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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL : Oregon State Coach Calls for Suspension of USC's Leslie

January 11, 1994|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Coach Aki Hill of the Oregon State women's basketball team called for a two-week suspension of USC's Lisa Leslie on Monday, after viewing videotape of a punching incident last Thursday.

Leslie, a 6-foot-5 senior All-American, hit Oregon State's Kristina Lelas with a backhanded punch that Oregon State officials said resulted in Lelas' losing a tooth.

"Lisa backhanded (Lelas) and used her arm in a very deliberate manner," Hill said.

"This has to stop. She used her elbow like this on one of our players two years ago. We've sent the video to the Pac-10. I'd like to see her suspended for two weeks."

The incident occurred with 2 minutes 34 seconds to play in USC's 63-56 victory at Corvallis, Ore. A video recording of the telecast shows Leslie and the 6-5, 240-pound Lelas jostling for rebound position on an Oregon State shot. Lelas, from Croatia, is shown grabbing Leslie's right forearm with her right hand. She continues to hold Leslie's arm after the shot misses and the ball bounces away.

Leslie is then seen jerking her arm away from Lelas' grasp and hitting her in the face with the back of her right hand. Lelas falls on her back and stays down as the play goes to the other end.

Mary Whatford, an official standing under the basket, six to eight feet away and facing the play, made no call.

Leslie indicated that she reacted impulsively when Lelas grabbed her arm.

"We were in a rebounding position . . . and she grabbed my right arm," she said. "When the ball bounced away from us, she still held on to my arm, and she was scratching me with her fingernails. And I just reacted to that."

Jim Muldoon, a Pacific 10 Conference assistant commissioner, indicated that any punishment of Leslie was unlikely.

"No one here will see the tape until (today), and it's not normally under our purview to officiate from afar," he said.

"If the official was in proper position and made no call, and we took action on this, where do we stop? Do we reverse traveling calls?"

The incident didn't end with Lelas falling on her back after the punch. She was helped to the locker room, but was back on the court minutes later to join a confrontation between her teammates and USC players and coaches.

Cheryl Miller, USC's first-year coach, said Leslie reacted to four years of frustration. "I feel bad about it, that the girl was injured, but Lisa has been patient about this stuff for four years," she said.

"I went through the same thing. When you're a high-profile player, you don't get the calls other players do.

"If anything, Lisa has been too passive, too timid about this stuff, and I told her that when I came here. The important thing is, this wasn't a premeditated thing. If it was, why didn't the official make a call?"

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