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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT | UCLA REPORT

This Should Be an Experience

March 13, 1998|TIM KAWAKAMI

Miami Coach Leonard Hamilton said he knows his players will be at least slightly affected by UCLA's advantage in NCAA tournament experience.

Whereas the Hurricanes' postseason experience consists of last season's one-and-done NIT outing, three Bruins were on the 1995 national-title team and have made three previous tournament trips.

"It's obvious they have a lot more experience in participating in the tournament," Hamilton said. "We know that we can't expect our guys not to be a little hyper or a little emotional. But we just have to gain confidence by staying consistent with what we've done all year.

"Once the game starts, hopefully, we can throw all the experience out of the window."

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With Coach Steve Lavin trying to keep his team fresh, UCLA's one-hour workout at the Georgia Dome on Thursday was only the Bruins' second practice in the five days since Saturday's three-point loss to Arizona.

"We didn't practice that much last year," said Toby Bailey, referring to last season's tournament advance to a game away from the Final Four. "We're not that deep of a team. We have guys who play 38, 40 minutes.

"It's good for us to get some days off and get our legs back. I think we're going to need it for the tournament."

Said J.R. Henderson, "I think we're better when we have days off. When we practice a lot, it kind of wears our legs down."

*

The end is coming, and they've seen it coming for a while.

Sooner or later, in Atlanta or St. Petersburg or even San Antonio, the Bruin season will come to a close, and so will the landmark four-year careers of Bailey, Henderson and Kris Johnson.

"I think as it gets closer and closer to our last game, it'll start to set in on us," Henderson said. "I think if we're in a situation where we could lose, like seconds to go and we're down six or something, I think it'll really start to set in, that this is it. . . ."

The three were freshmen when UCLA won the national title, sophomores when Princeton delivered a first-round knockout, and juniors when Jim Harrick was fired and the Bruins battled to the Midwest Regional final.

As a class, they are 100-26, and Bailey is currently No. 7 on UCLA's scoring list, while Henderson is 10th.

"The fact that I'm never going to play [at Pauley Pavilion] again, that hasn't really hit me," Bailey said. "Right now, we're just so excited about playing in the tournament."

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