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MIKE DOWNEY

COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA MEN'S TOURNAMENT : Bruins Caught in a Hurricane : They Left History Behind

March 19, 1994|MIKE DOWNEY

OKLAHOMA CITY — Outplayed, outcoached, outhustled, outmuscled, outmanned, outplanned and outrageously bad, UCLA is out of the NCAA basketball tournament and Jim Harrick is in for some serious flak.

The coach has to be held accountable for Friday's frightful first half and 112-102 ouster by Tulsa, no matter why it happened, no matter what else happened this season. Harrick already knows what a lot of people are thinking, saying, "The players got 21 wins and the coaches got seven losses. That's generally the way things go."

This was no ordinary loss.

Throughout 1,912 UCLA basketball games over 75 years, only once has any opponent scored as many points as Tulsa did. That opponent was Stanford and that 1987 game required two overtimes.

This one took 40 minutes.

It began with 20 minutes of the most pathetic basketball UCLA has ever played. It ended with Kevin Dempsey outscoring three of UCLA's starters, with Tyus Edney throwing towels and tantrums and with Ed O'Bannon saying how embarrassed he was to be out there. There was a moment when the score was 46-17 and it actually appeared that Tulsa might have to eventually take pity on UCLA and bench its starters so as not to run up the score.

Hard to tell what Harrick could have done, short of head-butting his players. Nothing he did worked.

His job might not be in jeopardy, but his popularity is in double jeopardy and headed for final jeopardy.

"I can imagine," he said.

UCLA scored 102 points and was never in the game. Repeat: UCLA scored 102 points and was never in the game.

Each of the coaches insisted that there was a turning point when the Bruins could have cut the difference to 10 points and instead fouled their way into falling behind by 18. Yet, you know, when a day comes that a UCLA team has to regret not pulling within 10 points of Tulsa in an NCAA tournament game, then these are desperate days indeed.

What happened? Where did that 14-0 team go? Why did the top-ranked team in America disintegrate? How could it lose half of its last 14 games? What went so haywire that UCLA could fall 29 points behind a team that lost its last game of the season to Northern Iowa? How could college basketball's 10-time national champions have the floor mopped up with them by a school that had never advanced to the second round of the tournament?

Lowlights:

Edney with two turnovers in the first 30 seconds. Shon Tarver, slapping at a ball about to go out of bounds to UCLA on an over-and-back violation. Charles O'Bannon, fouling the shooter on a three-point basket. Edney, firing a chest pass to empty space. The whole team, going 2 1/2 minutes without a hoop, looking up and finding Tulsa in front, 10-0. This wasn't the Louisville game with the alibi of starting little-used seniors. This was UCLA's regular lineup, taking a beating.

It got worse:

Kwanza Johnson, 6 feet 4, tipping one in over Rodney Zimmerman, 6 feet 9. George Zidek, seven feet, shooting from 20 feet, throwing up bricks. Cameron Dollar, having his shot blocked. Tarver, shooting a foot long from 15 feet. Edney, blowing a wide-open layup, then having a teammate interfere with it on the rim. Dempsey, grabbing a beautiful rebound, only to ruin it by attempting a wild reverse layup. Ed O'Bannon, trying pop-top shots from behind the hoop.

And worse:

Tulsa players, not once but twice, pulling sleeper plays in the final seconds before halftime, slipping unguarded to the other end of the court while UCLA shooters were so busy shooting that they forgot to drop back on defense. Blown away by a Golden Hurricane, the Bruins gave up 63 points in 20 minutes to a team that Oklahoma State had held to 61 points over an entire game.

Tulsa forward Gary Collier said, "There was this look in (UCLA's) eyes, like, 'These guys can actually play.' "

Tulsa did score 128 points in its season opener, but this was ridiculous. That was against Houston Baptist. UCLA is no Houston Baptist.

Then again, the Bruins do belong to the Pac-Your-Bags-10 Conference, where basketball teams don't hang around the postseason tournaments very long when there are national "powers" like Tulsa, Wisconsin Green Bay, Boston College and Fresno State waiting to be played.

Tarver said the toughness of Tulsa didn't come as that much of a shock, because "it was only three years ago that we played Penn State and we lost." Ah, those golden tourney memories.

Ed O'Bannon, though, was aghast.

Asked if he found this loss embarrassing, O'Bannon said, "I was very, very embarrassed. I felt we were a much better team than what we were showing. I was. . . . Yeah, I was very embarrassed, to answer your question."

O'Bannon did everything he could think of to wake up his brother Bruins, and not only his brother Charles. Ed slapped the basketball as hard as he could after snapping down a rebound, shook his fist, bumped chests, shook his finger in teammates' faces, worked and worked and worked. At one point he missed a shot along the baseline, then outran everyone else on the court to chase down another Tulsa sleeper and reject his shot on the far end of the floor.

"I had no idea that O'Bannon was that athletic, that he could play like that," Collier said.

By day's end, though, O'Bannon was saying, "About all there is to do now is finish up our quarter academically and then see what happens."

He has a lot to think about. So does UCLA's coach and so do UCLA's fans. It will be a long time before any of them will forget what a bad day this was for Bruin basketball, this shootout they lost at an Oklahoma corral.

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