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For Arizona, Net Result Is a Pac-10 Title

February 21, 1988|TRACY DODDS | Times Staff Writer

The net that caught Sean Elliott's all-important 12-footer to send the Arizona-UCLA basketball game into overtime Saturday no longer hangs in Pauley Pavilion. The Arizona players cut it into tiny pieces and took it away as a souvenir of their Pacific 10 Conference title.

The UCLA players, who had fought the good fight to defend their title before losing, finally, 78-76, didn't stick around to watch the net come down.

The game had gone down to the last shot, a short, driving shot from the right side of the lane by Pooh Richardson--a bank shot that didn't drop.

Quite a show for a CBS audience and a sellout crowd of 12,037 at Pauley Pavilion. Quite a disappointment for the Bruins, who once again were close, but not close enough, to the team that is dominating the Pac-10.

Arizona's Pac-10 record went to 14-1, good enough to clinch the title. Arizona is ranked No. 3 in the country with an overall record of 25-2.

UCLA dropped to 8-6 in the conference, 12-13 overall.

UCLA Coach Walt Hazzard said: "It was a great basketball game. It was a great effort from our team. We had all kinds of opportunities to win the game. It was a great game for the Pac-10, hard-fought, well-played and very tough for us to lose.

"I'm proud of our effort. We showed some good things for the future and for the rest of the season. It's a game of bounces, and we didn't get the last bounce today."

Forward Trevor Wilson missed a tap-in of Richardson's missed shot, and then complained to the officials that he had been fouled. No foul was called.

Although, technically, the winning shot was Anthony Cook's six-footer from the left side that put Arizona ahead, 77-74 with 3:19 to play, the big shot of the day was the one that Elliott made with three seconds left in regulation, denying the Bruins what would have been a major upset.

Elliott, Arizona's 6-foot 8-inch junior forward, had 24 points, 17 in the second half.

Hazzard said: "Elliott is an All-American player who you can't stop for the whole game. He comes through in the clutch. He was born to play this game. He made a tough shot at the end of regulation; he was behind the backboard with a man in his face, but he put it down. He's just a great player."

Elliott modestly reported that he wasn't really behind the backboard. His drive to the right baseline stopped a little shorter than that. He was about even with the backboard. But he didn't deny that Richardson was right in his face.

Arizona Coach Lute Olson said: "The Bruins did a great job of stopping the ball from reversing to the other side. We were able to set a screen for Sean, and the ball went down. It was more of Sean Elliott's ability than any great execution on our part. Sean is someone who wants the ball in crunch time. He wants to take the shot that makes the difference."

And so he did.

Early on it did not seem likely that this showdown would go into overtime. Arizona led by as many as 13 points in the first half. The Wildcats were ahead, 44-31, with 2:52 to play in the half when the Bruins scored nine straight points to pull within 44-40 at the end of the half. Charles Rochelin made a 16-footer with three seconds to play in the half to bring the Bruins within four.

Center Kelvin Butler scored the first four points of the second half--making it 13 straight for the Bruins--to tie it, 44-44.

Arizona had built a seven-point lead, 65-58, when Rochelin helped stage another comeback, hitting three straight three-pointers to bring the Bruins one point closer every time the teams traded baskets.

When a defensive rebound by the Bruins stopped the trading, guard Dave Immel hit a jumper that tied it, 69-69, with 3:45 to play.

At that point, the overtime period became a real possibility.

Richardson found Butler, inside, for the basket that put the Bruins ahead, 73-71 with 13 seconds to play. And that would have been the winning shot were it not for Elliott.

Butler also had the Bruins' only field goal of the overtime, scoring on the rebound of a shot missed by Immel with 1:01 to play.

Nobody scored in the last 1:01.

Butler finished with a career high of 19 points. Butler said that he thought the fact that Arizona center Tom Tolbert was in foul trouble made it a little easier for him to score inside, although the Bruin guards were getting the ball to him in the middle of the Arizona zone even before Tolbert's foul trouble.

Wilson had 15 points. Rochelin, who was 4 for 4 on three-pointers, had 14 points. And, despite hitting just 5 of 13 shots, Immel had 13 points. He had key misses down the stretch along with some costly turnovers.

And yet Hazzard took out Rochelin, who had the hot hand.

The same couldn't be said for Richardson, who was only 4 for 12 from the field.

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