Williams (from Verbum Dei High) had bests of 8 and 5.
Joey Johnson also had 14 points, playing what he considered his best game in a long time.
Patterson said: "I liked the way we looked like a unit and played with some spunk and spirit."
Patterson played, primarily, a zone against the Bruins, reasoning that it would help neutralize the Bruins' quickness and, maybe, maybe the Bruins beat them from the outside. But the Bruins made some adjustments at halftime and started getting the ball in to Butler, who scored career-high 15 points.
Butler said: "Coach told us at halftime, 'If you guys don't get on the ball, they're going to take this game from you.' And they almost did."
Even after Patterson's technical foul set the Sun Devils back, they were hind by only 42-38 at halftime.
The Bruins stretched their lead to 54-45 on a three-point play by Butler, but the Sun Devils worked their way back to a 67-67 tie on an inside shot by John Jerome with 4:16 to play and later took their brief lead on a three-pointer by sophomore Tarence Wheeler.
UCLA's game against Arizona Saturday is sold out. . . . UCLA completed a season sweep of Arizona State with Thursday night's victory. . . . UCLA forward Trevor Wilson set a career high with 15 rebounds Thursday, topping his previous best of 14, also against Arizona State, at Tempe.