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COLLEGE BASKETBALL NCAA TOURNAMENT | DAILY REPORT :
UCLA

They Delight in Their Critics' Not-So-Great Expectations

March 12, 1997|TIM KAWAKAMI

Echoes of the 1995 national-title run? J.R Henderson, the freshman sixth man on the championship team, says only the motivational theme between then and now is familiar.

"The only thing that's reminding me of '95 is how everybody's not picking us for anything, just blowing us off, exactly what they did in '95," Henderson said. "But it takes a lot of pressure off of us and allows us to play our game.

"We don't want to hear people picking us at all. Just let us be, like it's been all year. That's how we came back, that's how we started doing well."

But did Henderson hear that former coach Jim Harrick picked the Bruins to win the Midwest Regional and get to the Final Four? "I heard about that," Henderson said. "If he didn't, I'd be kind of upset."

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UCLA did not practice hard on Tuesday before leaving for Michigan--and not at all on Monday--as Coach Steve Lavin maneuvered to keep his players' minds and bodies fresh for the tournament.

"That's the thing I probably learned from [Duke Coach] Mike Krzyzewski more than anybody else," Lavin said. "As coaches, you tend to overwork your team late in the season, and what you really need to do is to back off and it becomes now more mental preparation, more feeling good about yourself, playing confident, having your legs fresh and looking forward to coming to the practice."

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