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COLLEGE BASKETBALL / NCAA TOURNAMENT | NOTEBOOK

The Forgotten Bruin? Not By Smith

March 19, 1998|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith, while addressing how UCLA might replace injured Baron Davis for Friday's game in St. Petersburg, Fla., brought up a rarely mentioned name.

"Brandon Loyd is one of my favorite players," Smith said of the Bruin junior guard who played high school ball in Tulsa when Smith was coaching there.

"He played with my son [G.G.] two years of AAU ball in Tulsa. . . . They could start him. Or they could go with [Travis] Reed. I'm not sure who. . . . I'm sure there are players that are anxious and eager to step in. I know that's the way we would feel."

Loyd has played only four minutes in UCLA's last five games, but, perhaps in preparation for a bigger role Friday in the South Regional third round against Kentucky, was the star of the second team's victory over the first team in Tuesday's practice.

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Freshman guard Earl Watson had an interesting angle on Davis' recovery next season.

"I think it'll make him better," Watson said of his close friend, who is expected to have knee-ligament surgery next month. "He'll have that hunger again, like he did before he had that big name Baron Davis. When Baron comes back, there's going to be some sad people trying to guard him."

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Even though he wasn't going to admit it at the time, Bruin senior guard Toby Bailey says now that UCLA's first-round game against Miami, a near-loss, could have soured the reputation of his 102-victory senior class.

"I didn't really want to talk about that, but I think it would have," Bailey said. "Now that we're past the first round, I think if we would have gone out in the first round, I think everybody would have said we underachieved.

"Even though we accomplished so much, Elite Eight last year, won it all freshman year . . . I think they would have said this class was an underachieving class. I'm glad how it turned out."

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