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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT | NOTES

Gopher Point Guard Has a '50-50' Chance

March 22, 1997|TIM KAWAKAMI and RANDY HARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SAN ANTONIO — Minnesota starting point guard Eric Harris, who slammed his right shoulder on the floor and sat out the last portion of the double-overtime victory against Clemson on Thursday, has a "50-50" chance of playing today, Gopher Coach Clem Haskins said Friday.

The injury was diagnosed as a sprain--not the more serious initial diagnosis of a separation--and a muscle bruise.

"It's his decision if he wants to play or not," Haskins said. "If he comes up to me 10 minutes before the game and says he can play, he's going to play."

Harris did not participate in Minnesota's 90-minute practice at the Alamodome on Friday and said his shoulder was "really sore."

But he also said that, with heavy treatment, he might be able to play against UCLA.

If Harris can't play significant minutes, Haskins said star off guard Bobby Jackson will handle the point-guard role and reserve Charles Thomas will step in as the off guard.

"I'm confident in playing the point-guard position if Eric is not ready to play," Jackson said.

*

The Bruins who showed up for Friday morning's news conference were still buzzing about the final few plays of their dramatic overtime victory against Iowa State on Thursday.

Cameron Dollar's race for victory was the highlight, of course.

The scariest moment? The next play, with UCLA ahead by one, 1.9 seconds left in overtime, and the Cyclones running an inbounds play designed to lure Bruin center Jelani McCoy into a foul as he chased inbounds passer Klay Edwards from sideline to sideline.

"We warned him exactly what was going to happen," said Toby Bailey, referring to Dedric Willoughby's quick move to try to draw contact with McCoy. "We said watch for the screen, they're going to want you to foul him, so watch out."

Willoughby delayed his move until after McCoy had already run back and forth on the baseline once. Then he drew contact with McCoy, but the referee called Iowa State for a five-second violation instead.

"I was terrified," Bailey said of the split-second wait for the referee to make his call, with Willoughby splayed on the ground. "I thought, 'Man, it's over.' "

Charles O'Bannon had another nervous memory: The last play of regulation, when Iowa State heaved a pass downcourt that he unintentionally tipped toward Cyclone point guard Jacy Holloway, who heaved a shot off the rim at the buzzer.

"I lost a couple of years of my life on that," O'Bannon said with a grin.

*

Bailey also recalled a poignant moment in the locker room at halftime, with UCLA trailing the Cyclones, 37-25, and O'Bannon staring at the end of his Bruin career.

"Charles kept walking around telling us, 'You all can't send me out like this!' " Bailey said. "And we were like, 'We know, we know, we go out playing like this.'

"I think we all know that next year, losing Charles and Cameron, how tough it's going to be, even though we'll have a lot of the same players. We know how hard it was this year, finding an identity, going through all the growing pains. I think we all were thinking about that last night."

*

As has become their custom in the tournament, the Bruins did not practice the day after a game.

McCoy and Kris Johnson were invited to the news conference but had finals to take. J.R. Henderson was invited but, as explained by Bailey, "J.R. ditched us. I wanted J to be here, because every time he comes to one of these things he says something funny and that starts the whole thing."

*

One thing coaches Steve Lavin of UCLA and Clem Haskins of Minnesota have in common is that they were assistants to Gene Keady, Lavin at Purdue and Haskins at Western Kentucky.

Keady sent Lavin a telegram Thursday, wishing the Bruins well against Iowa State. But Lavin said Friday he believes Keady will favor the Gophers in today's game at the Alamodome.

"I wouldn't blame him," Lavin said. "Clem has paid his dues. He's older than me. I'm sure Coach Keady would like to see him have a shot at the Final Four."

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